Friday, December 29, 2006


To kick off what should be a very slow blogging day at the head end of a slow blogging weekend, I'll link to a very funny piece by Matt Taibbi, back when he was still at the not-yet-horrible New York Press. It's an ostensible review of whatever book Thomas Friedman was peddling at the time, but it serves mostly as a chance for Taibbi to make merciless fun of a pompous windbag.

(No. He doesn't even know who I am, I assure you.)

A brief excerpt, but I strongly advise you to check out the whole thing (big H/T to Scott at Lawyers, Guns, and Money -- H/T's have to be big when you basically steal from them, methinks):

After golf, he meets Nilekani, who casually mentions that the playing field is level. A nothing phrase, but Friedman has traveled all the way around the world to hear it. Man travels to India, plays golf, sees Pizza Hut billboard, listens to Indian CEO mutter small talk, writes 470-page book reversing the course of 2000 years of human thought. That he misattributes his thesis to Nilekani is perfect: Friedman is a person who not only speaks in malapropisms, he also hears malapropisms. Told level; heard flat. This is the intellectual version of Far Out Space Nuts, when NASA repairman Bob Denver sets a whole sitcom in motion by pressing "launch" instead of "lunch" in a space capsule. And once he hits that button, the rocket takes off.

And boy, does it take off. Predictably, Friedman spends the rest of his huge book piling one insane image on top of the other, so that by the end—and I'm not joking here—we are meant to understand that the flat world is a giant ice-cream sundae that is more beef than sizzle, in which everyone can fit his hose into his fire hydrant, and in which most but not all of us are covered with a mostly good special sauce. Moreover, Friedman's book is the first I have encountered, anywhere, in which the reader needs a calculator to figure the value of the author's metaphors.

God strike me dead if I'm joking about this. Judge for yourself. After the initial passages of the book, after Nilekani has forgotten Friedman and gone back to interacting with the sane, Friedman begins constructing a monstrous mathematical model of flatness. The baseline argument begins with a lengthy description of the "ten great flatteners," which is basically a highlight reel of globalization tomahawk dunks from the past two decades: the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the Netscape IPO, the pre-Y2K outsourcing craze, and so on. Everything that would give an IBM human resources director a boner, that's a flattener. The catch here is that Flattener #10 is new communications technology: "Digital, Mobile, Personal, and Virtual." These technologies Friedman calls "steroids," because they are "amplifying and turbocharging all the other flatteners."

Again, check the whole thing out. Very funny and very smart from start to finish.

Thursday, December 28, 2006


From a New York Times article about Afghanistan (an article for which I'll admit I have neither the energy nor the interest to slog through in its entirety), we learn that America is losing ground to another country in its efforts to gain influence in Afghanistan. And which nation is this that the US is losing ground to?

Why, it's none other than . . . Iran. And why is this happening? Shared Islam among the Afghans and the Iranians? A common fear of Western influences? Superficial similarities between A-Jad's shaggy beard and Karzai's well-trimmed, metrosexual version?

Uhhhh, let's just say the reason ain't quite that profound. From the NYT (H/T Cunning Realist):
Last year, the Iranian Embassy opened the Iranian Corner, a room in Kabul University's main library filled with computers, books and magazines from Iran, promoting Iran's ancient culture and modern achievements. Librarians say it is more popular than the adjoining American Corner, sponsored by the United States Embassy, primarily because it has a better Internet connection. Unlike in Iran, where the government blocks thousands of Web sites, the Iranian Corner offers open Internet access.
Faster. Internet. Connections. We've bombed Iraq back into the Stone Ages, and spent billions on contractors to rebuild what we've destroyed. We've bombed Afghanistan too, but since they were already in the Stone Ages we stopped. We've been rattling sabres about bombing Iran back into the Paleozoic Era, and rebuilding it as a mega-amusement park and shopping mall to be known as The Wonderful World of Walmart, or alternatively, Walworld.

(Ok, that last part isn't true. Yet.)

We spend literally billions and billions of dollars on defense, aggression, occupation, military technology, and the contractors who work in and around those industries. And yet we don't have the fastest internet connections in Kabul. That, my friends, is utterly absurd.

Can you hear me now?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


As most of you know, two very famous Americans, James Brown & Gerald Ford, died over the long weekend (longer if, like me, you decided to honor Boxing Day by staying home).

As seems to be standard, when I do these quasi-obituaries, neither guy meant as much to me as he did to others. My appreciation of the Godfather of Soul tends to be more of an "I appreciate his influence," rather than any identification of myself as A Fan. And as to Gerald Ford . . . well, he was the guy that took over after the resignations. And lost to Carter. And twice escaped assassination attempts by crazy chicks with guns. And for 2 1/2 years survived Chevy Chase's attempts at comedy.

While I can't say Ford is the first President I remember, he's the first one for whom I knew his entire term. I was aware of the Watergate procedings because they preempted TV shows I wanted to watch. I could be wrong, but I recall PBS carrying extended covereage of the Congressional proceedings in late '73 and early '74, which obviously affected the availability of Sesame Street. I knew Nixon had done something wrong, but at 6 years old I certainly didn't know what, exactly, and it should go without saying that I didn't care.

But as I rode somewhere with my parents in August of '74, I remember hearing on the radio that Nixon had "resigned." Somehow my parents managed to explain what that meant, and as any child worth his salt should've done, I immediately forgot about that piece of irrelevant information. And went back to whatever I assume was occupying my summer of '74 thoughts: our new cat, my bicycle, and jumping said bike in the manner of that summer's real pop icon for the average 6 year year-old, Evel Knievel.

But Presidential Pardons, Agnew's resignation earlier that year, new oaths of office, this "Rocky" guy who became Vice-President, stagflation, Whip Inflation Now? All things I came to know over the subsequent 2 1/2 years, or more likely over the next 2 1/2 decades. I remember Carter beating Ford 30 years ago last month, but once again, I had no idea what made that result interesting, unique, important, etc. Nor did I know that this guy that Ford beat in the primaries, Ronald Reagan, would become a major player four years later.

So that's Ford to me: the guy who came in when I was old enough to know about it, then left a few years later. Shot at, not hit, no one "hated" him as had been the case for many uncles, aunts and grandparents regarding the previous guy. And then he was gone.

And James Brown? Like I said, my sense of him has always been through the prism of influence, of his iconhood. His last hit of any consequence, Sex Machine, came out when I was an infant, and my initial glimpses of the world outside my immediate surroundings (as described just now about the politics of the Summer of '74) corresponded with Brown's shift from musical visionary to pop culture icon: as the Seventies marched on. I knew him as big hair, tight pants, splits, yowls . . .

