Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Everything I Consume: Midcentury and Innumeracy

These were two busts. I loved John Dos Passos' U.S.A. trilogy and this book is written in the same style. There are multiple narrators, profiles of important representative people of the times and chapters that are snippets of songs, articles and expressions of the time. He was very ahead of his time. While U.S.A. was filled with a compelling variety of characters this book is mostly about bitter old ex-radicals and their miserable life dealing with labor unions. I gave up after 160-odd pages.

I think my train was barely into Manhattan the day I started Innumeracy before I bailed on it. It was supposed to be about teaching important math concepts that average Joes, Joe Sixpacks, what have you don't know and are important in our daily lives. Well, we'll never pick it up when it's written this poorly. His jokes weren't funny either.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

New Speed Record

Check out the screen grab from my Garmin software. On October 17th I hit a maximum speed of 58.5 mph on my morning run. That's more than twice as fast as Usain Bolt was going when he won the 100 meter dash at the Beijing Olympics!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Celebrity Sighting

The Wife has become something of an expert about this Sarah Palin woman who's been in the news lately. A few week ago she appeared on CNN Headline News to give the Working Mother perspective. She was such a star they asked her back but she wasn't able to go on. Last night, The Wife was a person on the street for Entertainment Tonight. By a startling coincidence they had just interviewed her boss at her magazine and both people on the street were staffers. What are the odds of that? They also said they interviewed her in Times Square even though she is clearly across the street from Grand Central Station. Well, it's an easy mistake to make. The point is I'm proud of The Wife.

Last night, people started to call saying they had seen The Wife on Entertainment Tonight but when we watched it, she wasn't on! I guess they must re-edit the show during the day but New York gets the earlier version? It makes no sense to me. Luckily, our buddy JoEllen taped the show and sent us a copy. The Wife shows up at the 1:01 mark.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Everything I Consume: Pirate's Cove Mini Adventure Golf

The family spent a week in Maine last month and it was great: Acadia National Park, lobster every day, blueberry softserve, christian Oceanariums, Bar Harbor, alleged moose sightings and best of all, mini adventure golf. Well, maybe not best of all but still pretty cool. Gwendolyn and I got to take in two rounds at the fabulous Pirate's Cove course just outside of Bar Harbor. My hole-in-one on the fourteenth hole made me my daughter's hero for at least two days. And, in fairness, it was an awesome shot. My ball jumped two upward steps to fall right in the hole. After the game the Pirate's Cove people loaded us with booty, eyepatches, activity books and even a free game. I love that place. If you ever find yourself in Bar Harbor or Lake George or Brainerd you've got to go to a Pirate's Cove.

Here's a little movie of our family hijinks:

Friday, October 10, 2008


Remember what you were doing thirty-five years ago? I do. On October 10, 1973 Spiro Agnew resigned as vice-president and the New York Mets beat the Cincinnati Reds in the final game of the National League Championship Series. When my Dad came home that night he told me he was stopped on the street by a radio reporter to aks him about Agnew and he said, "I don't know about that but the Mets are going to the World Series!"

I'm not sure that story was true (he once told me he accidently wore my name card to work all day) but I've always liked it.

And I'm still younger than Willie Mays was that day. Stay free, Say Hey Kid.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008

Goodbye Shea

Shea Stadium closed yesterday (in horrific fashion) but I have lots of great memories of the place. Dwight Gooden striking out 16 Giants, the group trip in high school on Flip-Flop Night (those were good shoes), a Jets game where I was so high up I was scared, heckling Sid Fernandez's abysmal hustle at a 1986 doubleheader and a glorious come-from-behind win from 1984 that was the best time I've ever had at a ballpark. Good times. I also remember the Dodgers winning a big game with a late home run and watching an entire game through a freezing misty rain to see John Rocker get a save. Anyway, here's a story from Deadspin's Shea memories page:

Bat Day. We were at a packed Friday night game in the late '80s, in just about the worst possible seats — upper deck, all the way out by the left field foul pole. The section was filled mostly with after-work drunks, but a few rows in front of us was a family, and in the first inning this little girl, maybe five or six years old, stands up and holds over her head a tiny piece of notebook paper on which she's written "Go Darryl!" or something like that. It was cute, but also kind of comical because the seats were about three miles from home plate and there was no way Darryl could have seen this sign without a telescope. So there's some laughter behind her, and then this one guy, just as a joke for his buddies, shouts "Down in front!" — as if this little girl and her miniature sign were obstructing his view of the action. But the girl hears him. She turns around, and cringes, and sits back down. The whole section starts unloading on this guy, which just makes it worse, because the little girl thinks they're booing her. Her dad puts his arm around her and says something, whereupon she bursts into tears. The abuse of this guy increases by a factor of about ten. Then a chant starts building in the section, and it takes me a minute to figure out what they're saying: "BUY HER SOMETHING! BUY HER SOMETHING!" So the guy leaves his seat, and an inning or two later he reappears behind the box where the family is sitting and taps the little girl on the shoulder. She turns around and with great ceremony he hands her one of those gigantic inflatable bats, probably twice as tall as she is. Her face totally lights up, we see her mouth the words "thank you," and the whole section just explodes.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Everything I Consume: Tropic Thunder

Many years ago there was a great show on PBS called Sneak Previews. There were two movie critics talking about movies and it was really good. The knew their shit and loved talking about it. The two guys were a little annoying on their own and didn't seem to like each other but boy, did they have chemistry together. Like Astaire and Rogers or Lemmon and Matthau or one part hydrogen and two parts oxygen. Of course, I'm talking about Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.

They did the show for a long time and became famous. The name changed to At The Movies and moved to commercial television. Everyone in the world knew what "Two Thumbs Up" meant. They taught a lot of people, like me and my brother, about movies and gave time to everything from My Dinner with Andre to Friday the 13th. They really cared. When the last Star Wars movie came out Roger Ebert watched two days in a row from the same seat, once in in digital video, once in film to judge how the special effects looked. When the re-edited the ending of Jade before it was released, Roger went to see it again.

My favorite memory was the Worst Movies of 1995 episode. That was a year I saw a lot of movies. Gene Siskel picked Jade as the absolute worst movie of 1995, a choice I totally agreed with. When it was Roger's turn he said, "Just for the record Jade was my worst movie too but Gene won the coin toss and I had to pick something else."

The show was frequently imitated but nobody came close. Still, it was always nice to hear two people who loved movies talking about them even if one of them was Rex Reed. At the Movies lasted for about twenty years until Gene Siskel got sick and died.

He is buried in the white suit from Saturday Night Fever. Really, look it up on his Wikipedia page.

Roger Ebert continued the show with a variety of hosts before settling on a decent guy called Richard Roeper. It wasn't bad. But Roger got sick a few years ago and even though he's healthy he can't talk any more. He's still going strong. They tried some guest critics but the people in charge of the show decided to chuck Roeper and try something new.

The new At the Movies has five critics who spend about five seconds apiece telling you whether you should "See It", "Wait for the DVD" or "Skip It". Here's a math problem, if two people you've never heard of tell you see a movie, two people you never heard of tell you to rent the DVD and one person you've never heard of tell you to skip it what do you do?

