Friday, July 5, 2013

The Fifth of July: There Used to be a Boardwalk Right Here

THE FIFTH OF JULY: I saw the Lanford Wilson play with Christopher Reeve in the early '80s. He played a paraplegic homosexual (apologies in advance, that was the word for "gay" back then--you couldn't say "gay" in the NY Times unless it meant otherwise). I probably paid the same as I paid this week to see MAN OF STEEL in Union Square ($14.50). MoS took away the stink that's been in my nose since SUPERMAN RETURNS. What won me over was the Burger King commercial. In 2 seconds of commercial screen time I could see in that pitch for the Whopper that the actor was actually an actor and not a model turned deadbeat-dad superhero. The Whopper by the way has breached $5 in Manhattan. The sign said "$4.99" on Fifth in the mid-30s but they charged $5.09. I asked for 11 cents back. As I left, I saw the new signage being delivered.

On this July 5 I took a trip to Rockaway Park to see how B116 St. weathered the storm. The Sandbar at B116 St. hasn't come back and the wooden boardwalk is gone all the way to B106. A concrete boardwalk is under construction. It was a shock to see new modern elevated bathrooms planted in the sand, the elevation being a good idea if there is another storm of the century. The locals have objected to the view being partially cut off. I observed that the old below-ground bathrooms at B116 have a few inches of green muck pooled at the bottom of the staircase leading to them.

To get from B116 to B106 you can walk along a metal-plank road plunked in the sand parallel to the shore. When you get to B106 you see another modern bathroom and the 21st c. version of The Sandbar: the Caracas Arepas Bar. I got there around 12:30 pm, a little too early for food, and killed the time with a tasty Rockaway (of Long Island City) beer. After Kindling some pix to world famous webmaster Kevin Walsh and a few of my other associates, I returned for a delicious chicken empanada and another brew. It felt like Park Slope by the shore.

Destruction and things falling apart are bad but what makes us America is growth and renewal. No flies on U.S. Would I like to see a dozen places like Caracas in 3 blocks of Rockaway? No, but its heroic return in 2013 after the storm is inspiring to anyone who likes a knosh and a drink on a sunny uncrowded day at the shore.

Postscript: I can recommend the carrot cake and coffee at the Last Stop Gourmet Shop, located next to the A train. Right outside was a blood drive to support a cop shot yesterday. You can't discourage Rockaway. Like the David Brenner gag about the New Yorker who sees the manhole cover explode into the air and yells, "Tails!" Rockaway goes on and will be better than before.

Photos of the Fifth of July, 2013, Rockaway Park, NY.

The old Sandbar.

Bathrooms in the sky.

 The long plank road of metal.

There used to be a boardwalk right here (apologies to Sinatra).

And here.

The future is now at B106.

Still getting the hang of these selfies.

There we go.

One last selfie. So long from Caracas, Rockaway. These folks make you forget that we're supposed to mad at them for selling cheap oil to seniors. Like the Texan said, what's all of their sand doin' on my oil?

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Next Doctor in Doctor Who

I regret not registering my Sarah Palin for veep prediction years ago so here goes:

The next Time Lord will be . . . a Time Lady: Hayley Atwell. She has sci-fi and real cred in spades, is a terrific actress, and not incidentally, is a beauty.

Let's see what happens.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Parody is Better Than the Show

The classic example is the Milton Berle song parody "Sam You Made the Pants Too Long" exceeding the popularity of "Lord You Made the Night Too Long." A modern one is the Nikki Heat series by Richard Castle. I stopped watching CASTLE after trying to get into it last season. However, the books are a great read, still unknown who is penning them. Publishing is a rare media where you can easily keep a secret.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Internet Scoop, or Just a Guess

Was that John Barrowman (ARROW, DOCTOR WHO) dubbing Jimmy Fallon in Jimmy's duet with Jay Leno last night? Jimmy can sing but this bit had Broadway quality. Find Barrowman's singing in the movie THE PRODUCERS doing "Springtime for Hitler" and you'll hear the similarity. Plus, he had a show in the UK with a similar theme to the Jay-Jimmy duet. Just saying. This may be the first post on the Interwebs to notice this, or just a bad guess.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

I Dreamed About Twins

I had a dream last night that I was talking to one of the boys in the E. 28th bedroom, sitting on the edge of bed. I said, Isn't that something, you're a twin and now you have twin brothers. Where are they?, I said in a panic. In the corner, opposite the window, I found two tiny babies up on a shelf in what looked like shoe boxes.


In the book I'm reading, CUTTING FOR STONE, the twins are placed in their crib apart, but by morning they are in a V-formation, touching at the head. That's how they were in the womb, slightly conjoined at the head but then separated immediately at birth. I remember our boys in the T-formation in the morning.

The dream must have come from my remark in the kitchen last night about being the son of a twin and father of twins.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

There's Nothing Worse than the Wino

My daughter received a voucher in the mail the other day for $100 worth of wine. She usually runs an amazing offer past me to see if it's a scam. I thought back to my father, who would be 102 years old today. The conversation, from the early 1980s, had turned to the Bowery. This was before you needed to pass a rope line to get in. Denizens included defrocked priests, broke lawyers, crooked accountants, shell-shocked vets, and working class joes and janes who lost the battle with the bottle years before. My father said, "There's nothing worse than the wino." I said, "Dad, haven't you heard about this crack cocaine epidemic? It's killing people every day and ruining lives." "Yes," said the old Irishman, "there's nothing worse than the wino." The crack epidemic subsided.  I wonder where the winos went?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

To the AMNY Hawker on the Herald Sq. Subway Mezzanine

To the lady who gives out the free morning paper:
When you hawk a paper, you're supposed to entice us with what "it" is: "Read All About It!: HUN SINKS LUSITANIA or "Read All About It!: SADDAM FOUND IN SPIDER HOLE,  not "Read All About It!: AM New York!"

Monday, September 10, 2012

Good News from the Barber

If a haircut were a speech, then the peroration would be the mirror ritual. Late Sunday morning, my barber angled the mirror in his hands so I could see in the big wall mirror the handiwork of the last 15 minutes. As the light from the spot at the top of my head reached my retina, I also reflected, on the time I was sitting on the floor playing with my kids as they were eye-level to me. Matt said, "Daddy, you have a spot!" I had known this but went into foolish denial. My wife later acknowledged the fact. In fact, she recently expressed the opinion that had thought by this time (some 20 years later) that I would have lost it all. I said to my barber, "Well, I still have that spot back there." He said, "Don't worry, that's from the summer. It'll grow back in the winter." Punked by my own barber. I tipped 20% for the laugh.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

WKRB--Sweet Sounds of Hal David

It's only blowing out 10 watts and heard in Bk and the Rockaways, but there were some big sounds coming out of WKRB 90.3 FM on Sweet Sounds tribute to the late Hal David. I think Jonathan Schwartz managed a single tune in salute to Hal David last weekend on WNYC-FM, but Prof. Ron Forman put together a terrific hour, including my personal favorites, "What's New Pussycat" sung by Tom Jones and "Living Together" from the much maligned musical version LOST HORIZON. Thank you professor. I live nearby so I can dial the show up from across Sheepshead Bay. If you live out of the coverage area you can also tune in from the Internet via this link.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