. . . and cameos in bad Rocky films or the subject of great Eddie Murphy sketches on SNL (which, unlike Chase's Ford imitation, was actually funny). But his rhythms, his grooves, Maceo's sax? Nah. Learned about those after the fact, as with Ford.

And, as with Ford, I'll admit that James Brown didn't inspire passionate views one way of the other. Musical figures as disparate as John Lennon, Miles Davis, Beethoven, Motzart, Chuck Berry, Elvis, Louie Armstrong, Sarah Vaughn, Jimi and Janis completed most if not all of the notable periods of their musical careers before I was sentient (or born). And yet, in all those cases I hold firm, emotion-laden opinions regarding the greatness, or lack thereof, of their careers, of their output.

James Brown? Nope. But I recognize his importance from an intellectual, historical perspective. As I do with Gerald Ford and his role in America's emergence from its "long, national nightmare."

So for that, I can say I feel a little something seeing them gone. RIP, fellas.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Friday Morning. Do you know what time it is? That's right, gang, it's time for the Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of The Day, that time when I throw pride, maturity, and the ability to title Blog Memes without redundancies to the wind and bust into the vault of nostalgia and lost youth.

(Not to mention finding an excuse in my own enthusiasm to indulge in ever more run-on sentences and tumbling cascades of words than usual.)

Let's do it. Before there was Airplane! with it's gag-a-minute pop-culture references, before The Blues Brothers and its (not-so) carefully controlled chaos & anarchy, and even before Animal House's National Lampoon-inspired discovery of the endless comic potential of gratuitously-bared breasts . . . but still after Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Monty Python & The Holy Grail, and of course, M*A*S*H -- so let's not forget it's just a SILLY movie that I'm about to discuss -- I present to you, for your pre-Christmas, post-Chanukah, mid-Kwanzaa, Pre-pre-Ramadan, and {Enough!}. So, for your pleasure, it's . . .

The Kentucky Fried Movie

Once again, I saw it with the old man. And once again, that tells you all you need to know about him. Tits, foul language, fart jokes, racism, sexism, irreverance galore . . . and half the jokes were still over his head. Being about 9 or 10 years old, I'm guessing a full 75-80% were over mine. But, you know, you don't have to be old or sophisticated to laugh at a pie thrown at a pair of naked DDs. Or a microphone that drinks from the talk show host's water glass. Or an Asian karate expert who dresses like Bruce Lee, talks like Elmer Fudd, and looks like . . . well, he doesn't look like Bruce Lee, that's for sure. Not to mention "Big Jim Slade," viagra before there was such a thing; Cleopatra Schwartz; and the exploitation flicks of Samuel L. Bronkowitz.

If you've seen the movie, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you haven't, well you know what I'm gonna say: See It!

And you'll also know what I thought of it when I saw it: Loved it. At 9 or 10 I was already starting to develop a slightly absurd sense of humor, I loved the general sense of anarchy in a rambling set of sketch pieces, and, what can I say: I loved tits, naked ones preferably. Boys, men, infants, doesn't really matter, does it? Have a penis? Breasts good.

What was the "Catholic High School Girls In Trouble" sketch making fun of exactly? Wasn't sure at the time, but I knew it was funny, and I knew it was a good thing.

Anyhow, the flick basically represented the first appearences of two separate franchises that would go on to dominate late 70s and 80s comedy movies: director John Landis, and the writing-production team of Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker. Animal House, Airplane!, Trading Places, The Blues Brothers, The Naked Gun, Coming To America, the list goes on-and-on. As far as I know, these two disparate entities never again worked together, but here they were, starting out as one.

The genesis of both comedy forms is seen in KFM, albeit in a rawer, not-so-slick form. The absurd non-sequiturs & deadpan delivery of the Airplane-Top Secret-Naked Gun school is are all over KFM: the first part of the "Big Jim Slade" skit, the repeated Samuel L. Bronkowitz gag, the fake news stories delivering shocking/terrifying facts in matter-of-fact, "film at eleven" voices. And the wild, rebelliousness and irreverence that marked the early (and best) Landis films is all over KFM, although the refreshing lack of cynicism is counterbalanced by a scattershot approach that makes Mel Brooks or John Waters look risk-averse: "Catholic High School Girls In Trouble," the second part of "Big Jim Slade," and most notably, "A Fistful of Yen," which combines Landis' anything goes mania with the ZAZ boys' absurdism, the latter best exemplified in the dialogue.

I'm speaking here, of course, of the tour de force, the piece de resistance, the Poo-poo platter of KFM, a half-hour long, staggeringly funny parody of Enter The Dragon, "A Fistful Of Yen." Any attempt to describe the lunacy and brilliance of that sketch would be doomed from the start. Perhaps the best bet is just to briefly quote a nugget of dialogue as the evil Dr. Klahn allows our hero, karate expert Loo, to tour his underground prison, filled with the forlorn Asian men who will of course fight and kill everything that moves in the final reel:
Loo: And who are they?
Dr. Klahn: Refuse, found in waterfront bars.
Loo: Shanghaied?
Dr. Klahn: Just lost drunken men who don't know where they are and no longer care.
Prisoner #1: Where are we?
Prisoner #2: I don't care!
Loo: And these?
Dr. Klahn: These are lost drunken men who don't know where they are, but do care! And these are men who know where they are and care, but don't drink.
Prisoner #3: I don't know who I am?
Prisoner #4: And I don't drink!
Dr. Klahn: Guards! (move prisoners) Do you care?
Prisoner #5: No.
Dr. Klahn: Put this man in cell #1, and give him a drink.
Guard: What do you drink?
Prisoner #5: I don't care.
If that brand of unalloyed stupidity appeals to you at all (and I know it does to me, so don't knock it), then you must stop reading right now and rent the damn movie, sit and watch it, then return and start reading from this point after you're done. Look, I'll even mark the spot for you -- Spot.

(I see you still reading! You in the blue shirt, go rent it!)

As a final point before moving on to the extensive cast, "Fistful of Yen," despite it's ostensibly Chinese characters, features almost all Korean actors, including Evan C. Kim as Loo, and Bong Soo Han as Dr. Klahn (more on him later). And why should you give a shit about this?

Well, as some of you may know, Mrs. Mike is a Korean lady, born & bred, so I'm just trying to make you feel guilty for saying to yourself, "who gives a shit what Asian country the bastards come from?"

Feeling guilty? Good.

Actually, there's a story here. The last time I watched this, about 5 or 6 years ago I'd guess, Mrs. Mike proved that wet-blanketdom and a lack of appreciation for the comedic genius of naked boobs, incredibly stupid dialogue, and Asian characters with speech impediments is universal (she doesn't like Airplane! either and I dare not risk ruining the sublimity of Animal House in any way by subjecting it to her scowling glare). Nonetheless, while watching KFM, in between saying, "That's stupid," and asking in mock curiosity, "So do you like her body?" she noticed that when Dr. Klahn addresses his "troops," he's speaking Korean. And saying, in Korean, something to the effect of, "I'm sorry to the Korean people for saying such stupid lines in such a ridiculous movie."