The only person I recognized in Ben Mankiewicz from TCM who is supposed to be the snarky kid but comes off as a burned-out art director who will never get the promotion to head creative and realized it years ago but is too lazy to quit. Sadly, At the Movies now just reminds me of the political shoutfests that have destroyed American democracy. There's no depth and no kids are going to learn anything about movies, or anything, watching this show.

Anyway, Tropic Thunder was great and everyone should see it.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Some Unfortunate Recent Old-Time Radio

I've had a bit of a bad luck streak on my old-time radio podcasts.

The other morning I was out running and listened to a show about a husband who needed money for an operation on his wife. There is only one doctor who can perform the operation. He hooks up with a burglar and they rob a safe. They are interrupted by the homeowner and have to kill him. The husband escapes blame for the murder and has the money for the operation but it turns out the guy he killed…was the only doctor who could perform the operation! The irony!

The I listened to a show about the first trip to the moon, you know in 2000. On the way back everyone is happy except for the wise, old ship's doctor (what is is with ship's doctors?). It seems he was alive in 1945 and saw the first atomic explosion and the craters on the moon look exactly like the crater from the first A-Bomb! (This is not true. Crater from the Trinity test. Moon crater.) He theorizes that there was a civilization on the moon but it was destroyed by an atomic war that left all those craters and burned up all the atmosphere. The rest of the crew begs to differ but the matter is soon settled because just as they are about to land on Earth there is an atomic war that leaves Moon-esque craters and then burns up all the atmosphere.

I'm serious, that was the story.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thanks for the Qualifier

From an article on San Diego Charger RB LaDainian Tomlinson:

This is the guy you picked #1 in the draft. He starts every week, no matter what (unless he's on bye or is out).
I dunno, he is a heck of a football player, he may rise to the occasion.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


As I often say, God Bless Football! Not only do we get football but we get fantasy football, videogame football and the endlessly fascinating NFL TV Distribution Maps website. This year they've upgraded to Google Maps which are a bit poky right now but are still endlessly fascinating. Why is San Diego getting Kansas City at New England while the rest of the west is getting Jets at Miami? Is Los Angeles getting the Saints game because of Reggie Bush? And when did Brian Billick start announcing games. Who knows? It's all about the question not the answer.

You also get a forum with post comments like "On another note, the last time Cincinnati got the Bills on FOX was Week #3 of 2003 vs Philadelphia." and "What game did Cincinnati get in Week 7 of 2003 at 4:15, CHI-SEA or TB-SF, since it wasn't WSH-BUF?"

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Everything I Consume: No Country For Old Men

If I were David Spade I'd say I liked this movie better when they set it in Minnesota and called it Fargo.

Really, that's all I got. This was well-acted and looked fantastic but it was pretty soulless. These lifetime achievemnt Best Picture winners (The Departed, Return of the King)just remind me that all the best people are working in television these days.

Monday, September 1, 2008

In New York Even the Racists are Politically Correct

One morning recently a man got on my subway train and asked if anyone could spare some change and he'd especially like to get money from "some Asians." As he made his way through the train he said, "Asians never give me a damn thing."

Nice guy.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Future Space Nerds

Here's a link to a great series on YouTube that was shot in my neighborhood. In fact, Gwen, Owen and I watched them shooting episode two. Check it out, it's really good. The cast includes Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis and Paul Scheer.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

On vacation

The Fuselage is taking some time off from our irregular posting. We'll be back around Labor Day.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Gwendolyn Is Not Happy

Gwendolyn turns five on Monday and we're all very excited about this, especially Gwendolyn, but something is bothering her. And that something is that Pluto is no longer a planet. Back when Gwendolyn had just turned four and was first learning about the solar system from Ms. Frizzle, she was taught that Pluto was a planet. Now that she's almost five she has found out that Pluto has been downgraded and she's not happy. This morning she decided that Pluto has overtaken Saturn as her favorite planet ("Pluto is my favorite small planet, Earth is my favorite medium planet and Saturn is my favorite big planet"). Gwendolyn has told me some reasons why Pluto should be a planet:

  1. Pluto has moons
  2. Pluto is round
  3. Pluto has craters ("Like the first planet". I think she may have taken an active dislike of cratered, round, no moon Mercury.)
So, I think she has a good case. If you want to help Gwendolyn out you can sign this petition. And this one. And what's one more? Take that astronomers!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Everything I Consume: Wall-E

Whenever I tell people I thought Wall-E was a good movie but nothing special they look at me and say, "You're the first person I know who didn't LOVE Wall-E." It's awkward. Maybe I was a little tense because I went to see it with Gwendolyn and I spend half the movies I see with her worried about her reaction. She had a great time. Towards the end of the movie I heard her making a weird sound like she was yawning but when I looked I saw she was holding back tears at the story. It was a moment that was heartbreaking but wonderful at the same time. I told her everything was going to be OK and, of course, it was but I wanted to tell her how lucky she was to be four and see everything for the first time and not know there's going to be a happy ending.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Everything I Consume: The Daughter of Time and The Crown Crime Companion

Years ago I read an interview with V.S Naipaul, I have no idea why, where he said he would give a book 100 pages or so and if he didn't like it he would just stop reading. I've never actually read any of V.S Naipaul's books but I figure if a Nobel Prize-winning author would quit on a book he didn't like I certainly could. This was a revelation. I've been much more aggressive about giving up on books ever since. So, I bailed on The Daughter of Time after about fifty pages. I'd only been reading it because The Crown Crime Companion said it was the fourth-best mystery ever written. Better than Murder Must Advertise, Red Harvest, The Long Goodbye or Murder on the Orient Express. Better than anything written by Jim Thompson, Ross Macdonald or Ken Follett. I beg to differ. After fifty or so pages I found myself with that familiar feeling on involuntarily skimming paragraphs, then whole pages and then not caring enough to go back.

The story is about a English policeman stuck in the hospital who decides to solve the mystery of whether Richard III actually killed his two nephews. This was an interesting premise but there's too much of that breezy British dialogue that I can't stand. I just don't see the point of reading this book when there are still Agatha Christies and Dorothy Sayers I haven't read.

Since I only read this book because The Crown Crime Companion recommended it that book gets sent to too. Go, false guide to mystery novels, go! And I'm not going to read Presumed Innocent, either.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In The Papers

The mysterious Vermont Market & Pharmacy, across the street from my apartment made the New York Times today.

Everything I Consume: The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse

I love the style of 1930s medicine in old movies. Everything is white and sterile and made of chrome and porcelain yet people can still smoke cigarettes in the operating room. The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse is Edward G. Robinson, who becomes a criminal to study the physical effects of crime on the human body. Eventually, he takes over a gang and even does blood work on them before their heists. This movie was a lot of fun and has a cool ending. Highly recommended.

For a guy who has been frequently caricatured, Robinson could be a versatile and subtle actor who tried many different kinds characters in the course of his career. I think he's great in Double Indemnity. In fact, his final role was being turned into Soylent Green. Claire Trevor is also great as one of the criminals.