I Saved a Life Today

A tornado touched down in Breezy Point, Queens and Canarsie today. We also had some strong winds in Gerritsen Creek. After the storm, my wife and went out for a walk in the creek and spied a bluefish flopping in the trail. It must have been lifted out of the water by the winds. Rather than call Nanny Bloomberg and 311 to find out what to do when discovering wildlife out of its proper environment, I picked the fish up by the tail and tossed it some distance into the water. I say some "some distance" because due to so-called restoration, the water is fenced off. I seem to recall that the same restoration line was used for Prospect Park, which is now a tree museum. We lived in Park Slope when there was just three of us and I can remember walking down to the stream, a little bit of nature only a few blocks away from our third-floor walk up. Now, you can look at the stream through a chain link fence. You think these fences are temporary and after 10-20 years, you realize that it isn't so. Each time they "restore" Gerritsen Creek, it is claimed that it is being restored to its natural original state. I'm not sure which fixed point in time they use to simulate that antediluvian condition.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

I Can't Win--Caught Cheating While Asleep

My wife woke up upset today. It seems that international movie star Julie Delpy asked me out and didn't ask my wife to come along. I explained to Mrs. 1OTT that I couldn't be held accountable for something that happened in her dream. Going Jungian, I offered the theory that Ms. Delpy was an avatar for my wife, both being blonde, bespectacled, and beautiful. I think I smoothed it over and with luck it won't come up this evening.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

One Man, Two Guvnors: Whatta show!

In the late '70s I saw the late Dick Shawn play Fabulous Fantastic, Jr. in THE SECOND GREATEST ENTERTAINER IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD. I didn't think I or an audience could laugh any harder or longer than I did that night, but OM, TG made it happen last night. The cast and crew break the fourth wall at the edge of the stage and break all the rules of a proper Broadway show. I rank the laugh factor equal to Pryor, Chappelle, and the Marx Brothers. After the finale, the standing ovation grew as each part of the troupe came out for their bows, leading to a complete standing ovation when James Corden came out. I had never seen a complete standing ovation before. They are closing this weekend. Spend the baby's college tuition on this one. (That's the kind of cheeky humor you'll find in this show, which is not for the offendable.) You won't regret it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

One Man Two Guvnors

Going to see it tonight. Brit funnyman, Tony Award winner, and two-time Dr. Who guest star James Corden has a lot on the line--I paid closing week prices to go. Be funny!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Happy 92nd Birthday Mom!

Mom's doing great and we had a nice little party.

Blog hiatus: we're getting ready to go to Paris next month. I promise to return with a big photo feature in May. I expect Mrs. 1onthetown to be constantly stopped by well-wishers of the beautiful Julie Delpy.


Monday, February 14, 2011

UNFORGIVABLE BLACKNESS: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson

When I was a kid I loved boxing. I read about it, watched it on TV, even kept score round by round. What turned me off permanently was the Patterson-Ellis title bout on September 14, 1968. The old champ Floyd Patterson was attempting to regain the crown and become the heavyweight king for an unprecedented third time. He gave WBA (one of two crowning authorities, the WBC being the other) champ Ellis a beating and my scorecard gave it easily to my fellow Brooklynite and all-around good citizen. I'm paraphrasing but the post-fight dialogue with announcer Howard Cosell went something like this:
HOWARD: Champ! Champ! How do you feel? It looks like you're going to regain the crown and be the heavyweight champion again!
FLOYD: Let's wait and see what the referee says Howard.
The referee in Sweden was the sole judge and he gave the decision to Ellis for reasons unknown. My own conclusion as an 11-year-old buff was that there were powers greater than Floyd that wanted a young champion that they could control.

Part of being a young buff was learning the continuous lineage of the heavyweight championship line. From John L. Sullivan in 1885, there followed Corbett, Fitzsimmons, Hart, Burns and the greatest  champ of all time, Jack Johnson. Johnson lived like a modern man and how he avoided being shot, lynched, or physically destroyed is a testament to the sheer force that this man exuded. The racism of the time prevented him from fighting for the title for many years as white champs refused to fight him. Once he was given the opportunity, he took the title and held it from 1908-1915.

The Ken Burns documentary, UNFORGIVABLE BLACKNESS: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, is very well done and especially clever in the showing of and commentary on real fight footage from 100 years ago. It's almost corny to dub in the sound of punches and the crowd noise but it works with silent footage. All the other Burns touches are there, such as period music and famous people reading from archival newspapers and magazines.

I particularly recommend the on-screen commentary from James Earl Jones, who played Johnson in THE GREAT WHITE HOPE on stage and screen. Some great still photos are shown of Jones and Muhammad Ali play sparring, back in the day when Ali was banned from boxing. Jones movingly talks about Johnson's ethos: how his heart, mind, soul, and very manhood was his alone: he was not a slave.

Part I concludes with Johnson's ascension to the title. Part II covers the fall and it's sad to see a man flee his country and have to bargain his way back in to serve a one-year jail term for violating the Mann Act. In 2011 there's recurring talk of a presidential pardon. Even though he lived his later years fighting bums and living off past glory, his final rounds are filled more dignity than many modern champs who end up addled from too many blows and broke: Joe Louis working as a casino greeter always comes to mind. I was happy to see Johnson make it to 68. It's implied that his fatal car crash was precipitated by some racial mistreatment; he drove off speeding in a rage. It's hard to believe that he would have done that.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Black History Month IV: Move Over Gabriel! Here Comes Satchmo!

Welcome to the 4th annual Black History Month for 1 On the Town. Check out the archives for 2010, 2009, and 2008 (there's some amazing prognostication or just hopefulness about our current president in the Pettigrew for President entry).

Move Over Gabriel! Here Comes Satchmo!

So said radio/TV man Fred Robbins at the end of his eulogy for Louis Armstrong in 1970. I can remember growing in the 1960s, the Golden Age of free television. A middle class kid could see the greatest artists of the 20th century on free TV on the late afternoon talk/variety shows and beg his parents to stay up and watch a late night show (9 pm) if it was a school night. Louis Armstrong was a frequent guest in that era, always welcome in the home. His avuncular ubiquitous presence was anodyne to the occasional racism a kid was exposed to by his older siblings. I can't recall feeling prejudice toward blacks and my Irish father scolded anyone in the house who used the N-word, but I can recall that one sibling liked to tell offensive Black jokes and another favored anti-Semitism. We had little exposure to African Americans inside the house, except for my father's friend from work, Holcombe Hall, who fixed TVs as a sideline, and the Edison man.

I recently read Terry Teachout's 2009 bio POPS (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) and recommend it. What comes though is the underlying sadness of the humorous trumpet icon who brought so much joy to the world. If Tracy Morgan wants to get his EGOT, he should star in the biopic.

"(What Did I Do To Be So) Black and Blue?" Louis sang courtesy of Fats Waller and Andy Ratzaff. Twice Teachout comments and reports on Louis's interpretations of the song. From the first time he recorded it in 1929, Louis "made a point of blunting its confrontational edge," Teachout notes. When I hear anyone criticize Louis this is usually the thrust, that his good-natured stage and real-life personas made his people look meek or happy in their oppression, ignoring the reality of racism. They conveniently ignore the mixed-race bands he led, which did more to break down legal barriers and hidden prejudices than any professional speakers ever did or will do.