And no, I'm not making this up. Then finally, when he begins barking out instructions, he says not only "moo-shoo pork," which I'd previously noticed, but also "kimchi," "jja jjang-myun," and other Korean delicacies that I've come to know and love as the years have passed. As if KFM could gain added silly appeal all these years later, I assure you it can! Just marry a Korean woman, and watch the latter-day glories appear. Ok, enough of our journey to the East, and enough about my wife before she reads this and tries to kill me in my sleep. On to . . .

The Cast is so enormous, I have no hope of covering everyone. But we'll look at as many as we can. We have Robert Starr, the first of a bunch of actors I've never heard of, but who nonethless qualifies for discussion. In KFM, Starr played "Rex Kramer," which any fan of the ZAZ franchise knows was the name of Robert Stack's bad-ass pilot in Airplane! But we're just getting started!

Starr also appeared in Airplane! as "Religious Zealot #5," or one of the guys that gets his ass kicked by Stack when he enters the airport. So, in a way, we could say that three years after he made KFM, Starr kicked his own ass.

(Or maybe we'd rather not. You decide.)

Starr also appeared in "Eight Is Enough," "CHiPs," and "WKRP In Cincinnati" within a three or four year stretch, meaning he was just about a FSMOMYOTD all-star back in the day. Congratulations, Mr. Starr. You earn the honor of knowing that I and my small core of readers are thinking, "wow, how could I not know who the hell this guy is?"

Next we have Tara Strohmeier. Along with the Catholic High School Girls In Trouble, Ms. Strohmeier is one of the . . . uh, characters that I clearly remember from the first time I saw this movie. Not ringing a bell? A guy & a girl on the couch? Watching the news? The newscasters watching her? Yeaaahhh, that's right.

Along with Lisa Baur, the lass who played Shelley Dubinsky, Otter's back-seat would-be- conquest in Animal House, Ms. Strohmeier was among the earliest influences on my life-long love of boobies. I'm sure we can all relate (at least the XY portion of the audience, which is probably about 99.4% of the audience here). Among the other fine films Ms. Strohmeier's appeared in, by the way? I won't mention them all, but they include Candy Stripe Nurses, The Student Teachers, and Cover Girl Models.

The lesson? Build your career on your tits, you probably don't have to write your Oscar acceptance speech (that comes to actresses who first build a career on "acting," then show their tits! See: Berry, Halle; Swank, Hillary; Paltrow, Gwyneth; Hunter, Holly. Yeeeaaahhh, Hollywood!)

Ok, and returning to the non-softcore portion of our programming, we come to The "Damn, what were they doing in this flick?" Gang: George Lazenby, the "other" James Bond; Tony Dow, Wally on "Leave It To Beaver," playing . . . uhhh, "Wally" in KFM (gotta suck being an adult after starting as a child star); Donald Sutherland, still one year away from a brief, but memorable, performance as a weed-toking English Renaissance Lit Professor and co-ed-banger in Landis's next movie, Animal House; Henry Gibson, former member of the cast of Laugh-In, an arguable predecessor to KFM's style of comedy, and still three years away from appearing as a Nazi in Landis's follow-up to Animal House, The Blues Brothers; and Leslie Nielson, uncredited for his voice work in KFM, and also three years away from his classic appearence in Airplane! and later the start of his second career in ZAZ films as Lt. Frank Drebin.

Who else? Let's see . . . Mike Hanks, Tom's older brother, and Rick Baker, Ginger's American cousin.

Ok, neither of those is true, I was just making sure you were still paying attention. Actually, I have no idea who this Hanks guy is. And I don't care (and someone get me a drink). But Baker? Ohhhhh, I'll talk about him. According to his IMDB page, in "1981 he was the very first recipient of the Oscar for Best Make-Up for 'An American Werewolf in London' when the category was first introduced."

(Check out that first . . . first construction, by the way. My own Friday . . . of the day ain't that bad, huh? HUH?!)

Anyway, American Werewolf In London? That'd be the flick Landis directed after The Blues Brothers. And you think that means all my rambling here is starting to come together? Ha! As Vezzini said to Wesley in the Princess Bride, Wait til I get going. Baker also appeared in Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video as "the hobbling zombie whose arm falls off."

And who directed that Video? John Landis. Landis also directed Trading Places, Coming To America and a few other notable comedy classics. But he directed Oscar and Beverly Hills Cop III, as well, so let's not put him in the Hall of Fame just yet.

Back to Baker, there's more. In addition to his long list of make-up work, he has some great roles as costumed creatures including Kong himself in the crappy 1976 remake of King Kong, and one of the cantina aliens in the original Star Wars. Niiiiice. He couldn't be cooler if he was Ginger Baker's American cousin.

And Mike Hanks? Let's just stay positive here.

The previously-mentioned Bong Soo Han is also a hapkido karate master who trained the FSMOMYOTD's oft-mentioned, but never featured, Tom Laughlin, better known as Billy Jack. Hell, Bong Soo Han choreographed the karate fights in Billy Jack. As I've said, it all comes together. Everything is connected. Ohhhhhmmmmmmmmmm (you see? It's an eastern thing today).

Lenka Novak, one of the Catholic High School Girls In Trouble was "Suzy" in 1978's Vampire Hookers. That's all, nothing more about her. What else could I possibly say?

Uschi Digard, the "Woman in Shower" in the Catholic High School Girls In Trouble segment has, ummmm, ahhhh, let's just say . . . the resume you'd expect the "Woman in Shower" to have. Looks like "Woman in Shower" was one of her legitimate acting roles. According to her IMDB page, she's gone by sixty different names in her 35+ year career. My favorite of the 60? "Ronnie Roundheels."

Either that or "Debbie."

Forrest J. Ackerman, another fellow I've never heard of, started "acting" in 1944 when he was already 30, and had a few uncredited roles. Then, at 50, he began a career acting in B-horror movies, a career that he seems to have continued to this day, with a detour into shlocky, straight-to-video T&A/horror flicks. If anyone's a fan of that genre, I'd love to know what the deal is with this guy.

And finishing it off, there's Felix Silla, who played the "Crazed Clown" (If I recall, the line was, "Show us your nuts"). He seems to have been a dwarf (making him the second dwarf to appear in the FSMOMYOTD -- we're all about non-discrimination here). Why do I say he seems to have been a dwarf? Well, in addition to playing one of those fucking Ewoks in Return of the Jedi (and a Dink in Spaceballs), he's also played characters named "Little Galgy," "Emperor Penguin," "Little Critter," "Shorty," and "Midget." So I'm pretty safe on my assumption.