This movie was written by John Huston and was the beginning of an amazing collaboration with Humphrey Bogart (Maltese Falcon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Key Largo, African Queen) that ranks with Scorsese-DeNiro, Wilder-Lemmon and Jones-Bunny as the best in movie history.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Everything I Consume: A Spectacle of Corruption

This book is David Liss' sequel to his book, A Conspiracy of Paper. That book was set in 1720 London and told the story of Jewish ex-boxer turned proto-private detective Benjamin Weaver navigating the financial shenanigans leading up to the collapse of the South Sea stock market bubble. I'm pretty ignorant about that period of time so I learned a lot. That's one of the things I like about mysteries, they can take you to so many different places and times. Anyway, Conspiracy of Paper was a good book and I think it won an Edgar Award. When I was reading it I bumped into my friend Annie on the subway and she said she was envious of me reading it for the first time. IMHO, it's a good book but not that good.

The sequel is set a few years later and opens as Weaver is being falsely convicted of murder. Not only is he being set up for execution he is also set up to escape prison. It's a complex story set against the background of the 1722 parliamentary election. There's a much-needed historical note in the front of the book and the players are often recapped. Still, I don't think I ever got a handle on it. Throw in a conspiracy where people may be trying to implicate the other side of crimes and it's very hard to follow. Like Conspiracy of Paper, it's all talked out in a lengthy explanation at the end of the book.

This book seemed to lurch in a pattern of Weaver interviewing someone, finding out a small piece of information then he talks to someone else and finds out more information. Then there's a fight scene. Repeat. Maybe most mysteries and even most books and movies are like this and it just seemed more artificial and exposed in this book. Like I said before there's lots of recapping.

Despite all my complaints I really liked this book. I fell into the rhythm of the plot and the dialogue was great as were the descriptions of London. Weaver is a great character. He is strong but unsure of himself intellectually. Weaver is constantly proud of himself when he figures something out or says something witty. I cared about the mysterious conspiracy and even the election. So, go figure.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Talkin' Bout Mon

The family hit Montauk for the holiday weekend and it was just the way we like it, cold, foggy and filled with over-friendly strangers. Despite the threat of Hamptons trash spilling over Montauk is still a very low-key place, ideal for doing a lot of nothing like playing on the beach, reading the goofy local papers, playing mini-golf and strolling through town.

We ate tons of random fried foods, I felt a little guilty as my kids wolfed down french fries at the friendly but incompetent MTK Diner but they seemed to enjoy themselves while the other patrons raged against the poor service and bad food.

Gwendolyn got to take her first pony ride and she loved it. She wasn't nervous at all and we laughed when the pony stopped to take a leak in the middle. Gwendolyn also took a bike ride (and kept putting The Wife into flower beds) and showed the combination of extreme interest and lack of talent in mini-golf that means she really is Daddy's girl.

Unlike his sister at that age Owen isn't scared of the beach at all but he does like to put his pacifier in the sand and then suck on it. The grubby little guy had a great time. Check out this movie from our trip to Gosman's Pier.

Like so much in life the trip was a lot of work and a lot fun. We left a stroller at the hotel with all our sweaters but, hey, we'll just pick them up when we go back in August.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Everything I Consume: The Guns of Heaven

This was a good, quick read from Pete Hamill about a reporter who gets involved with the IRA. I liked this book but even at 250 pages there's a lot of padding about Irish history and New York City locales. For some reason the author even threw in an albino near the end of the book. I guess you toss the rulebook when you're trying to make a deadline, I don't know. Here are a couple of reviews.

Monday, June 30, 2008

New Poll

So I got this book from called The Crown Crime Companion : The Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time and truth be told it's pretty lame but I'm a sucker for lists and I thought I'd go through the book and find some classic mysteries I haven't read yet. I've read the top three (Complete Sherlock Holmes, The Maltese Falcon and Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery and Imagination) and ordered number four (Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey, a book I'd never even heard of) but number five is Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow and after you say to yourself, how the fuck is a Scott Turow book the number five mystery of all-time I have a question. I saw the movie of Presumed Innocent when it came out, it's the one where Harrison Ford has that terrible haircut, and I'm pretty sure, but not certain, I remember who did it. So, should I read the book? One one hand it might be interesting reading it knowing (I think) who the killer is. On the other hand it might just be a waste of time. The poll is up, you decide!

My last poll, about whose t-shirt to buy, was deadlocked 1-1-1 between Lidstrom, Hasek and Backstrom so I decided on Backstrom because he was the most obscure of the bunch. I think the odds are pretty low I'll see another Minnesota Wild t-shirt on the streets of Brooklyn, much less a Niklas Backstrom one. My NHL t-shirts were a jinx anyway, the Wild lost in the first round of the playoffs and every time I wore my Sidney Crosby shirt the Penguins lost. So, by not buying the Red Wings t-shirts I un-jinxed them to the Stanley Cup, I mean it makes perfect sense.

Though, if I had to do it over I would have gotten a Henrik Zetterberg shirt.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Election Update

The Fuselage is a sad place this morning after the passing of George Carlin so let's discuss something happier, namely presidential politics.

First off, the Caroline Kennedy thing is getting some serious traction as we can see by my man, Ken Rudin's latest Political Junkie column as well as this dodgy blog.

Next, here's some great news about the election, John McCain and Barack Obama are both left-handed and both write with a claw! Our next president will definitely be left-handed (unless you think Bob Barr will win. Vote for him, I dare you!) and as this list I just read* shows, America's greatest presidents have all been left-handed.

  1. Harry Truman
  2. Bill Clinton
  3. Ronald Reagan
  4. Gerald Ford
  5. George H.W. Bush
  6. James Garfield
  7. Franklin D. Roosevelt
  8. George Washington
  9. Abraham Lincoln
  10. All other presidents
Amazingly, six of the top ten U.S. Presidents have been left-handed and not only that, the top six!

You may remember recently when Barack Obama said electing John McCain would be the same as giving George W. Bush a third term, well John McCain countered that Obama seemed to be running for Jimmy Carter's second term. This was actually Obama and McCain telling their left-handed loyalists and co-conspirators that an unpopular president was going to be replaced by a better, more left-handed one.

Don't worry righties even if you can't be president there are plenty of catching and utility infield jobs for you.

*I typed it and then I read it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Morning Run

As you can see above I made a major miscalculation when planning my route for this morning. I finished my intervals at Sixth Avenue a mile away from my apartment. Yeesh! I walk/ran the rest of the way but it was quite a trip. At least I have a new goal to shoot for, running around Prospect Park and making it home.

On the way back I tried to listen to Jonathan Katz's excellent podcast, Hey, We're Back but I kept running into street noise or large construction crews setting up for the day so I couldn't hear Katz, whose voice is subtle even under the best of conditions. If you're somewhere quiet you should check it out.

Recipe Page

I was listening to an episode of the Jack Benny Program (sponsored by Jell-O) from 1937 and there was a recipe at the end. I thought I'd share it with you since I never have recipes in the blog:

Salad Supreme
Dissolve a package of lime Jell-O in one pint of hot water and chill until slightly thickened. Add one cup of diced tart apples, one cup of chopped cabbage and four finely-chopped stuffed olives. Mold this "grand combination" and serve on crisp lettuce with real mayonnaise.