There's a beautiful scene in the documentary JAZZ ON A SUMMER'S DAY (1959) (thank you Netflix streaming) with Louis and Jack Teagarden doing their old chestnut, "Rockin' Chair." Teachout describes a 1957 TV perf "in which the broad shouldered Teagarden puts an arm around the shorter Armstrong and looks affectionately at him as they amble through their well-worn routine:
 [JACK:] Fetch me some water, son!
[LOUIS:] You know you don't drink water, father.
If you don't dig this kind of good humor and bonhomie, then you can't dig Pops.

One more note on Louis and childhood: I think every kid in the family did a raspy impression, which was always followed by Mom warning that you'd ruin your throat. I can even remember bringing out a handkerchief for verisimilitude.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Antenna TV: Old Shows on New Network; Back from the North Country

ANTENNA TV

By "old shows on new network" I'm not talking about Dr. Phil repeats on the new OWN channel. The first day of the new year 2011 saw the return of the Three Stooges to channel 11, that is, eleven point four on the over-the-air digital dial, on a new national network called Antenna TV. A Stooges marathon was followed by regular programming later in the week. This channel trumps cable's TV Land by sheer variety, none of the four-hour blocks of the same show that I can't imagine anyone sitting through. Also, black and white is welcome on 11.4. I assume TV Land thinks that only color GUNSMOKEs would be of interest but I would love to see a b/w from the beginning of the run.

Antenna TV is running classic comedies like THE MONKEES and BENNY HILL that I'm pretty sure anyone under 25 either hasn't seen or only heard their parents talk about. How to describe, in a 24-hour Internet world, the joys of the naughty, bawdy Brit humor of Benny Hill? The one guest that Johnny Carson wanted but couldn't get, Benny Hill and his amiable troupe of old men and young ladies were last seen on a regular basis in New York in syndication on channel 9 in the '80s, late at night (after 11). Musical parodies and sketches that never reached the level of lewd (by 21st c. standards), Benny Hill and his backward salute could find favor with a new generation if they can find him. Hey Cablevision, can you drop one of your several end-is-near or PPV porn channels and put on something that more people would want to watch?

THE NORTH COUNTRY

My last trip to the farm was in 2008 in the summer and this time I was promised soul-searching wind chills in the week after Christmas. Walking 3 miles to the F train through the aftermath of the blizzard of 2010 (I actually got a lift for part of the way from a van full of Chinese fellows) to catch a bus from the Port Authority, my arrival in Gouverneur found me above the snow line and the beneficiary of temperate weather on Lockie Lane Farms. Ken's wife Claire and her mother Elsie fed me so well that I gained 5 pounds in 3 days, which doesn't seem possible. Elsie's biscotti, Claire's sweet and sour pork and apple pie and more apple pie--not even a few hikes through the hills, or reading my trip book, GULLIVER' TRAVELS by Jonathan Swift, could work off the weight. The only thing close to work that I did was climb up the hay bale stairway to the loft and throw a few bales down to Mr. Sullivan and his father-in-law. One bale is going for 2 bucks this season.

Did you know that chickens need 12 hours of sunlight to lay an egg? Some folks force them to lay, by installing artificial lighting, but Ken's giving the girls these short days off.

One day we bought two new barn windows and a dump wagon, two things I probably won't do again for awhile, although we may buy a few hundred new windows this year here in the co-op.

Here come the pictures and some video. Turn down the volume if the sound of bleating disturbs you.

And here comes my new best friend, Major.  A black Lab, he was found on the side of the road with a bag of dog food. Who would do something like that? They actually know who did it--Major's collar had a chip in it. Best dog I ever met.

Comes running like a bullet from a half-mile away.

His Master's Voice.

Good boy.

Looking down on the farm from up the hill.

Who you calling chicken?

Ken said that Major barks at anyone new, but Major and I hit it off from the start. I miss Major.

The sheep. The barn smells a lot better in the winter. The coats are to protect the wool. Ken sells the wool and some go to slaughter. Sorry PETA.
 The rams are kept separate.

Ken and Claire are off the oil grid for heating--he chops wood and has at least a two-year supply for the furnace (made in USA furnace and fuel--take that, Kuwait).

Mom sends an ornament each year. This year I hand delivered one (this is an old one from the their tree--you can guess where they got the tree from).

Sheep on Film: Turn down your sound card if you're at work. These sheep are like sheep except when you ask them to keep it down at feeding time. There's another difference in visiting in the winter--no baa-ting when you're waking up.
video video

Monday, December 27, 2010

Year-end Roundup: BLOODY BLODY, TRUE GRIT, Hooked on Netflix; THE EMPEROR OF MALADIES

BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON

1onthetown had a theatre companion this month for BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON. We've been talking about seeing this for awhile and when the closing notice was posted she ran out and got us two ducats on the aisle in front of the stage right speakers. The intimate Belasco Theatre Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre houses this rousing Guitar Hero bio of the seventh president. The eponymous lead as played by Benjamin Walker proves he can fill a theatre with his voice even without a mic. The incredibly cluttered stage makes scene changes easy as everything is already up there. I liked a lot of it except for the dotty lady in the wheelchair who narrates the first half of the proceedings.

This show started in L.A. in 2008 and there's a West coast TV sick humor sensibility that may have contributed to this show not catching on, such as jokes stretched paper thin and too long (for example, in the very beginning we suffer through the narrator wordlessly tooling around and around the stage in the electric wheelchair). The other negative is the effeminate depiction of Eastern political figures. Except for the rugged postures of Jackson and Calhoun, figures such as JQ Adams and Martin Van Buren are portrayed as foppish jackasses. I can accept that Andrew Jackson is bringing back sexypants but the other male characters were too Paul Lynde for this context.


TRUE GRIT

What does it take to get me off the couch and into a movie theatre?: a weekday afternoon and the Coen brothers teamed with Jeff Bridges making a movie out of the great Charles Portis's TRUE GRIT. But the real attraction is newcomer Hailee Steinfeld as the plucky miss out to avenge her father's murder by an ungrateful coward. I feel like Christopher Plummer giving you "Miss Daisy Clover" but I'm giving a money back guarantee based on her perf. She's real and the true grit of the title, with no phony 21st c. politics informing her acting.

Were the Coen Bros. joking by hiring a lookalike (Barry Pepper) for Robert Duvall to play the same part that Duvall played in the first version of TRUE GRIT? Oh brother!

HOOKED ON NETFLIX

I spent a good deal of week one of vacation watching DARIA on Netflix DVD, streaming Season 2 of HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL, and also streaming the cult classic TV show FIREFLY. So sad that we have hundreds of ST: TNG eps and only 14 FIREFLYs but I'm telling myself it's like watching 5 or 6 great movies. I read that 20% of Internet traffic from 8-10 pm is from Netflix streaming and that only 2% of their customers currently stream. When this catches on it may break the Internet. I was running the laptop thru the TV but my new BluRay player makes it a couch potato's dream. How did I miss FIREFLY during its run on FOX in the early 2000s?