And the second lesson today? Build your career on being a dwarf, you'll always play dwarves. And no, there's no "but" to this lesson. There are no exceptions I'm aware of. It's gotta suck to be a dwarf, huh?

But not as much as being an adult after being a child star. At least dwarves get to play different dwarves, not the same one over and over again. Tony Dow may not be 3'7", but he's now about 60 years old, and he's still Wally from Leave it to freakin Beaver.

That's suckiness of extraordinary magnitude.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Who doesn't belong:
At the 2007 Carnival in New Orleans, Journey, Styx, Taylor Hicks, and Al Green will be among the celebrity performers to ride in the parade.
Must've been a bad year for Al.


In one of those moments where I ask, "And we need legislation for this?" I read this morning that:
Texas would join two other states that mandate access to employee-only restrooms for anyone with a pressing medical condition, including pregnancy
I know I've been known to rant from time-to-time about governmental meddling in private life, but I'll level no objections here. This doesn't bother me at all.

What does bother me, however, is the actual necessity of this. Who says no to a pregnant woman when she wants to use the restroom? When did decency go out style?

Every morning I ride the subway to work, and I can't tell you how many times I've had to leap from my seat, rush halfway across the car, and offer it to an elderly or pregnant woman, since no one else thought to do so. Why "leap" and "rush"? Because, as anyone who rides a rush-hour train'll tell you, there are dozens of able-bodied young men who'll sneak in and take it as I try to do my deed of good citizenry.

I'm telling you, this has happened many, many times. And it bothers me every time.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


In a remarkable development, President Bush boldly approached the Truth today, buying it a drink, exchanging pleasantries, wittily complimenting it on its appearence, and even lightly placing his hand upon its as it laughed heartily at one of his bromides. To wit, speaking about America's efforts in Iraq:
We're Not Winning
But alas, the cold-feet, low self-esteem, and lack of a real pair did him in again, as it always has. That's right folks, I'm sorry to report that George returned to his side of the bar to rejoin Dick and his other buds without the digits. The Truth will not be sharing the White House bed with Georgie tonight:
You know, I think an interesting construct that General Pace uses is, 'We're not winning, we're not losing.' There's been some very positive developments. And you take a step back and look at progress in Iraq, you say, well, it's amazing — constitutional democracy in the heart of the Middle East, which is a remarkable development in itself.
Oh well. But it's progress. At this rate, he'll get the phone number next time and only blow it once he gets the Truth back to his pad, deciding to play Metallica, serve Old Milwaukee in a can, and put on Monday Night Football, before inviting it to the couch.


No, it's not that he names everything he owns after himself. Nor is it his hair. Nor that I have to walk past one of his glittering phallic cathedrals guarded by a white gloved-wearing doorman as I stroll to work every morning. Nor his bloated ego and over-blown sense of self-importance. Not the fact that he acts like some model of business success and brilliance although most of his projects go bankrupt and he got a multi-million dollar headstart from his father either. And it's not even that I lost $120 at one if his stupid casinos when my friends and I went to AC one night at the Jersey shore in the summer of '94. Those are reasons # 16, 312, 3, 56, 207, and 132. # 467 is different. And new.

This time, it's his fake sanctimoniousness. And fake paternalism. And fake concern. And fake good citizenship. Even though he's only after the money, to some degree, and his name in the press to an even larger degree. This time, I hate Donald Trump because of the way he humiliated some silly college girl who won the Miss USA Pageant (I know that's redundant, but let's just roll with it, ok?). With a Hat Tip to . . . well, about 64% of all blogs on the internets, check some o' this shit out:
Donald Trump gave Miss USA a reprieve Tuesday . . . In a moment of television drama filled with redemptive tears and longing looks, a tough-talking Trump, co-owner of the pageant, turned soft and decided to forgive Tara Conner for her debauched behavior.

What a guy. He's such a sweetheart underneath it all. Oh, and the debauched behavior in question?
Conner won the title in April and moved to New York. Since then, she has partied hard, admitting she frequented clubs, where she threw drinks back — despite being underage.
My stars, think of the children! The wanton hussy! She threatens the fabric of our society, that wild bitch! First it's underage drinking, then before you know it she'll be doing lines off the felt of a blackjack table at the Trump Taj Mahal and sucking the Trump Tower in the boardroom.

(Which is his long-term goal, I'm suspecting.)

Anyway, Trump was just getting started. In order to retain her tiara, this civilization-threatening Siren will need to:
enter rehab and undergo drug testing.
Rehab. That's right. Because, by his own admission, Trump has:
always been a believer in second chances.
We know Donald. Three marriages, multiple failed ventures, and more bankruptcies than the worst Game Of Life player in history tell us as much.

Connor tearily told The Dick Donald that:
In no way did I think it would be possible for a second chance to be given to me. You’ll never know what this means to me, and I swear I will not let you down.
Based on the fact that she will "be able to move back into her swank pad at the Trump Palace," it's pretty clear that Trump is counting on that. And finally:
he also cautioned that if she screwed up again she would be jettisoned. “She knows that if she even makes the slightest mistake from here on she will be immediately replaced.”
What a prince he is. Such a caring heart. Such a magnanimous soul. Such a world-class piece of shit. Let's all say it together: Donald, you're Fired an Asshole.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Not Eric. Hugo.

Yes, the always-humorous Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez continues to march his nation in . . . unpleasant directions. In addition to his announcement that he'll introduce a referendum next year allowing him to run for President in perpetuity, his political party, The Fifth Republic Movement, is dissolving.

And, in its impending absence, Chavez "will encourage the 23 other parties that support his government to surrender their own parties and join the United Socialist Party of Venezuela."

Oh boy. That's not good news.

(Notice who he really resembles in the picture at left?)

Rumors that Chavez will grow an ill-groomed beard, wear nothing but combat fatigues, and start smoking grossly oversized cigars have not been confirmed. Stories that he'll also begin addressing the nation in rambling, marathon speeches are being dismissed by government officials as "ridiculous," because Chavez "has given long, crazy speeches for years now."

In related news, newly-appointed Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters that in commemoration of the 45th Anniversary of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, US forces will attempt an amphibious landing at Caracas, only to fail miserably and draw ugly words of condemnation the world over.

"Everyone hates us already. So what the hell do we have to lose?"


Famed animator & producer Joe Barbara died yesterday at the ripe old age of 95. Along with his long-time creative partner Bill Hanna, Barbara was responsible for Tom & Jerry, Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Snagglepuss, Dastardly & Mutley, and The Jetsons.