Go for it, America!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Everything I Consume: Father's Day Edition

Because of the whole Father's Day thing The Wife let me choose the movies for the weekend and I blew it, blew it when it should have been so easy like the Celtics in Game 5 or the Red Wings in Game 5. But it's OK, just like those teams I won in the end.

I can't believe I let my extended metaphor take over my post.

First up, was The Bigamist which I have to say gives away a crucial plot point in the title. As anyone who's seen D.O.A. knows when Edmond O'Brien is away from the wife (not The Wife, who never met Edmond O'Brien to the best of my knowledge) bad things happen. In this movie he hooks up with waitress Ida Lupino, doesn't tell her he's married, and has a baby with her (Edmond's wife can't get pregnant). Apparently his motivation was that his wife becoming too important in their business and this threatened him. So, woman who help their husbands succeed while jumping through hoops to adopt a child heed this movie as a warning! Or better yet take a night off and see Sex & The City or something.

Charlie Chan in Shanghai was below par for the series and most of its plot twists were easy to see coming. Anyway, it was a good Father's Day movie since the Chans are a great father-son team. Oddly, I kept having the feeling I'd seen this movie before but I'm pretty sure I hadn't. Weird.

Father's Day itself was a lot of fun. I got to sleep in, got some nice cards, from both kids for a change! Gwendolyn got me a remote controlled triceratops. She has decided the triceratops is my favorite dinosaur and is always pointing them out to me. My other present was an awesome GPS watch so I can now use satellites to tell me how far I've been running. Thank you, NASA. I've been playing with the mapping websites all week so expect to see more of these soon.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

79 Days Until Football Season

I've been filling what little sports time I've had this spring watching the Stanley Cup playoffs, listening to the Melrose Line, following European Cup soccer and even watching webcasts of the U.S. Open playoff but today I realized what I've really been doing is avoiding the Mets. All these things are poor substitutes for the one I really love. Reading about Willie Randolph's firing got me to admit what deep inside I already knew, that the Amazins are a franchise is disarray and 2006 was their last chance for a championship in long, long time.

Well, at least they're not owned by this guy.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Morning Run

My latest obsession is I think the name is self-explanatory but it uses Google Maps to save and plan out runs, bike trips, walks, what have you. The map above is the run I did this morning over the Brooklyn Bridge and back. The view was spectacular even if the car noise made it hard to hear the interval cues on my podcast. I was surprised how many people were out before 6 AM including one drunken tourist I saw who was lying down on a bridge bench on my way to Manhattan and was stumbling around the running path (after vomiting on said bench) on the way back.

When I started running I was just going to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and back but as I've stretched it out I had to keep lapping the Promenade to fill up the run (my interval walk and run is now 58 minutes total with 44 minutes of running). The route is a little confusing if you don't zoom in but I went up Henry Street to Clark Street, crossed over to Cadman Plaza with its knee-saving running path up to the Brooklyn Bridge and back again through the park and down Clark Street to the Promenade north to the end then all the way back down to the southern end at Remsen Street, down Hoyt Street then Cheever Place and back to Henry Street.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"Sounds Great" is Dead

On Monday when I was out of the office religiously observing Shavuot with Gwendolyn one of my projects was worked on by someone else. When I checked up on the status of the project Tuesday morning, Henry the Delivery Manager gave a detailed response saying how everything had been taken care of. I was going to write back "Sounds great!" but that seemed sarcastic so I ramped it down to "Sounds good!" And that seems like a shame because I couldn't properly express my thanks and admiration for Henry's work. "Sounds great" has become a sarcastic comment instead of an honest reaction. It's like telling a happy, upbeat co-worker, "you are so gay!" Regardless, something has been lost.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Everything I Consume: I'm Not There

My very wise high school video teacher Maureen Schaeffler once told me that art should never be explained first, it should just be presented. That was one of the smartest things anyone ever told me. So, the fact that the DVD of Todd Haynes' film I'm Not There comes with a whole section called "Intro to the Film" is a warning sign that what we are going to see is going to be very confusing and won't hold up on it's own. Another warning sign is a character is watching the Vietnam War on television with loud music playing. Anyway, the DVD has four articles explaining we'll be seeing multiple actors playing different personas of Bob Dylan (who played Warsaw last night) all with different names. And the facts will be a little bit off from the truth but sometimes they won't be. Anyway, The Wife and I gave this an hour or so before fast forwarding to the end. At least there's a lot of original Dylan music and that's always great.

What is it about Bob Dylan that makes us all try to explain him? Magazines, books, websites, movies, what is it about him that we can't get out of our heads? That would have made a good movie.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Obama's Vice-President

There has been a lot of speculation in the news about who Barack Obama will choose to be the vice president on the Democratic ticket. Well, you'll be glad to know I've figured it out. Even Obama may not realize it yet but there is only one person he can and will pick.

Most of the speculation has revolved around Hillary Clinton but Obama can't pick her because of personal enmity, suspicion that she will be the tail wagging the dog, and the X-factor of all X- factors, her husband. So she's out.

But this is an even larger problem because Hillary Clinton is the most famous woman in the world and almost everyone else will pale by comparison. Is there anyone else who won't look like a second choice to Hillary yet won't overshadow Obama? Al Gore is a thought but he's out of politics and guest starring on 30 Rock. Who else? John Kerry? John Edwards? Bill Bradley? Not a chance.

There is another name, one that's bigger than Gore or Clinton or even Bush in American politics. And that's Kennedy. And there's one Kennedy that won't overshadow Obama, and even better, she's a woman.

Caroline Kennedy.

Kennedy the perfect combination of old-style Democratic politics and out of the box thinking. I thought this was a little out there until I saw that she's on Obama's search committee! That's exactly how Dick Cheney became vice president. And between Ted's brain tumor and the anniversary of Robert Kennedy's death the public is more favorably disposed to the Kennedys than any time in years. Personally, I wouldn't be surprised if these events haven't been manipulated by the Kennedys themselves. They'll do anything. When it comes to ambition they make the Clintons look like the Gores!

What about Caroline herself? She's spent years out of the public eye, never running for public office, avoiding scandals, writing books and raising her children. The perfect cover!

This isn't like the Sharks winning the Stanley Cup, people. Take it to the bank.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


This letter below was posted in my company's snack room yesterday. You can click on it to see the letter at a larger size.

This letter is awesome, it may be one of the greatest letters ever written. It gives answers any possible question and concern the customer may have. It gives a solution and explains how other possible solutions have not worked. It fits in the price of my cashews in the context of the global economy. It asks profound questions like if India's growing middle class is raising the price of my cashews does a rising tide really lift all boats? and why are Kars Cashews so expensive?

Thank you Matthew Wagner, I really do feel valued.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

My Jeopardy! Audition

As most of you probably know I auditioned for Jeopardy! on Monday. I had a blast and I think I did really well.

On the train to the audition I noticed the subway car I was in had the same number as my ATM code. I took that as a good omen.

The auditions were at three P.M. in the basement of a hotel in midtown Manhattan. We had to fill out an application form and pick up an answer sheet for our written test. I think there were about 19 people, some from as far away as Pennsylvania and Connecticut. It was a very quiet bunch. Just before three the Contestant Co-ordinators came out and started firing us up and took Polaroids of all of us. They did a great job of entertaining us, keeping us excited and teaching us the rules of Jeopardy!. They had been doing contestant auditions all weekend and I have no idea how they kept up their enthusiasm and seeming spontaneity. I could never do that job.