THE EMPEROR OF MALADIES by Siddhartha Mukerjee

This book is subtitled "A History of Cancer" and is a good read if you've ever liked a science class or read science for leisure. Stay away if you're looking for humorous anecdotes. The author's vocabulary is excellent and I learned some new words, or at least one of those words that you see but can't ever remember its meaning: febrile.


That's it for 2010. I'm off to the farm, bringing the camera, and will have a full report in the new year.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas from Mel Tormé 3

Cre-a-k-k! The private vault is open again for Mel Tormé. This time it's New Year's Eve, 1987. Like Santa, he comes around every December and leaves all with a great feeling. Enjoy!!

video

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Raw Nerve Touched: The Missed Opportunity of Sweeney Todd

I'm working on a book about Beer and one of the topics is Ale, which elicited a comment from my copy editor, and touched off some deep feelings I have about Sweeney Todd. I wrote about the movie in 2007, and some of those thoughts bubbled to the surface again today.



From: Jeff 
Sent: Tuesday, December 07, 2010 5:45 PM
To: Brian
Subject: Ale and Meat Pies
 
You saw the Cariou Sweeney Todd, no?
 
Ever see Cerveris/Lupone or Depp?
****************************************
 From: Brian
To: Jeff
Subject: RE: Ale and Meat Pies


 
Sadly no; no/yes.
 
I saw Dorothy Loudon and George Hearn. I have the Lupone/Hearn/NPH DVD. Hearn filled in for Bryn Terfel, whose chronic bad back made him unavailable. I saw the Lansbury/Hearn on VHS.
 
If you saw the Sondheim birthday tribute on PBS, Hearn has become the Bublé of Sweeneys. I mean that as a compliment. Hearn was/is an amazing artist at any age and killed at the birthday tribute. It was a privilege to see him in his prime.
 
I saw Len Cariou and Angela Lansbury on YouTube sing at a charity event in LA in the 2000s, where Cariou probably gave his last singing performance. Word on the street is that role killed his voice. What a way to go as Dean said.
 
Not crazy about paying four times as much to see ¼ as many performers playing cymbals between their knees while they sing and juggle. It’s the kind of thing that people convince themselves is good.
 
Depp: fantastic actor, craptastic singer. The director’s wife was awful. The gal who played Joanna—awful. Borat as Pirelli—very good. The kid playing the kid—novel idea to have a kid playing a kid. You don’t get a movie made of a musical unless you get Depp/Burton. Then you get a Burton movie, not Sondheim. If I recall the trailer, the music was second to the FX. It’s extortion. I hope to live long enough to see it done right on screen. Dream casting would have been Bryn Terfel and Bette Midler. We can only hope some 10-year-old is doing the grade school version and is vowing to do it right when he or she is all growed up.
 
Dorothy Loudon was one of those very talented people you’d see on TV in the 1960s, when you could turn on a talk/variety show after school and see Count Basie rap with Mike Douglas or Robert Q. Lewis. It was the golden age of free TV.
 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Richard Pryor's Birthday Today

Richard would have been 70 today. I've never laughed as hard at anyone until the meteor that was Chappelle. Thanks again. You were the one-man Beatles of comedy.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Best Thanksgiving Ever

I cooked for 10 and made apple pie (DIY crust and filling). You can't ruin a Butterball. I also served glazed carrots and invented a green bean and small-potato (red and white) casserole. I believe I also made yams but a wild argument broke out over the difference between yams and sweet potatoes. Whatever it was, I added some sugar, pepper, and salt and all were pleased. I forgot to serve the cranberry sauce and applesauce but no one seemed to notice.

This year I saved all my vacation and personal time to take one week off at Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, and two weeks off at the end of the year. I'm visiting Lockie Lane Farms next month to visit my friend the sheep farmer and his wife. If the weather holds we're taking a hop over the border to Montreal.

There was a great 80th birthday tribute to Stephen Sondheim on PBS last week. I bought his biographical annotated collection of lyrics, FINISHING THE HAT, today at Border's at an outrageous 40% off thanks to an email coupon. They typeset and printed this coffee table book in the US and were able to keep the list price at $39.95. Imagine if you were alive in 1936 and were able to read a similar tome by George Gershwin. Truly a must read for anyone who loves the theatre.

Later in the afternoon I got a sweet deal on a Sony Blu-ray at Best Buy. Apropos of Ed Norton's question to Ralph Kramden, Why don't you have a TV?, to which Ralph replied, I'm waiting for 3D, this player can do 3D. All I need now is the TV (paraphrasing Sondheim).

Over the holiday I watched THE BEGGAR'S OPERA on DVD and read EUREKA by Jim Lehrer. Lehrer writes clean usually and I figured this was SFM (safe for Mom). However, Mom was shocked at some of the content. I read it after her and I can guess what she was aghast at (at one point a 59-year-old man has a few normal hetero fantasies about a young girl). She enjoyed Lord Larry Olivier in BEGGAR'S OPERA. (THREEPENNY OPERA reworked the same story with new music.)

One of the saddest things in the novel EUREKA is a reference to an interview with Anthony Hopkins in which he refers to his entire career as a waste of time. It's so depressing that I had to look it up. After that quote from 1999, IMDb lists 30 projects finished or in development so Hopkins was kidding or just having a bad day.

The Jets are 9-2 after Thanksgiving night! I'm pretty sure they have never been 9-2. Another thing to be thankful for: Mom bounced back from a few weeks in the hospital this year to play host to the Thanksgiving dinner. Margie found her a nice apartment in an elevator building. Mom gave us a scare and made me appreciate her more if that's possible. At one point in the hospital, when it was unclear what was wrong with her, she asked if we were thinking of putting her in a nursing home. That hurt but that's what uncertainty does to a person, makes them ask questions that hurt. It has all worked out ok so far, and is continuing to do so thanks to everybody helping out in their own ways. Like the little drummer boy with his humble gift, I make turkey drumsticks and apple pie and bring books and DVDs.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Brother Victor, OSF--Rest in Peace

My high school Algebra teacher, Brother Victor Fischer, OSF, died this week. Victor was a combination of the comic rage of Lewis Black and the good-natured cynicism of Victor Borge. 

After eight years of Catholic school nuns in Blessed Sacrament School, who knew you could laugh + learn in a classroom? Brother Victor had a line for every occasion. Some of the humor was bawdy, which was legal in an all-boys school in the '70s. For example, if a kid raised his hand and asked to go to the bathroom, Victor would retort, "Didn't you go already this year?" Another lad would raise his hand for the same thing and Victor would throw a rubber band at him telling him he could hold it. Then there was the boy who reported that his two quarters were missing. He was known forever by Victor as "the kid who lost the fifty cents." Or an especially nervous student he pegged "the nervous kid." One very hot day, several students broke the rule on no beverages in the classroom. Brother got very angry, seized the offending cans, and ran one over his forehead in sweet relief from the late spring Brooklyn haze.

Brother Victor was a positive influence on my brother who, like Victor, was a ham radio operator. Victor's callsign was WA2LML (We Are Two Little Meat Loaves). He taught my other brother too. The year the school went coed, my sister enrolled and he call out to her in the hall, "You're a Black [ed. note--that's our last name], right?" 