Like most kids, I watched and enjoyed these cartoons. But, compared to the world of Bugs and the rest of the Looney Tunes gang, those were second tier. Sorry, but that's just how it is. I know Yogi was smarter than the average bear, and without Snagglepuss I wouldn't know what murgatroid is (come to think of it, I still don't know what murgatroid is). But the animation wasn't as good, and the wit, while sharp, wasn't at the same level. That said, I've come to praise Barbara, not to bury him. So, if I may, the two reasons I bothered with this post:
The Flintstones & Scooby-Doo.
Two of my favorites, without a doubt. I literally cannot contemplate my childhood without those two shows. I watched The Flintstones every day for most of my childhood, seeing every episode many, many times over. From the early, animated/stone-age-Honeymooners riffing straight through the very mid-sixties stylings of the Gruesomes, Ann Margrock, The Great Gazoo, and one of my favorite lines in pop culture history -- Everybody into the pyooooool -- I was a Flintstones man. Along with Mad Magazine and early SNL, I don't know where I'd have gotten my absurdist sense of humor if not for the animals-as-household-gadgets gags on those shows.

And, at least until that fucking imposter, Scrappy Doo, came along to ruin it, I was a huge fan of Those Meddling Kids, with their psychedelic bus, psychedelic Scooby snacks (a walking, talking dog who was the hippie guy's best friend, c'mon?), thinly-veiled Fred & Daphne shag-a-thon, and . . . well, Velma. I was never to big a Velma fan, but then again who was?

Anyhow, I loved Scooby-Doo almost as much as I loved The Flintstones.

So, if you'll all join me for a moment, have yourself a Scooby-snack, and let's ride with the Meddling Kids and the Modern Stone Age Family down the street in the Mystery Machine through the courtesy of Fred's two feet for a short parade in honor of the man who created all the characters. We'll have a Yabba-Dabba-Scooby-Doo time (gay, old folks welcome). That's a fact.

RIP, Joe.



It's finally come to this. In these days of endless war, rising energy costs, and fading pop stars appearing in public without panties five years after anyone wanted to see such a thing, the truest sign yet of the end of days is upon us. That's right folks, He Is Here:

Baba Brinkman, a 27 year-old, white, Canadian, "son-of-hippies" with a "master's degree in medieval and Renaissance English literature" is touring "high schools and colleges," performing rap music based on Chaucer's Canturbury Tales. A sample of his rhymes:
Ready to kill with their jagged-edged daggers drawn/The three aggravated braggarts staggered up the lawn/And without dragging on while the story is told/Beneath the tree they found a bag filled with glorious gold
Is he fucking kidding me? Apparently not:
"Chaucer and rap are both performance-based and they're both battles of words where your proficiency gets you by . . . My goal is that anyone who knows nothing about Chaucer would really be able to appreciate it"
But what about those who know something about Chaucer? Or about rap? Does he "appreciate" the fact that we may be on the verge of the first ever alliance between a bling-wearing gangsta' and a tweed-wearing professor, with the express goal of tracking him down to ram his mic up his ass?
"People have a narrow idea of what constitutes rap based on what they see on TV . . . Hip hop is all about proving your skills. About keeping it real."
That's right, he's keeping it real. Performing for auditoriums filled with snickering high school students and their enthralled English teachers, desperately hoping one of the over-18 girls will stop laughing at him long enough to join his Pilgrim Posse, becoming his very-own lustful Wife of Bath.

Think back to your high school days. Assuming you even went to the "performance," and assuming you weren't too stoned to follow your teacher's instructions to fill out the work sheet, identifying which pre-planned rap corresponded to which Tale, would you have managed to get the "Holy shit, this guy is the biggest loser I've ever seen" out of your head for even one second?

I hope Baba enjoys his 15 minutes of self-loathing fame before he puts his dream away, goes back to school to earn his doctorate, and realizes what the tweed-wearing professors figured out long ago: no need to rap, no need even to avoid Chaucer's Middle English to get the prettiest co-eds into bed. Just stand in front of the lecture hall, act smart, and tell the leggy lass in the front row he admires her ideas.

Then he can call MCs "aggrevated braggarts" and refer to bling as "glorious gold" all he wants.

And most importantly, he can call himself not Professor Brinkman, but "Baba Brinkman" all he wants. His students'll still laugh at him, but since he's sleeping with some of them, drinking with still more, and grading every one of them, it won't really matter, will it?

Monday, December 18, 2006


Maybe it's just me, but the Yahoo! News headline writer is either out of his mind with stupidity, or he's having waaaaayyyyyy too much fun lately (I'm laying my dough on the latter). Today's headline:
Former Spy Chief Takes Over Pentagon
Did he send the former Pentagon Ruler, Donald Rumsfeld to Gitmo?


Monday Morning. Tom explains.

Anyway, the pressure is getting to me. The pressure? Yes, the pressure. Every Monday morning I'm saddled with the task of perusing through thousands of pictures (plus one or two that aren't from east Asia) under Tom's chosen number, in order to arrive at the one perfect photo that combines the artistry, composition, subject material, and readily-available mockability that I need to keep you, the hundreds of millions of ordinary Americans citizens (and Time Magazine Person of the Year winners), happy and satisfied.

So you can see the stress it's causing. In order that America's workers begin the work week ready to be productive, up to the task of defending our shores from the barbarian hordes of terrorists, illegal workers, cheap overseas goods, and other threats to our non-negotiable way of life, I -- one humble blogger -- need to choose the one perfect picture upon which to imprint a caption of profound humor, pathos, sensitivity, wit, and uhhh . . . other things that manage to encapsulate the exact feelings of our citizenry. Who could handle such a task with turning into a quivering mess of anxiety and paranoia?

Well you know who can't? Me. I'm no longer able to handle it. The lost weight, the failed marriage (thank goodness the other three wives haven't jumped ship yet), the burgeoning meth habit. Enough is enough.

So I've decided to follow the weak-willed crowd and abnegate the solemnity of my duties. No more will I choose the one perfect picture. Herewith, a few not-quite perfect pictures. Choose the one that best suits your weekly needs.

Photo, The First: "100_9684" by "RoLdan1," on March 22, 2006.

After spending most of the family dinner sitting obediently at their own table, the dolphins always grew restless once dessert was served.

Photo, The Second: "IMG_9684," by "fbosche," on August 8, 2006.

Carol usually insisted that she and Greg pick up someone younger than her father when they went to the "Mountain Retreat Swingers Gathering," but the pickings were slim this year. And, to his credit, Shoehorn Harry's story about him and that prostitute from the winter of '44 intrigued her.

Photo, The Third: "IMG_9684," by "travelbunny," on March 25, 2006.

No matter how much she mugged for the camera and tried to distract everyone with her famous "Ruby-Red 'Ritas," no one failed to notice that Tanya brought leftovers to the party in a metal, takeout dish.