Once we were seated in the conference room we got an introduction to the process including a videotaped welcome from Alex Trebek and a discussion of the rules from the Clue Crew, they gave a way a couple of mugs and then we all had to tell Meg, who I guess you could call the MC, where we were from. She forgot me and one of the other co-ordinators pointed that out and she sat down on the back of my chair put her arm around my shoulder and said, "Can you ever forgive me?". She was freakishly outgoing and did an amazing job. After this part we took the test, which is confidential, but I think I did well on it. I kept track of how many I didn't know I knew and there were only about 15 of the 50 and I think I successfully guessed a good chunk of those.

After that there was a long period while Meg told Jeopardy stories and told us about the buzzer. I think they were grading our tests or going over our applications during this. The next part was playing the game with actual buzzers. They didn't keep score and just wanted to see how we were playing the game. Meg kept telling us to smile, talk loudly, keep the game moving and answer in the form of a question. To my shock I was the first person called. Let me tell you those questions are a lot harder when you're standing up in front of a crowd. But the hardest part was the buzzer. I'd read the buzzer was the key to Jeopardy! and they weren't kidding. I knew the answer to the first few questions but couldn't get in on time even though I was waiting for the signal light like they told me too. I figured out I needed to buzz in during the split-second after the question was over but before the light came on. After that I got a few questions. Then we put our buzzers down. I thought this would be a short question and answer like on the show but it was a full five minutes of questions! That was a lot more terrifying than the quiz. I think I did well, I was very enthusiastic, spoke up and had answers ready for the questions. I got good laughs for my jokes about all the junk mail I make and how women are "not at their best" during labor. The Co-ordinators kept smiling and nodding and encouraging my answers and making me feel at ease. Oddly, the woman next to me was a big INXS band and saw them opening for Adam Ant in 1983. I burst out, "I saw that tour, too!"

What surprised me was how many people wouldn't do what the Co-ordinators asked like pick a category right after they had answered a question or didn't have answers prepared in the interview for the questions they asked everybody like "What do you do for fun?" or "What are you going to do with the money if you win?" even when they were in one of the later groups.

So, I had a great time and I have my fingers crossed I'll make the show. If you have any questions I can answer them in the comments.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Everything I Consume: Seize The Daylight

If you are looking for an irony-free and exhaustive look at the history of Daylight Saving Time, look no further! This was an enjoyable and trivia-filled read, perfect as I get into Jeopardy! audition mode. I think it could have used a little more sense of humor about the subject because some of the inventions, organizations and laws mentioned sound like they come out of a science-fiction or Thomas Pynchon novel: time balls, railroad time, the General Time Convention of 1883, The "Day of Two Noons", the International Meridian Conference, the National Daylight Association of Cincinnati, the More-Daylight Club, Double British Summer Time, the Uniform Time Act and the Uniform Time Act (Two Time Zone Amendment) and on and on.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

An Annoyance

Anyone who knows me (and why are you reading this if you don't?) knows I hate extremely unlikely examples used to discount an argument. I believe I've found a good example from David Prerau's Seize The Daylight. Below is an argument against the adoption of Daylight Saving Time by Britain during World War I.

Lord Balfour of Burleigh proclaimed the Daylight Saving Bill the most absurd measure ever presented to the House of Lords [Editor's Note: That's saying something!]. He highlighted some of it's unique disadvantages. For example, he asked their lordships to consider the night in October when the clock was to be set back an hour…"Supposing some unfortunate lady was confined with twins, and one child was born ten minutes before one o'clock, if the clock was put back the registration of the time of the birth of the two children would be reversed." The elder child would be properly registered as being born at 12:50, but the younger child, born ten minutes later, would be registered as being born at 12:00. Lord Balfour argued, "Such an alteration might conceivably affect the property and titles of the house."…

This could happen. You just need a woman pregnant with twins giving birth on the one day of the year this might happen, at a tiny window of time on that day in Britain and the children are noble. Easy peasy.

On the plus side this will open up a world of ideas for minute mysteries, brain teasers, Harry Stephen Keeler novels and the Golden Age of British Mystery.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Everything I Consume: The White Lioness

I used to belong to a writer's group where everyone loved Henning Mankell. I like the guy but I always have the same reaction to his books. I start them and I'm totally hooked and make a mental note to ask for his next book on, then I start to lose interest, then I want it to end soon and then I enjoy the ending and think it was a decent read. About a year later I pick up another one. That was the reaction I had to this book. It's a little different from the earlier books in the series (I recommend Dogs of Riga if you've never read Mankell) in that it switches between various characters and is more of a thriller than a mystery after the opening murder is explained.

The detective, Kurt Wallander is unusual for a few reasons. He is a detective in the small Swedish city of Ystad. Unlike a lot of modern writers who saddle their detectives with all manner of tragedy and handicaps Kurt is merely divorced, drinks a little too much, weighs a little too much and has a difficult but not impossible relationship with his father and daughter. It's not ideal but I think we can relate.

Wallander also seems to take longer to solve his cases than any other detective I've ever read. His cases take weeks if not months to resolve themselves. This book is about two months in book time from start to finish but I know some of his earlier cases took even longer. I find that endearing for some reason.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Everything I Consume: The Golden Compass

I will admit that I was pretty tired when I saw this movie and dozed off a couple of times but I liked it. It's a great story (I loved the book) but I think the filmakers tried to put too much of the book into the movie and everything seems rushed and a little forced. It probably would have benefitted from being about twenty to thirty minutes longer which is something I never say. I'm sure they'll be a director's cut on DVD sometime soon and I can test out my theory.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Happy Mother's Day, Mom*

There's a company bigwig from Boston office who they stick in an office across from my cube for whenever he's in New York. For the last ten minutes he's been on the phone arguing with his mother because he can't be with her on Mother's Day. He kind of has a point since he saw her the last two weekends and has his own kids (Really, I can hear everything). But they're going back and forth and it's getting kind of heated. She seems very insistent that it's a special day and he needs to be there.

Several years ago when I was taking the bus to Washington to see my future The Wife I really wanted to see her on Mother's Day weekend. So I called my Mom and explained the situation and we had Mother's Day a week early in an empty restaurant. It was was lot of fun and she told me she had a great time. I think she got a kick out of doing Mother's Day early.

Sometimes she gives me a hard time but Mom, you're all right.

*I know the odds are microscopic that my mother will actually read this but I'll tell her, I promise.

Friday, May 9, 2008


We set the record this morning by seeing 17 snails! What a day, eagle eyes from the whole Sonnenschein family (except Owen, the slacker).