I got a 98 on the Algebra Regents exam, which we took in the Fall. I also did well in trigonometry in the Spring. When I went to college I majored in Math, no doubt due to the solid grounding in numbers and fun given to me by Brother Victor, OSF. Through several layoffs in the 2000s, the math degree has been something for me to fall back on and gets the foot in the door.



The following is courtesy of franciscanbrothers.org:
BROTHER VICTOR FISCHER, O.S.F.

James Fischer, son of George and Charlotte (Haiser) Fischer was born in Brooklyn on July 24, 1932.

After attending St. Leonard’s High School and St. Anthony’s Juniorate he entered the Franciscan Brothers on February 11, 1950.

He received the Franciscan habit and the Religious name “Victor” on August 2, 1950 and made his profession of vows two years later on July 26, 1952.

Brother Victor’s first assignment was to St. Leonard’s High School.  He was Business Manager at St. Francis College from 1956-1959 before returning to St. Leonard’s until 1963.

Brother Victor taught at St. Francis Prep, first in Brooklyn then in Fresh Meadows, from 1964 until 1978.  He was a member of the Mathematics Department and subsequently Chairman of the Business Department.

Beginning in 1979 Brother Victor served in a variety of ministries including three years in Pennsylvania and many years in the Archdiocese of New York at St. Jean Baptiste High School.

In spite of a severe hearing loss Brother Victor volunteered during his retirement years at several Brooklyn locations that included CHIPS (Christian Help in Park Slope) and St. Martin of Tours Parish.

On October 16, 2010, while out for a walk, Victor died as a result of injuries suffered in an accident.

He is survived by a sister, Catherine Mattison of Florida, a brother, William of Pennsylvania, and numerous nieces and nephews.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Who says you have to wait for Christmas to hear Standards on terrestrial radio?

You just have to wait until Sundays:
WNYC 93.9 FM
Jonathan Schwartz, Sat/Sun (Noon-4 pm); the Sunday show is simulcast on SiriusXM. The dean of Standards broadcasters, Schwartz champions the American Songbook. My only criticism is that he plays a lot of the same people and excludes other performers that the other Standards channels feature. Some high rotation artists are from his circle of friends; he could widen his horizons a little bit. When I turn on cable’s Music Choice, Singers and Swing, I hear a lot of the artists that he rarely plays, such as Steve Tyrell. Schwartz may find him unworthy somehow but should give Tyrell et al. a better shot.

Danny Stiles, Saturday night 8-10 pm, plays a lot of pre-stereo era 78s. It might be the timeslot or my own listening habits but I’ve never made Stiles appointment radio. It’s a mix of well-know tunes and lesser-known (to me) records from the ’40s to the ’80s. Yet it’s good to know he’s there.

WBGO 88.3 FM Michael Bourne: Singers Unlimited. Sunday 10-2. Fantastic show and it’s overlapped with Schwartz’s programs from 12-2 for 20 years. Perfection would move it to 8-noon or Saturday morning.

Don’t listen much to these stations but good to know they are there playing Standards:

WHLI 1100 AM daytimer 7 days.

WBAI 99.5 FM—David Kenney. Everything Old is New Again. Sunday 9-midnight.

WNYM 970 AM—Dick Robinson, American Standards by the Sea. Sunday midnight.

WFUV 90.7 The Big Broadcast with Rich Conaty. Sunday 8-midnight. Standards from the ’20s and ’30s.

WKRB 90.3 FM (Brooklyn)—Professor Ron Forman. Sweet Sounds. Sunday 5-7 pm.

WPHT 1210 AM (Philadelphia) Sid Mark. Friday night and Sunday morning with Sinatra.

Too bad WVIP-HD2 no longer simulcasts WVOX Music of Your Life (they dropped the HD2 signal in October). Sorry Signore Marconi, terrestrial lost another listener when I switched to their Internet stream at night.

When WNEW turned off the lights, Mark Simone celebrated the long run and didn’t cry over the end of the era. We can look at today as a silver age for Standards on the radio. What is striking is the decades of longevity of most of these hosts playing music that no one wants to hear. Classic music keeps you young.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

FREUD'S LAST SESSION; NYRMB

Listening to Mike and Therese doing Depravity's Rainbow tonight on WFMU. Mike's an old buddy. He and his cohost fill in for Tom Scharpling and the Best Show. He's the regular producer, call screener, and background kibitzer on that show.

I love radio. Here are a few of my recent posts on the NYRMB (New York Radio Message Board).




New Media Pitfalls



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Posted by Bob T. on September 21, 2010 at 10:08:10:
We hear so much about the takeover of new media stripping radio of younger audiences.
You-Tube, Twitter, Facebook, etc. are so new that they really aren't battle tested.
This morning, news sites are full of info on a Twitter bug that apparently can takeover your computer with just a mouseover.
Can anyone come up with a similar weakness for radio?

Posted by Brian Black on September 21, 2010 at 15:44:58:
In Reply to: New Media Pitfalls posted by Bob T. on September 21, 2010 at 10:08:10:
If you mean technically, I have a portable HD radio that charges thru a mini USB. Something could crawl in with a firmware update.
Metaphorically, the mouse hanging over radio is everything online. When I run a Compaq thru a Sony tabletop I almost forget I'm not listening to broadcast; and it's that much less time listening to real radio.
Radio will always have the "I just want to turn it on" fans but now HD makes you wait for a buffer/rebuffer. Trivial? CFL bulbs (another enemy of AM) have run into similar resistance. We gave them away *free* to shareholders in a co-op and some users said it takes too long to get fully bright (less than 10 seconds!).
In summary, radio killed vaudeville, vaudeville came back as YouTube. Internet killed radio, radio can come back as something you can't get any more.
A step backwards to live and local news and deejays would be a start. Blogs are filling the gap for local news. When we had a shooting in our area, I turned to the neighborhood blog for street-level coverage that day, which was far superior to the newspaper, TV, or other Internet spaces the next day.

Why is AM 970 The Apple not doing better?




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Posted by Brian Black on September 14, 2010 at 10:50:22:
In Reply to: Re: Re: Re: Why is AM 970 The Apple not doing better? posted by Frank on September 14, 2010 at 08:35:58:
The signal? It's usually a terrible listen in Brooklyn.
I stumbled into Dick Robinson's American Standards by the Sea after midnight Saturday night, the only show on 970 other than Curtis that I might listen to. American Standards's website lists The Apple but The Apple's own website doesn't show American Standards on the schedule. So 970's promotion dept./budget might be a problem too.

More Talk from Stern About His Plans




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Posted by Brian Black on September 10, 2010 at 10:24:23:
In Reply to: Re: Re: More Talk from Stern About His Plans posted by SKlein on September 10, 2010 at 09:18:07:
Stern is starting to sound like film/radio/TV legend Bud Abbott, who died broke with tax problems, who agreed with a reporter's remark that even if all the fans sent him a few bucks he'd still be broke. (It morphed into a story of Abbott begging fans for money.)
I bought XM to listen ($9/month) to Standards when they left terrestrial radio. But 7 bucks a month just for Stern? Maybe when everyone had cash to burn. He's dreaming or bluffing. I miss his show biz interviews and amazing insight into the business but I don't miss the poor taste.