And they weren't amused.

And finally, Photo Number 4 (ha! a change-up): "IMG_9684," uploaded by "spnersm," on April 23, 2006.

Dawn made no attempt whatsoever to express her disgust at the humongous boil on the side of Dave's head.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Welcome to 2006. Welcome to Teh Suck, Time Magazine Style.

Friday, December 15, 2006


Ah-ight, Friday morning. Let's get to it.

The genesis of this week's Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of The Day selection is found in the comments to last week's FSMOMYOTD, The Boy In The Plastic Bubble. First time commenter Marked Hoosier asked if next week's entry would be a "seasonal" choice. Jumping onto the theme in his patented style, Neighborhood regular John Royal suggested "one of those Rankin-Bass claymation things, like 'Rudolph' or 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.' I love those things."

And you know something, the conspicuous semitism of The Committee's membership notwithstanding, these claymation spectaculars are pretty well-regarded among The Elders as well. So, after rejecting John's requests for Xanadu time and again (and despite the sad fact that he's "out of town and nowhere near a computer" today), the votes are in, The Elders are unanimous in the sappy direction they chose to go this week, and today's FSMOMYOTD is none other than . . .

Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer

Funny thing is, as I headed home last Friday, already brainstorming about the next glorious FSMOMYOTD, I had no thoughts whatsoever that this, or any other Rankin & Bass Christmas special was making the grade. Just didn't think about it. But as I cracked a Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, the first of the high ABV beers (google it) I would drain that evening, and chilled on the couch as Mrs. Mike did whatever it is women do when their husbands start drinking on Friday night, what should come on the TV? None other than Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer, followed by Frosty The Snowman.

Now, as these Friday posts should indicate, I'm never one to shy away from any excuse to indulge in lugubrious strolls down the sepia-toned paths of Nostalgiaville. Least of all when I'm rapidly catching a heavy beer buzz as a terror-inducing birthday approaches. Needless to say I watched.

Both of 'em. (Lucky woman, that Mrs. Mike, huh? How's that for a Friday Night? Drunk husband and children's Christmas specials! Straight out of the happy wife handbook.)

Frosty, I'm sad to report, didn't hold up too well. I mean, we still had Hocus-Pocus doing those . . . well, rabbity things he did. And Karen was brave & cute, and Frosty was still Da best belly-whhhhoppa . . . in da woild. But you know what else? The animation sucks, the story is about as good as you'd expect from a 54 year-old half-hour cartoon based on a silly song, and whatever childhood pathos we might've felt upon seeing Frosty turned into a puddle, is hard to re-muster when you've seen the north pole wind revive him 25 times and counting.

(And while we're here, let's just get it out of the way: Snowman + Greenhouse = Stoooo-pid. Then again, Frosty never struck me as the sharpest icicle under the roof. Get it? Icicle, instead of tool, because . . . oh, never mind.)

But Rudolph? It holds up. And then some. It's good. But you know what? I knew that already, because it was always my favorite as a kid, earning the December gold to Charlie Brown's silver and I guess The Grinch for the bronze. But I dithered on the Grinch, really digging it one year, then not the next. Maybe it depended on how good the roast beast was.

Now . . . let's just get something out in the open right now, shall we? Some of you may be thinking, "Rudolph??? Are you kidding?" Some of you may even be thinking, "This is a silly movie? It isn't even a movie, it's a goddamn children's Christmas special." (And the rest of you are certainly thinking, "For crissakes, I'm already exhausted and he hasn't even started talking about the program yet"). Well tough titties to all of you. Cause this is the choice. And I've got three good reasons to make this selection. In ascending order of importance:
1. The Ultimate Outsider's Story. Misfits, rebels, independents. I was SO all-over this, even as a child (I told you I was a weird kid);

2. I will straight-out mess you up if I hear you dissing Rudolph. Make no mistake; and . . .

3. Yukon. Fucking. Cornelius.
And if that 3rd reason, alone, ain't good enough, then you'd better just stop reading right now and come back next week.

(And, yes, I'm aware that you probably think I'm crazy right about now. It's cool.)

It's funny that the "Rankin & Bass" franchise is so established, because based on re-viewings of some of those specials other than Rudolph, they weren't very good. It's true that Year Without A Santa Claus has the priceless comic duo of the Snow Miser & his insane brother, The Heat Miser, so of course that's good for a lot. He's Mr. Heeeeeat Miser, he's Mr. Sun . . . Let's mince no words: those songs are great. And whatever I touch/starts to melt in my clutch/I'm too much. C'mon, we're talking musical gold here. And the little assistant Heat Misers? Fantastic.

But I promise you, if you try to watch the entire show, You Will Regret It. Trust me. Same with Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town. We think Burgermeister Meisterburger will be funny because he's got a mildly amusing name and we thought he was hilarious when we were seven. But you know what, we thought Fonzie was cool when we were seven.

He's wasn't.

Ok, on to Rudolph. Another confession. I wasn't really that crazy about the character, Rudolph. I thought he was kind of a pussy, even though watching now shows him to be a pretty brave little red-nosed reindeer. And viewing as an adult, it's pretty clear that Hermie's desire to be a dentist isn't all that makes him a misfit. No sirree. Hermie doesn't like to make toys could be changed to Hermie doesn't like to "make" elf-chicks, and it'd be a hundred times more accurate.

As a kid, I would've had no idea what a gay elf was, any more than I really understood why an elf wanting to be a dentist was so strange. Elf's have teeth, right? Is elf enamel so tough they don't get cavities? Any dorky former (or present) D&Ders among the crew here who can help us out? Did elfs get +2 on Strength & +1 on Constitution for their strong choppers (yes, intentional word choice. Be patient. You don't think I'm dying to get to him?)

Oh, and another confession: I hated playing D&D. Who the hell cares what the Dungeon Master says? Some other dorky kid gets a massive power complex because he's "The DM," and he can just choose to have you run into a freakin' black dragon for no real reason 15 minutes into the game just because he's mad that you're faster than him on your bike, and . . .

Theoretically, of course. But the books, the Monster Manual? Oooo, I loved that shit. And I do have 20-sided dice, but that's from Strat-O-matic, not D&D. So I was a dork, but a different kind.

Where were we? Let's see, other characters in Rudolph. Well, with one notable exception (we're getting there), among the adult humans, the adult reindeer, and the adult elfs, they were all total assholes. The coach? Total dick. The head elf? A putz. Donner, Rudolph's dad? Nightmare. And of course we know who was, by far, the worst, backstabbing, no loyalty, only-looking-out-for-himself piece of no good crap, right?