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

What's New In Old-Time Radio

I was a bit down last month thinking Humphrey/Camardella Productions and their podcasts of old-time radio had disappeared (thanks for nothing Google) but it looks like they merely re-organized. Instead of one podcast with everything under the sun they've split everything into multiple thematic podcasts. Right now, I'm subscribing to The Jack Benny Show Podcast, Old Time Radio Comedy (which has the superior 40s and 50s Jack Benny Shows instead of the 1930s shows currently on The Jack Benny Show Podcast), Old Time Radio Mystery, X Minus One Podcast and my favorite, I Was a Communist for the FBI. They're all great and if you type Humphrey/Camardella into iTunes you'll find lots of great old broadcasts, all free thanks to our ambiguous copyright laws. If those aren't enough I also like Case Closed and The Old-Time Dragnet Podcast.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Overheard in the Office

This guy in the office next to my cube was just talking abuut how he had seen the movie, Lions for Lambs, "It was only, like, an hour and ten munutes (Note: Actually it's 92 minutes). What a rip-off." Maybe it's the busy Dad in me but I'm thinking, "That's an awesome movie. We need more of that. Honey, let's Netflix this movie tonight, I don't care what it's about."

Seriously, it's taken me over three weeks to watch American Gangster and I still haven't finished it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Snails Are Back!

If it's a rainy spring morning on Kane Street between Henry Street and Strong Place it can only mean that the snails are back! I know they were a big hit with Fuselage fans last year so I hope you enjoy them.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Everything I Consume: City of Tiny Lights

This book is a mystery set in London centered around a Ugandan-Pakistani private detective who is looking for a missing prostitute. It has a great cover.

This is one of those novels where a writer of "serious" fiction decides to slum as a mystery writer. This kind of book can work if the writer understands the mystery genre but author Patrick Neate clearly doesn't. The book is filled with numerous lengthy asides that do nothing to illuminate the plot or reveal character. The plot eventually grinds to halt at the middle when the private detective finds the woman he's been hired to find and then spends a couple of chapters getting him motivated again to solve the murder that, I guess, is at the heart of the case. I stopped reading about halfway through after the detective's father gave a lengthy biography on the terrorist who is somehow involved in the murder.

It reminded me of two other books, Like a Hole in the Head by Jennifer Banbury, another book that sought to "transcend" the mystery genre with poor results and Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy Sayers. Murder Must Advertise is a great book and has a climactic cricket scene that is one of my favorites. Oh, geez, my bad, the protagonist of City of Tiny Lights is constantly making references to cricket.

This book does raise the interesting question of what counts as consuming a book or movie. I read a little over half of this book and I think it counts but the other day I watched bits and pieces of Infamous, maybe about a third, and I don't think that counts as watching so it's not on my list of movies seen in 2008. A question for the philosophers I guess.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Everything I Consume: Sh! The Octopus

Well, this was a terrible movie. There was an impressive amount of irresponsible shooting, women screaming and cases of mistaken identity. Much of the dialogue goes like this:
Dempsey: What's your business, mister?
Morgan: I'm a marine painter. There's some paintings of mine behind you if you doubt it.
Dempsey: Painter, huh? Where's your palate? Kelly, see if you can find his palate.
Kelly: Open your mouth, open your mouth.
Dempsey: No! What do you think he paints, tonsils? You now an artist's palate, one of them stands they put paintings on.
Kelly: Oh, a weasel.

It's all supposed to be silly and over the top but at less then an hour it still felt stretched and forced. Here's a detailed critique and plot summary. This is the website of a Michigan band named Sh! The Octopus.

Monday, April 7, 2008


Do you know who Ryan Getzlaff, Tom Gilbert, Dion Phaneuff, Wade Redden and Stephane Robidas are? Well, neither did I but they're players on the team I just beat to win my fantasy hockey league!

I had no idea what I was doing when I started my league but I found this great site with a great draft cheat sheet and had an amazing draft. The rest is history. Hopefully, I can remember the site before next season. With a little research, the desire to have a good time and some dumb luck to can triumph. I just proved it.

Anyway, I'm thinking of buying a t-shirt to celebrate. Should it be Nicklas Lidstrom, the greatest defenseman in the word whose two power-play goals on the final day of the season put me over the top or Dominik Hasek, streaky living legend who single-handedly won my semi-final matchup and won a crucial game on the last day of the season or Niklas Backstrom, my high-scorer and a steady workhorse down the stretch?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Why I Love My Office…

…you can buy a hot dog from a vending machine!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Everything I Consume: The X From Outer Space

Here's the description of this movie from the TCM website:

The spaceship AAB-Gamma is dispatched from FAFC headquarters in Japan to make a landing on the planet Mars and investigate reports of UFOs in the area. As they near the red planet,they encounter a mysterious UFO that coats the ship's hull with unusual spores. Taking one of the specimens back to earth, it soon develops and grows into a giant chicken-lizard-alien monster that tramples Japan.
This was a fun movie and Gwendolyn really liked it. She identified with the blond-haired blue-eyed American actress plopped down in the middle of the picture (see below). I love Japanese monster movies but mostly I love the beginnings, the madder-than-Mad Men Japan of cool science, heavy smoking and rampant misogyny. When the guy in the rubber suit shows up and starts destroying the models I'm always a little bored. My favorite scene was when the spaceship made a stop at the moon base where the two women in the movie take a shower then change into cocktail dresses for a trip to the lounge where they order cognacs and chat with the jumpsuit-clad cigarette smoking men.

The lead actress was played by a Peggy Neal whose IMDB page is three Japanese movie, this one (as Lisa), The Terroe Beneathe the Sea (as Jenny) and Las Vegas Free-for-All or Operation Crazy Gold (as Mary). Gone are the days when you could take a trip to Japan, make three movies and diappear from the face of the Earth.

This movie was released in 1967 but didn't make Pictures At a Revolution for some reason. Here's a review and plot synopsis.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Everything I Consume: Pictures At A Revolution

Lately, almost everything I consume has been Purim candy and over-the-counter allergy or cold remedies (depending on what I think is causing this endless cough and runny nose) and I've fallen way behind on my Everything I Consumes. Heck, I'm two books past this one!

Pictures at the Revolution
by Mark Harris was fantastic, I kept sneaking time in to read it and I was sorry when it was over. Starting with Robert Benton and David Newman conceiving Bonnie and Clyde in 1963 it tells the interwoven story of the five Best Picture nominees from 1967 (Dr. Doolittle, In The Heat of The Night, Guess Who's Coming To Dinner? and The Graduate). The stories of how movies are made are always fascinating and this book goes from conception to creation to production to distribution to Oscar night. There's incredible detail and great interviews with Warren Beatty, Mike Nichols, Dustin Hoffman, Buck Henry and many of the people involved in the five movies. Hovering above it all is Sidney Poitier, the biggest star in the world in 1967 and about to flame out. Harris has some great observations, my favorite being that Hollywood has as much trouble dealing with unexpected successes as unexpected failures. I give it my highest possible recommendation.

When you read a book about a slice in time you can't help but think of how the characters paths diverged after the end of the book. Some on the way up (Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman) and others on the way down (Rex Harrison and Sidney Poitier).

Another reason I was interested in this book was that I was born in 1967. Incredibly, that year's Oscars were midpoint in their history. That year was the 40th Oscars and this year's was the 80th. In my mind 1967 is the edge of current history but it's really quite a while ago.