Standards HD/Internet Radio Update; Bob Elliott interview




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Posted by Brian Black on August 31, 2010 at 11:19:52:
To update a post from last month, it appears that WVIP-HD3 is off the air. The WVOX simulcast, including Music of Your Life after 10 pm, was moved to HD2.
Another bright spot for Standards is Radio Deluxe with John Pizzarelli. The August 14 podcast featured a rare interview with radio icon Bob Elliott. A must listen for Bob & Ray fans; Pizzarelli is a hardcore fan of the boys.
http://www.johnpizzarelli.com/RadioDeluxe.html


Posted by Brian Black on September 01, 2010 at 10:33:41:
In Reply to: Re: Standards HD/Internet Radio Update; Bob Elliott interview posted by Pete Tauriello on August 31, 2010 at 22:27:53:
To begin to make HD a "must have" you would have to improve reception, sound, and content.
Audio quality: Berle sold pictures with sound and color shows sold color TV, but an HD signal doesn't improve the regular FM sound greatly to my ears. I have a Sony XDR-S3HD and a cell-phone sized Insignia portable.
Content: On the cheap, only a few listener-supported stations produce original local HD-only shows.
Buzz: I study the 21-53 demo (my house) and no one is interested except me. I love it for the niches. I heard Conway Twitty on WLTW-HD2 this morning but I also like some of the new stuff on WFUV-HD3, and appreciate the artist/title readouts. I like WNYC-HD2's simulcast of WQXR-HD1 (whose 105.9 signal isn't as strong as WNYC's HD2). I listen to Imus and Batchelor on WABC-HD3 without the static (WABC-AM in HD is gone). WBGO gives me a static-free lock that I never had before HD. I enjoy True Oldies on WPLJ-HD2 and occasionally dial up TONY on WCBS-HD2. I like the Sony dial for some reason instead of push buttons. Nostalgia?
Even if the content were improved, no one except the hobbyist wants to adjust an antenna. People freaked on the iPhone antenna problem when most radio folks would have DIY'd a solution (buy a cover). I listen via roof antenna or outdoors so I'm immune to the indoor reception problems, but I can hear it when I enter a building with the portable.

Nice FM DX catch Yesterday from NY




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Posted by Brian Black on August 30, 2010 at 09:55:19:
In Reply to: Re: Nice FM DX catch Yesterday from NY posted by Mike Grayeb on August 29, 2010 at 22:35:59:
On the Brooklyn shore, CT stations were blowing out most of the pirates too on Saturday, all the way up to WEBE 107.9, Westport. Made me wonder if I might hear those stations regularly sans pirates.

Out of context!




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Posted by Brian Black on August 14, 2010 at 09:37:18:
In Reply to: Out of context! posted by Walt on August 14, 2010 at 09:11:16:
Yes, there are two Simones and when the opinion show gets too Ann Colterish I spin the dial and turn it back later for his Saturday night music show. Yet when he books a superior point maker like Frank Rich, he tamps down the right-wing rhetoric, or ignores Rich's cogent point.
Imus told his listeners this in 1971: change the dial if you don't like it and I have followed his advice, even for shows of which I'm a fan.

FREUD'S LAST SESSION

I was going to write about this show but it wasn't all that interesting, a fictional meeting between C. S. Lewis and Freud in 1939. The acting was fine but the writing left me flat. Freud bests Lewis in their meeting in Freud's office. The set was beautiful--old books, a cathedral radio, the couch, small objets d'art. I saw the lead actor arrive walking his bike through the front door of the Y that houses the theatre (The New Little Theatre on W. 64th) but this did not shatter the illusion. Lovely little house.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Happy 100th Birthday Thomas Black

Dear Dad:

Happy 100th birthday. We spent a lot of time with Mom over the weekend doing little things to help her in her new apartment. One of the last times I saw you twenty-five years ago, you said to take care of her and I hope we're all doing a good job at that.

Any time we see anyone who emigrates to America, and talks her down because she's not perfect yet, I think of the patriotic Irishman who came here when he was 12, loved his new country, and worked two jobs on two phlebitic legs and a bum ticker to support a family of six. I never heard you complain much, except maybe to "stop that roughhousing" when the boys and I were fighting on the second floor. Sorry if we ever woke you up from a well-earned sleep.

your son,
Brian

Thursday, August 12, 2010

THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH--The Disappointment of the Summer on Starz on Netflix streaming

The movie of a favored novel is almost always disappointing but this one disappoints in so many ways. After you've seen Monty Python's version of the era, the buckets of blood approach is hard to take without snickering.

Let's look at the ingenue, Aliena. In the novel she first appears as a spoiled brat, daughter of a lord, who survives a brutal assault and impoverishment by the villain of the piece. She comes out of it hell-bent to survive and to avenge her executed father, but also to restore her family's place in the order of things. Capitalism saves her as she becomes a successful wool merchant. She flirts with the brooding younger-than-her Jack, the cathedral builder's stepson.

Jack wins her over slowly and gently with his modest demeanor, artistic temperament, storytelling, and a well-timed love ballad. Jack first kisses Aliena in the woods during a chaste encounter. Even though she is starting to fall for him, she latter rebuffs him in her spinning room, the villainous rape still in her mind. All this is well-plotted and understandable by the reader.

The miniseries: Aliena may make one snarky comment but you don't find yourself not liking her. The assault isn't anywhere as awful as in the book even with TV sensibilities factored in. The courtship of Aliena and Jack is missing. The worst part is the second kiss in the spinning room. In episode four we see Jack kiss Aliena and there is no rebuff. She looks like she's a little flushed, maybe a case of the vapors, but no rebuff. It is a critical moment in their rocky relationship because Jack can't understand why she is acting this way. He has no knowledge of the rape.

Instead of character development we have frequent battle scenes, of which the book has several. The technical methodology of cathedral building is interesting in the book and must have also been thought to be unfilmable, because I haven't seen it yet in the still-running series. There's a nice bit of line art animation (made me think of the Hubleys) of the cathedral in the opening credits and this could have been a nice touch as an exposition of the building plans as the architect describes it to the prior. As it stands, the overarching character of the piece, the great cathedral, is an afterthought to the blood and gore.

So how to film the backstory of well-drawn characters from a novel? There must be a way.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Girl with Something Extra

"THE GIRL WITH..." trilogy by the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson is a publishing phenomenon. The other day I was on the Q train with my daughter. I was reading the third installment of the trilogy on a Sony Touch, she was sitting on my right reading the second book and to my left a lady was reading the first, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATOO. I also just watched the Swedish movie of TATOO on Netflix streaming on my son's Wii.

Is any of it any good? The first book has an interesting plot: an old rich man hires a disgraced journalist, Mikael Bolmkvist, to uncover the mystery of his missing and assumed-dead niece. The most compelling character by a factor of 1000 is the Aspergerish hacker, Lisbeth Salander, who is hired to do a background check on the journalist and ends up investigating the missing niece. The hacker and journalist meet and forge a relationship of unconditional trust and loyalty, like Spenser and Hawk without the sexual tension (unless I've been misreading Robert B. Parker). The second novel is about international sex trafficking and the third novel's plot follows directly after the second opening with Lisbeth's recovery from trauma.