That's right. Santa Claus himself. Telling Rudolph's father he should be ashamed of himself because his son had a Red Nose! Watching Rudolph brutally banished from the reindeer games, yet complaining that it was too bad only because the kid had such a great take-off. And even as he finally discovered Rudolph's special skill, he was still bitching and moaning about how it was hurting his eyes.

Enough! I can't take it. So it's time for . . .

Yukon Cornelius. That's riiiiight, jack. He may just have been one of my favorite cartoon characters as a child. Funny, courageous, smart, warm-hearted, he was the bomb. How's this for some dialogue:
Yukon Cornelius: Fog's as thick as peanut butter.
Hermey: You mean pea soup.
Yukon Cornelius: You eat what you like and I'll eat what I'll like.
And, in 1964, as America was still in the midst of the Cold War & its civil rights struggles, this lone prospector in the great Canadian hinterlands took in a talking reindeer with red lightbulb nose & his wannabe-dentist gay elf friend without question. Now that's an enlightened dog team driver! Hell, he even carried the dogs and pulled the sled at one point when the dogs wouldn't mush. I'm telling you, Yukon was one of my heroes.

And, lest we not forget his finest moment: he stood up to the Bumble. Tell me you weren't devastated the first (and second, third & fourth) time you saw him go over that cliff. Don't even try to brush that off. I was distraught. And then when he showed up at that rat bastard Santa's place at the end . . .

Ok, I think I'm getting a bit misty here. So let's get to a few random questions and observations before hitting a (relatively speaking) small cast.

I know I'm not the first to ask this, and probably won't be the last. But . . . what was up with the doll on the Island of Misfit Toys? What made her a misfit toy? Was she a Ho' doll, "rescued" from a Bangkok brothel so she could service that weird, flying lion dude? A heroin addict? A she-male doll? Dyslexic? Tourette's?

Come to think of it, what was wrong with the polka-dot elephant? He's a stuffed elephant! Polka dots are ok for stuffed animals, right? Because the rest of the toys were really screwed up: trains with square wheels, water guns that shoot jelly, ostrich-riding cowboys, the freakin' Charlie in the Box that talked like Snagglepuss. Those were Misfits.

But the doll? I dunno, but I think someday the CIA needs to declassify the info and let us in on it. I need to know.

And if Rudolph has any flaws, this one's obvious: Despite the misfits/outsiders/independents theme of the show, the attitudes towards the female characters are laughably bad. Clarise has eyes bigger than a manga or anime chick, and her voice sounds like she belongs on a 900 line. And of course the famous line where Burl Ives's snowman tells us, after Yukon's fall, that though they were all "saddened by the loss of their friend," they knew that the best thing to do was to "get the women back to Christmas town." Because who needs women when you've got a talking reindeer with a red lightbulb nose and an elf?

And while we're at the Q&A portion of our discussion, forgetting about the doll for a second, what's up with King Moonracer, the Ruler of the Island of Misfit Toys? Why was a flying lion the king of the misfits? That's the best gig he could get? He's a goddamn flying lion!!! He's the King Of The Beasts and he can fly, and he's stuck on that silly island with a Charlie in the Box and his Ho' doll girlfriend? Someone get him a real agent.

And now . . . on to a short rundown of The Cast:

The voice of Hermie? Paul Soles. Which is the same last name as one of the "stars" of last week's FSMOMYOTD post, P.J. Soles. You see, no matter how much I ramble, it's the cast portion of the program that pulls it all together.

Or maybe not.

The voice of Yukon Cornelius? The extremely aptly named, Larry D. Mann. Damn straight he was. Mann, who'll turn 84 on Monday, actually had a very long career, doing both voice work and appearences in various TV shows. I don't recall the character, but apparently he played "Judge Lee Oberman" on Hill Street Blues over three seasons, totalling 15 episodes. If anyone knows about this, give us a report on what he looks like.

On second thought, don't. Finding out that Yukon Cornelius is 5'4", skinny & bald could traumatize me to the point of no return. Best to let sleeping bumbles lie.

Finally, the voice of Rudolph? A woman, Billie Mae Richards. You see, I knew something was off with that red-nosed reindeer. And it wasn't the nose. Let's be "independent" together, indeed.

But what's truly strange here, is that Richards, who was born in 1921 and did voice work in a series of increasingly sappy cartoons such as The Friggin Care Bears, appeared in 1978's Jailbait Babysitter. And no, that's not a typo. And lest you think the title is intentionally deceptive, think again. The following is the first (and only) comment on IMDB for this flick:
It's a drive-in schlock movie with some nudity and sexual situations. The woman who takes in the title babysitter is strange looking yet oddly sexy.
And if you're thinking, "Wow, if Mike's seen this, it's sure to be a future FSMOMYOTD," corrrrrrrect you are. But, alas, I haven't seen it, and I can't say I'm going to. (Though I wouldn't turn it off if it came on late night cable.)

And somehow, John Goodman made it into that classic. It was his first role. Which reminds me of the one line of dialogue I'd add to Rudolph, and Yukon Cornelius would deliver it: "Forget it Santa, you're out of your element."

Come to think of it, maybe Rudolph himself delivering a terse, "Shut the fuck up, Santa" in that nasely voice would've been even better.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


As I'm sure most of you know, actor Peter Boyle died yesterday. I'm not gonna claim to be a huge fan, but I liked him quite a bit in a few memorable roles: the wise cabby, Wizard, that spoke to Travis at the coffee shop in Taxi Driver; Hunter S. Thompson's "attorney," Carl Lazlo in Where The Buffalo Roam; and of course, the Monster in Young Frankenstein.

The latter role was a comic masterpiece, and for that wild set of facial expressions, grunts, and grimaces alone, he'll be remembered. And it's for that he should be remembered.

Unfortunately, I fear that far too many will think of him as Ray Romano's dad on the execrable Every Loves Raymond, the inexplicably popular sit-com that somehow forgot the "com." Look at the headline from the Yahoo! News piece, by way of A.P: "'Raymond' Dad Peter Boyle Dies in NYC." Not "Young Frankenstein Monster," but "Raymond Dad."

Oh well. Next time I watch Young Frankenstein I'll laugh, as I always do, and that'll be good enough for me. RIP, Pete.


Straight from the "Hmmm, Maybe He's Not The 'Good Republican' Afterall" Files, check out this little snippet from Think Progress, about a bill sponsored by John McCain. If passed, the "Stop the Online Exploitation of Our Children Act of 2006" (yup, that's the real name) would mandate the following for blogs & networking sites (H/T Shakes):

* Commercial websites and personal blogs “would be required to report illegal images or videos posted by their users or pay fines of up to $300,000.”

* Internet service providers (ISPs) are already required to issue such reports, but under McCain’s legislation, bloggers with comment sections may face “even stiffer penalties” than ISPs.