Everything I Consume: NFL Super Bowl XLII - New York Giants Championship DVD

This movie started a little slow but had a fantastic ending. I liked all the good guys like the quarterback in need of redemption, the coach who must changes his ways to succeed and the aging veteran back for one last go around. The villains were even colorful than the heroes. I loved to hate the cold, calculating Patriots coach and got a good laugh out of the hapless Dallas quarterback. I was even sort of rooting for the Green Bay Packers quarterback playing what would turn out to be his final game. Highly recommended, they don't make them like this any more.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

American Life Television: Thursday and Friday

American Life's Thursday night lineup is composed of juvenile 60s sci-fi (Land of the Giants, Lost in Space, Time Tunnel, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) and it would be easy to knock their predictable plots, cheap sets and poor acting but they have a nice energy and I don't think anyone's expecting too much when they put these shows on. They are what they are and it couldn't of been easy putting together 39 hour-long shows every season on a tiny budget. At the end of a long day I'd be perfectly happy to crack open a brewski and veg out in front of any of them. But why the producers of Time Tunnel thought it was a good idea to put Lee Meriweather in a lab coat and stick her behind a desk I'll never know.

Why are these shows on Thursday night? Because if you combine the creepiness of Land of the Giants, the technology of Lost In Space, the time travelling of Time Tunnel (three shows about people who can't get home) and the ocean of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea you get Lost.

Friday night is 60s Icons Night meaning Batman, The Color Honeymooners and The Green Hornet. I don't believe any of these shows are 60s icons. Let's examine these shows one by one.

Batman: An eternal classic, one of the all-time great TV shows. It was always in reruns when I was a kid and I kept falling in and out of love with it as I got older. First I liked it for itself, then I didn't like the camp, then I did like the camp, then I didn't like it and now I like the whole thing. Batman isn't a 60s icon, he's an eternal icon. Here's a story from Mark Harris' excellent book Pictures at a Revolution: "Other directors assumed [Spencer] Tracy was simply no longer functional; at the time [Stanley] Kramer approached him, the only other call he had gotten for a job was from William Dozier, the producer of ABC's campy, popular Batman series. "[He] said, 'Didn't I have a grandchild who'd get a kick out of seeing grandpa as a cameo on Batman,' " grumbled the actor. "Wasn't even one of those villain things." Spencer Tracy knew there was a Batman show and knew there were guest star villains, that's awesome.

The Color Honeymooners: I can't get past two minutes of this show without wanting to pound my head into a wall and end the pain. Take a claustrophobic show about people yelling at each other and pad it out with songs. Great. The Honeymooners are 50s icons if that.

The Green Hornet: I coudn't wait to see The Green Hornet. I'd seen the crossover episode of Batman where the Green Hornet is introduced many times but I'd never seen the show until American Life started running it. This is a terrible show. Every scene seems to take place in muddy day-for-night lighting and there are endless fights and chase scenes which are endless themselves. I think there maybe was a 10-page script for every episode. But the show's biggest crime is undoubtedly the waste of Bruce Lee's talents. Bruce Lee playing Cato is like keeping Michael Jordan on the bench or building an atomic bomb and never testing it. I still get worked up just thinking about it. Bruce Lee, people, Bruce Lee.

Anyway, Green Hornet is a 30s icon, if that.

I hope you've enjoyed my look at American Life Television, they have a bizarre and entertaining website you should check out. If you love Susan Sarandon, Bobby Nystrom and lorem ipsum it's not to be missed.

Bruce Lee, people, Bruce Lee.

"All You of Earth are Idiots!"

Check out this interesting site of mysterious images found in Google maps. The pictures are OK but the best part are the buzzkill comments:

"It's called an atoll:"
"Zoom in. You see those logs, and those rocks? It's some sand in the river. You're not very bright, are you?"
"i dont see anything"
"Good god people, have you EVER used Google before? It's called a 'reflection', it's what happens when light hits a reflective surface. Look it up some time."
"You people are idiots, this is the Azores that belong to Portugal. That is an airbase. I hate you all."

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Narrowest of Margins

I know my sports posts aren't very popular but check out the boxscore for my fantasy hockey team, the Brooklyn Motherflippers, from last week:

I won by 1/100th of a point!

Everything I Consume: Bonnie and Clyde

A few years ago I went to Film Forum with my friends Bonnie and Aaron to see a revival of On The Waterfront. It was great, you should check it out, Brando's in it. Anyway, after the movie was over we all admitted to each other that we had never seen On The Waterfront and were too embarrassed to admit it earlier. So, now that I've seen Bonnie and Clyde I can tell you I'd never seen it before, just bits and pieces. It was great, you should check it out. The Texas locations of dying small towns and bleak endless plains were unforgettable. The cast is great and the movie has an energy that just carries you along. I thought it dragged a bit at the end but that sort of worked and, to be honest, most movies drag for me at the end these days. Like a lot of imitated movies (Badlands for instance) you feel like you've seen it before, even if you haven't.

The reason I finally saw it, you may wonder, is because I am reading Mark Harris' excellent Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood, the story of the five best picture nominees from 1967. Ever since my film professor at Northwestern got on her soap box about how students shouldn't read or write about movies they haven't seen I've always tried to actually see a movie if I'm reading about it.

Even though I hadn't see the movie until Saturday I did see the Bonnie and Clyde death car at a Nevada casino several years ago. As you can see here the car has quite a history.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

American Life Television: Tuesday & Wednesday Nights

Tuesday night on American Life is "Greatest Generation" night and I've never watched and don't have much to say about any of these shows except if you didn't grow up with Rat Patrol reruns on at 4 A.M. on weeknights and 5 P.M. on Sunday afternoons you didn't grow up in America, buddy.

Wednesday night is the best night of the week because it's Spinoff Night! The spinoffs are are Lou Grant (spinoff of Mary Tyler Moore) and Trapper John, MD (spinoff of MASH). Lou Grant was on for five seasons and Trapper John for seven, numbers that shocked me when I looked it up. It seems a show would have more effect on the popular imagination if they were on for so long but I guess not. I probably never would have remembered there was ever a Trapper John, MD show if American Life hadn't of started showing these reruns. Both are pretty typical shows for the late 70s-early 80s with issue-oriented episodes, stuffy authority figures (why do they hate you, Dr. Riverside?), undeveloped, too small supporting casts and cheap sets. Both are hour-long dramas and not half-hour sitcoms like their original shows.

The Wife and I love the kitschy appeal of Trapper John, MD but most of all we love the theme song. Let 'er rip! Pretty good, no? This is the jazzed-up second-season version. It's funky, exciting and has nothing at all to do with the show. Maybe they wanted to wake up the audience of people watching TV at 10 P.M. waiting for digital cable to be invented. And to make it even better the musical cues during the show are all riffs off of the opening theme. So you get to hear sad, tense and bouncy versions of the theme during the episode.

Here's the Lou Grant opening and theme song. You get the entire history of a newspaper from tree to birdcage liner. What's the point of that? Why does the theme tell you it all means nothing? That might be appropriate on The Office but why on a show where the main characters battle a corrupt system every week.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

American Life Television: Monday Night

Monday night on American Life is their best night. It boasts "The Greatest Comedies" which are Newhart, The Bob Newhart Show, Mary Tyler Moore and WKRP in Cincinnati. This is a very impressive lineup. My only question is what is the Mary Tyler Moore show doing on American Life? It's one of the greatest television shows of all-time. Have DVD shows so saturated the appetite of America no one will pay top dollar for this show? I guess so. When I grew up The Odd Couple, the greatest show ever, was on four times a day and now it's not even on television. Sadly, my children won't know the pleasure of coming home from school, watching Mary Tyler Moore at 4:00 and The Bob Newhart Show at 4:30 (unless something good was on the 4:30 Movie). I look forward to my daughter Gwendolyn's blog in 2030 about how there aren't good infomercials or court shows on television anymore.