If you're going to read this, it's for Lisbeth's character. Over the course of the trilogy, she slowly grows out of her turtle shell, which accreted from a lifetime of abuse at the hands of her family and government spies and factotums, to become an involved human being. Mikael, on the other hand, is a young middle-aged schlub who jogs a little yet has the kinetic sexual energy of Elvis in 1959. He walks into a room and women are instantly smitten. His character never develops. Most of the other characters have no depth and sound alike in speech and attitude.

Is it worse writing than The DaVinci Code (which I read on the Rocket eBook in the early 2000s)? No, but this is a translation and it would be interesting to see what someone fluent in Swedish and English can make of the writing. The love scenes and post-coital talk are boring and clinical with failed attempts at irony. The amount of space devoted to making and drinking coffee, eating a pastry or sandwich, getting dressed, the color of outfits, and falling asleep are considerable.

The TATOO movie: I saved 12 bucks by watching the Netflix stream rather that going to the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Like THE LORD OF THE RINGS, in which I lamented the lack of depiction of fellowship that is a charm of the series, this adaption stints on characterization. It's in the first book, subtle and a little charming between Mikael and Lisbeth, and Mikael and the rich man, less so in any of the other relationships depicted. There is a lot of technical detail in Mikael's detective work, such as the perusal of photographic archives, and this is depicted too fast and furiously in the movie, losing the revelelatory impact that his dogged work and analysis has in the novel.

The third novel (all three are on my ebook) is becoming incredibly difficult to finish, a real slog. Lisbeth, the eponymous heroine, is laid up and all of her action is from a convalescent bed. Not a great plotting decision. Supposedly there is a fourth novel, two-thirds complete at the time of the author's death. If it ever appears, one would hope for less keyboarding and more whupass from the heroine.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Jury Duty: Civil, Petit, Grand, and Beyond II; Ta Ka Di Ma at the AMNH

I was going to write about grand jury duty but just remembered that the proceedings are secret. I was able to write about the events of 30 years ago in the previous post because it was a public trial. Briefly, I will say that the experience was marked by a few luminous pearls connected by a string of intense tedium, making a token clerk's job look like intergalactic exploring. We listened, we deliberated, we voted.

Civil jury duty is one of the worst injuries ever suffered by the juror. I can speak from experience and from the many stories collected from fellow victims. A typical experience is:

Day 1: Wait most of the day in the Central Juror Room. Late in the afternoon, report to the court room for juror interviews.
Day 2: Get interviewed, be assigned to a jury.
Day 3: This may not be a consecutive day after Day 2 because the courts take more days off than Reagan. I once served in February and was stunned on Feb. 11 when the bailiff said he'd see us on the 13th. I don't think I'd had February 12* off since I was in grade school. When you report to Day 3, you are told that the case has been settled out of court, which is surprising the first time you hear it, but not after the tenth time. What's going on?

I sue you when I tripped on your stairs. You defend yourself and possibly file a countersuit. The court date approaches and a performance of chicken ballet begins. I start thinking I might not get as much as I asked for and you worry about losing your shirt. Your insurance company makes an offer. I don't like it and say let's go to trial. You say, see you in court! The jury is empaneled, we both blink, and a compromise is reached before the trial begins. Jurors time be damned and one considers that arbitration would be a better way to adjudicate most disputes.

THE SILK ROAD PROJECT at the AMNH

I've been spending most Sundays the last two months wishing it were football season. I've been enjoying playing Scrabble with my 91-year-old mother and cooking big Sunday dinners, but yesterday I went to the Museum of Natural History to see THE SILK ROAD PROJECT. An amazing serendipity was a performance at the exit of the exhibit by "percussion legend Glen Velez and rhythm-voice virtuoso Lori Cotler." He performed on frame drum and sang and she also did vocal improvisations. The audience was invited in one part to sing along, which most did with gusto. "Ta Ka Di Mi" was the title of the performance and the audience participation song.

Ms. Cotler was accompanied by Mr. Velez in a performance of the American Popular Standard "Imagination" by Van Heusen (music) and Burke (lyrics), possibly the first time the tune was given a Middle Eastern, Central Asian, Indian flavored musical twist.

The day was concluded with chili at the Old Town. My 2010 World Cup shirt elicited a comment from the bartender (who looks like Neil Flynn, Janitor from SCRUBS) and we had a discussion on US soccer. Business was way up more than usual this year for the World Cup and if we advanced one more round it would have been even better.
__________
* Lincoln's Birthday (actual)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Jury Duty: Civil, Petit, Grand, and Beyond

I have served every kind of jury except Federal. It all began in 1977 when I was 20. Back then, most able-bodied men found a way to get out of jury duty, unlike 2010 where everyone from Giuliani to Obama to Mr. T is asked to report and serve.

Unless there is an existential threat and the enemy is marching up Flatbush Avenue (thanks to Chris Rock for establishing the standard of "when I would join the Army"), it is unlikely that 53-year-old men, even those of us who can knock off a 9-minute mile on a good day, will ever be asked by our government to help out in the future. So, when called to jury duty we serve gladly, if only in the knowledge that we're helping out someone else who can't spare the time.

In the summer of 1977, I served on a murder case with mostly young people like me, retirees, and a very few middle-aged people who were either civic minded or couldn't get out of it. The murder allegedly occurred within 10 blocks of my home. Normally one would think that the proximity of the crime to a juror was a disqualifier but the murder rate was very high in the late '70s, jurors in summer were desperately needed, and DQing us never came up. A second juror, a Spanish-speaking gentleman (more on that later), also came from our neighborhood.

The case was a drug deal gone bad in a kitchen with a half-dozen witnesses, all of whom but one (more on that later also) gave eyewitness testimony. One of the witnesses was a little boy, 10 years old. Another witness testified in Spanish. The judge, the colorful and late Justice Sybil Hart Cooper, a trailblazer for her gender in 1977, cautioned the Spanish-speaking juror to disregard the testimony that he heard in Spanish and only to deliberate on the testimony provided by the translator, a legal fiction at best.

All the witnesses had their say and and we were surprised that the ADA or the defense lawyer did not call the final witness to testify. As I paraphrase, the ADA said in his summation, "You're probably wondering why all the eyewitnesses to the crime except Mr. Jones [not his real name--1OTT, Summer Intern] were called to the stand. Well, you see, ahem, harrumph, brachk-brachk, this gentlemen is a transvestite, and I was concerned that he would show up in Your Honor's courtroom in full regalia and make a mockery of the proceedings." You have to recall that this was 1977. Phil Dohahue had only recently had gay folk on his talk show and the term LGBT had not yet been coined. We all nodded in agreement, imagining puppeteer Waylon Flowers and Madame sashaying across the courtroom with flair. Madame, by the way, has come out of retirement with a new partner.

I was the 13th juror and not called to deliberate. Two hours went by and I as the alternate waited in the courtroom in case a juror fell ill. No-nonsense Judge Cooper cracked out of earshot of the jury room, "I don't know what's taking them so long!" She eventually dismissed me and I'm pretty sure the accused was found guilty.

Next post: the grand jury.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I Love My Gadgets--Sony ebook and Insignia portable HD radio

SONY EBOOK

I'm still enjoying the Sony Reader Touch. I've probably read more books in the last eight months than in any eight-month period since before there was a World Wide Web. Word on the street is that Dad may be getting a cool accessory for Fathers' Day tomorrow.