There's not much to be said about the Newharts and Mary Tyler Moore. I think they stand the test of time and have great casts especially the underappreciated Ted Knight and Suzanne Pleshette. But like many of my friends I have a special place in my heart for WKRP, the struggling rock station trying to make it in an uncaring, uncool world. If you are now too old for Obama and too young for Clinton or had a zine or liked that band before they hit it big this was probably the show that spoke to you. Anyway, it a great show even though much of the original music has been replaced.

Monday, March 3, 2008

How Many Ways Is This Movie Great?

I was sitting in the living room last night reading the March issue of my favorite magazine, Now Playing when I came across a blurb for this movie playing March 29th at 1:00 A.M. (it's octopus night):

Sh! The Octopus (1937) Daffy detectives fight off a giant octopus in a haunted lighthouse.
Cast: Hugh Herbert, Allen Jenkins, Marcia Ralston. Dir: William McGann. BW-54 mins, TV-G

Quick, count how many ways this movie is great.

I count six. The title, "Daffy detectives", "a giant octopus", "a haunted lighthouse", I've never heard of anyone in the cast and the movie is less than an hour.

Watch the trailer here.

American Life Television: Sunday Night

American Life Television claims to be "for baby boomers and their babies". The Wife and I are neither but we love it anyway. On Time Warner Cable it's on channel 153 and for some reason the channel guide has the NBA League Pass logo instead of the actual logo. They really should do something about that.

There's a continuing cycle in cable television. In the beginning stations start out with cheap reruns of shows and then gradually find a niche or a successful show and build from there. When I watched A&E in 1990 it showed The Second Hundred Years and other shows I'd only read about in Television encyclopedias. Then came Biography and look at it now. The same thing for the Sci-Fi Channel a few years later. They used to buy up any sci-fi show they could find, an all the better if it only lasted nine episodes. Now there is American Life Television.

Every night on American Life is theme night and Sunday night is "Greatest Dramas Night" or as I like to call it "Pretentious 80s NBC Television Night". Back before television got really good about ten years ago there were a few outposts of "culture" that critics and people who watched a lot of TV would point out as important and necessary to save every year when schedules came out. I've never liked these shows.

First off is Hill Street Blues which was a about a "typical" police precinct in a "typical" big city. There were good cops who were somber and filled with self-doubt and the bad cops who were caricatures. And remember when Daniel J. Travanti was a big star? I haven't thought of that guy in years. Go on, click on the link, I know you're dying to find out what happened to him.

Next up is L.A. Law which I watched consistently for a little while. It had a nice technique of having multiple continuing storylines at different stages so, for example, the Susan Dey story might be starting while the Corbin Bernsen and Jill Eikenberry stories were in the middle and the Blair Underwood storyline was reaching it's climax. I watched L.A. Law for a few months until I missed a few episodes and forgot about it. Still, I remember some cringe-worthy "very special episodes" about drunk driving ("I only got off because I'm a lawyer, there's something wrong with the system.") and the Rodney King beating. It might have been a great show if it hadn't of taken itself so seriously.

The final show is St. Elsewhere. I know this is a kind of sacrilege but I can't stand this show. It is that brand of realism where realism is equated with bad things happening. One of the few episodes I watched had a painful reconciliation between father and son ending in the son driving home, falling asleep at the wheel and getting in an deadly accident. I bet they were really proud of that one.

The irony of course is that these shows which were considered so advanced now seem clunky and cheap compared to the best shows of he past ten years like The Sopranos, Law & Order, Rescue Me, West Wing and Lost (and that doesn't include shows I haven't seen but people tell me are great like The Wire, Battlestar Gallactica and The Gilmore Girls) which is why they are on Channel 153 with the NBA League Pass logo.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Leap Day

Here's a doozy from Improv Everywhere from exactly four years ago.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Brett-Oskies: The Winners!

Well, the whole Brett-Oskies gag seems to have collapsed since I never had time to announce the winners before the actual Oscars. And to make matters worse (or better) I saw Michael Clayton last week which just about blew away anything else I saw this year. So here goes:

Best Picture
Michael Clayton
The Seventh Victim
Toy Story 2
Winner: Michael Clayton. Great movie. Excellent acting and a suspenseful plot I never knew where it was going next. Thoroughly entertaining. The Seventh Victim was a close second.

Best Director
Mark Robson, The Seventh Victim
Sam Fuller, Park Row
Robert Stone, Oswald's Ghost
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Winner: Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton. There's never a good reason to split up the top two awards.

Best Actor
George Clooney, Michael Clayton
Tom Hanks, Toy Story 2
Warner Oland, Charlie Chan in Paris
Winner: Warner Oland, Charlie Chan in Paris. I believed he really was Chinese.

Best Actress
Joan Cusack, Toy Story 2
Jennifer Garner, Juno
Kim Hunter, The Seventh Victim
Winner: Joan Cusack, Toy Story 2. What can I say? I love Joan Cusack in anything. Best actress working today. If I'm giving out awards I'm giving them to Joan Cusack.

Best Supporting Actor
Micheal Cera, Juno
Ken Howard, Michael Clayton
Keye Luke, Charlie Chan in Paris
Jason Bateman, Juno
Winner: By far the strongest category. Somewhere in the last few years Ken Howard has achieved Dabney Coleman or Charles Grodin like ubiquity. This is an awesome development. Great work in Michael Clayton but no Brett-Oskie. Jason Bateman was excellent in Juno saying so much was his silences and body language. But the Brett-Oskie is a difficult call between Cera and Luke both brilliant, unique performers. In the end I have to go with Cera since his performance was bigger. Still, I feel this isn't the last we've heard of Keye Luke, especially since I have a Charlie Chan box set just sitting on the shelf filled with his great work as Number One Son.

Best Supporting Actress
Janeane Garafolo, Ratatouille
Allison Janney, Juno
Elizabeth Russell, The Seventh Victim
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton
Winner: Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton. I nominated Janeane Garofalo because I used to see her all the time when I lived in the East Village and I like to talk about it and Allison Janney because my wife likes he so much. Elizabeth Russell is haunting as hell in her role as the doomed neighbore but Tilda Swinton was even more creepy in Michael Clayton.

Best Documentary
Oswald's Ghost
Winner: Oswald's Ghost. I love type and I love the Kennedy assassination but the edge goes to Oswald's Ghost, which took the unique step of being a history of the history of the Kennedy assassination. And I love anything that has Jack Ruby in it.

Best Cinematography
3:10 to Yuma
Winner: Once. I was watching 3:10 to Yuma and I kept thinking how much better movies in general look than the did thirty or forty years ago. The technical level is just amazing. Regardless, I loved the lo-fi look of Once.

So, there you have it. See you at the movie theater or on my couch.