The titles I've read include Falling Man (DeLillo), The Pillars of the Earth, World Without End (Follett)--Pillars is soon to be a Starz mini-series (which I can watch on the Netflix Starz channel), His Last Bow [Sherlock Holmes] (Doyle)--from the Google library, Flags of Our Fathers (Bradley), The Guns of August (Tuchman)--gave up a little past the middle, the story was too hard to follow without large maps (sorry, tiny ebook screen).

And then there was The Phony Marine (Lehrer), Double Play (Parker), The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Tears of the Giraffe (Smith), 13 Things That Don't Make Sense (Brooks), Gold Coast (Leonard), The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo (Larsson)--the publishing phenomenon, I have the other two books in the trilogy already loaded in the ebook, Home (Julie Andrews' memoir)--I got this from the library and bought the paperback for Mom.

His Last Bow [Sherlock Holmes] (Doyle)--from the Google library: there were many OCR errors but still enjoyable to read, especially the eponymous title tale, where the boys are "surprisingly" revealed in the end to be two on the trail of German WWI saboteurs in England. It is a rare Holmes yarn written in the third person, because Watson's (spoiler alert) identity is revealed during the denouement.

INSIGNIA PORTABLE HD RADIO

An infinitesimal portion of the radio audience listens on public transportation. Thanks to my new Insignia HD Radio (FM only, no AM), I can listen to Imus in the Morning on WPLJ-HD3. The amount of electrical noise in a train has made AM radio reception problematic. Also, I'm enjoying Jeff Spurgeon and the morning crew on WQXR-FM, via WNYC-HD2. The regular QXR FM signal is on 105.9 and much harder to pull in than the powerful blast from the WNYC stick. I sent an amplified TV antenna to a friend's mother on the island, who could no longer pick up QXR when they switched from 96.3. It's sad to think how many people in the fringe areas were disenfranchised when this switch occurred.

HD radio isn't catching on, because it doesn't offer the correspondingly big leap in sound quality that HDTV provides in picture quality over standard TV. I was watching yesterday's 2-2 draw by the US against Slovenia, on the edge of my seat, and the picture quality was outstanding, if not the vuvuzela din.

The Insignia charges through the USB port of a computer; it is not an Internet device. It may be time to retire some of my old rechargeable batteries that used to feed the AM/FM radio. I bought a bunch for $90 years ago when the kids had constant need for them for video games devices. I've probably re-used them hundreds of times and saved boku bux.

Monday, June 7, 2010

HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL

I'm thoroughly enjoying the iconic TV series HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL on Netflix streaming. Tonight's episode from the first season tackled the subject of religious phonies imposing their mindless views on medicine on cowed cowardly cowpokes. The great Richard Boone as Paladin, with guest star June Lockhart as one of the first lady doctors, try to save a baby from a lynch mob. The God-besotted wagon master has diagnosed typhoid and has left the mother and the baby in the desert to die. Paladin wants to bring them in town to the doctor's office, to the displeasure of the townfolk.

Especially striking is Paladin's attitude toward the idea of a lady doctor. His attitude, other than a comment that she looks like she should be perched on a divan instead of serving these miserable townfolk, is 100% acceptance. Fast forward to 2010 and crap like GRAY'S ANATOMY, where underwear models of both genders masquerade as brain surgeons while having office sex, and you see that television has been in decline since 1957, the broadcast year of this episode. 
 The lyrics of the show's theme song:

Have Gun Will Travel reads the card of a man.
A knight without armor in a savage land.
His fast gun for hire heeds the calling wind.
A soldier of fortune is the man called Paladin.

Paladin, Paladin
Where do you roam?
Paladin, Paladin,
Far, far from home.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mjöllnir's Shame

Very disappointing costume shots from the new Thor movie.

http://www.empireonline.com/news/feed.asp?NID=28049

I thought Barry Gibb was too old to play Thor.

IANA artist, but to show strength, you hold a hammer by the far end, sinews bursting under the weight. And the block is way out of proportion to the shaft. This looks more like a Will Ferrell parody. Where's the glory? Whoever designed the hammer and shot the pix has never held anything at arm's length heavier than a stylus.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Avenge Me, Boy

RED DAWN (1984) is one of my favorite movies (not to mention there is a similar novel by CM Kornbluth, NOT THIS AUGUST). The former is about a Soviet takeover and the latter about a joint Sino/Russo subjugation of the US. The final scenes of Kornbluth's novel still give me goosebumps just thinking about it.

Can a RED DAWN remake play today? I doubt it. As long as people are fed, have HD3DTV, and don't have to go to or send their sons to war, 21st c. consumers will reject this plot. Those who remember the 20th c., whom we used to call "citizens," might find this plot appealing.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/may/30/red-dawn-remake-china

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Women's History Month: Ella, Kathryn Bigelow, Mom


Coming up: Ella in Hollywood: side 2. And congratulations to Kathryn Bigelow on winning the Oscar for THE HURT LOCKER. Maybe now we'll get more pix with real people instead of CGI? Nah.

Side 2
Nice Work If You Can Get It  Straight delivery...comfortable as an old hat...

I Can't Get Started  After the 1:00 mark, Ella gives it to someone talking in the audience saying, "Yak, yak, yak"...I'll bet whomever that was was glad it wasn't Sinatra or Tony Bennett...Bennett's autobio says he and a buddy worked over Don Rickles for an insult as Bennett walked into a club during Rickles' act (this was early in Rickles' career and Bennett claimed he didn't know this was Don's stock in trade)...

Give Me the Simple Life  Rollicking in under 2:00...followed by a swinging...

Caravan  Wide vocal range show, the high notes teasingly sound like she's thinking of scatting...but no...

The track One for My Baby opens with Ella referring to the last song she sang, remarking “They let me sing it this time.” She must have been hypersensitive to crowd noise or this was an above average boisterous audience. After a slow gallop dum-de dum-de countryish piano intro, a howl of recognition from one audience member is heard when she begins.

Lorelei is downright naughty, “that gal on the river…who had the goods and could deliver.” The audience hoots at the bridge when Ella declares, “this is where the striptease comes in!”

A-Tisket A-Tasket is Ella’s signature tune. The peppy intro of her contemporary Verve recording is familiar to us but apparently not yet to this audience and the entire audience is euphoric when they hear the first lyric. Later on, I dug when the band put down their instruments and sang in a call and response “so do we so do we so do we so do we so do we.” I’m thinking the style of Pennsylvania 6-5000 or Whatcha Know Joe. It doesn’t happen often but when it does it’s unexpected, like a hockey game breaking out at a boxing match. But no, once again, no one in the band can find that little yellow basket, lost in Ella’s first big hit (1938) and still lost in 1942 on a bus in “Ride ‘Em Cowboy” with Abbott and Costello. If you see it, let me know.


Coming soon: Witchcraft, Gone with the Wind
Happiness is Just a Thing Called Joe, It's Delovely, The Lady is a Tramp, That Old Black Magic
 Lullaby of Birdland,  Ella Introduces the Band, Imagination, Blue Moon, Joe Williams' Blues