* Social networking sites will be forced to take “effective measures” — such as deleting user profiles — to remove any website that is “associated” with a sex offender. Sites may include not only Facebook and MySpace, but also, which permits author profiles and personal lists, and blogs like DailyKos, which allows users to sign up for personal diaries.

So, if I get this straight, any blogger or host would be responsible for monitoring the content and links of his or her commenters. Does anyone even know what an "illegal image" is? A pic of a naked, underaged boy? A photo of a dead Iraqi boy not submitted through the proper channels by an "embedded" press photographer? One of the many photoshopped gems based on McCain's embarrassing man-hug with Bush?

I can't see this passing, especially under the new Congress. In addition to the standard save the children hysteria, I wonder if part of the impetus for this nonsense isn't the role the blogosphere played in last month's election. For that reason Republicans and the mainstream press have been all too eager to bash this growing 5th Estate. Though the Dem's historic stupidity is never to be underestimated, I don't see why those of the new Congress would let this gar-bage sneak through.

At any rate, should this pass, I implore those of you who count yourselves among the teeming hordes of my "regulars" (all four of you, or is it five these days?) to obey the following rules regarding comments:
1. No pictures of hot, luscious, naked women. E-mail them to me directly, and I'll let my team of legal experts determine whether they constitute "illegal images."

2. No posting of any really clever, especially humorous, or overly intelligent criticism of the President, Congress, members of the mainstream media, popular bloggers, or Paris Hilton. Again, submit these to me directly, so my crack staff can gauge their legality. And please remember to attribute these submissions to "Mike." That, ummm, makes it easier to get them through the, uhhh . . . the firewalls & the filters. Yeah, the filters.

3. To defray the massive costs I'll incur in monitoring compliance with this law, please send me a check, made out to "Mike," for $100. Remember, I'm a lawyer, so if you don't, I'll sue your ass.

4. Write a letter to John McCain telling him just how goddamn stupid this bill is, while reminding him that his hopes of gaining the Presidency hinge on the supposed support of moderates, centrists, independents, and others who normally don't vote Republican. And tell him that this shit could cost him dearly.
If it hasn't already.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Today's Actual Yahoo! News Headline Of The Day:
Bush Decides Direction Of Iraq Policy
Frankly, I don't even have the energy (or more importantly, the desire) to wade through today's latest stinking pile from the Administration Bullshit Storm. Read the piece; it's got plenty of the usual.

What I'm wondering is, in a world where:
not only Keith Olbermann, but also former NYC local news-hack, Jack Cafferty tees off on Bush on the nightly news on CNN (H/T to Furious); and

Alan Colmes, the wimpy, ready-made strawman for Sean Hannity's bloviating rants takes on Tommy "The Hammer" Delay . . . and turns him into a stumbling idiot (H/T to Otto Man at LLPON); and

nobody but the most committed Bushophiles has anything good to say about the guy ("H/T" to Malkin, Rush, VDH, etc);
I need to ask, do you think this headline can be filed cleanly under, "Damn, they're straight-out fucking with him"?

I think yes. And I love it. Can impeachment be more than just a pipe dream?


. . . it's your birthday too, yeah.

(No it's not! Getcher' own damn birthday, this one's mine.)

So, the clock on the east coast having passed 6:44 am, I'm now Officially 39 Years-Old™. And I'm feeling allllllll peachy & keen and all that jazz about the fact.


Usually I take the advancing of the years in stride. I feel young, I'm told I look young, and as anyone who's read so many as two of my posts knows, I haven't acted or thought in a manner within a decade of my real age in . . . well, ever. But 39! Jeez.

Now residing at the dusky end of my 30s, I'm so damn close to the traditional definition of middle-aged that even I can't fool myself any longer about still being a "guy." A "dude." A "bud" to my friends. Nahhhh, that won't play much longer.

I'm a fucking "man" now. A MAN. For a couple years now, when I'm in a store, especially on work days when I'm in a suit, I'm "sir," by default. When someone addresses me after viewing my credit card, I'm no longer Mike, but Mr. Mike.* On the street, young women bow deferentially in honor of my age, status, and rank in the Confucionist hierarchy.

Ok, that last part isn't true. But suffice to say, these lovely young things aren't returning my smoldering glances with anything but disgust as they ask themselves, "Why the hell is that old guy looking at me? Yechh."

I have a grey chest hair. Literally one. But let me tell ya, fellas, that's about 153 too many.

Oh well, enough of my whining. As always on this special day, I hope to get through it without too much hassle at work, and without my wife spending too much money on whatever she may be planning in honor of my advancing decrepitude. Which reminds me. The longer I stay married, the more I find the whole notion of spouses "buying" gifts for each other rather quaint, if not downright silly. The thought's nice, without a doubt. But when you're just spending your shared money to make the purchases, there's more than a small element of the absurd in play. Ok, I'm a cranky curmudgeon, I'll admit it.

Can you imagine when I hit 40?
* Not my real last name. I'm not, in fact, named Mike Mike. I know it'd be funny if I was, but I ain't. And at 39 it'd no longer be cool or funky if I changed my name legally to Mike Mike. Instead, it'd be . . . pathetic.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Let me begin with the following disclaimers: I am neither Italian, an opera buff, nor an Italian opera buff.

(I'm also not a doctor, nor do I play one on television or in an opera, though I have played one in the buff on occasion.)

Ok. That being said, this story about the Italian tenor -- Roberto Alagna, the "next Pavarotti" -- who stormed off the stage after being booed mid-performance at Milan's famous LaScala opera house, is more juicy than a rubanesque soprano. Check out some o' these nuggets from Reuters' coverage:
* "The incident, a first in the 230-year history of La Scala, forced a costumeless substitute to step in and carry on singing as some in the audience shouted 'Shame on you!' Organizers later apologized to the public."

* A spokesman at La Scala told reporters that "a professional can only leave at the end of the performance or in case of serious accident. He left intentionally and therefore he broke his contract with the theater and the audience," and La Scala's artistic director Stephane Lissner said Alagna's behavior had provoked "a definitive split between the artist and the public that La Scala has no way of fixing." Instead, La Scala will not permit him to perform again.

* Alagna, in turn, said he had told La Scala he was ready to return to the show but the opera house "sent me a letter saying that the contract is annulled and that they are not going to pay my expenses. So I went to my lawyer today and we are going to sue them. I have been here for a month and I have worked very hard. This sanction is just too much."

* Alagna defended his bizarre decision to leave the stage by explaining, "They are treating me like a monster, but I have not committed a crime, I've done nothing wrong. I went there to sing, to give the audience joy and pleasure. But what was I supposed to do when some people started booing? What if they had thrown stones at me or some crazy person had attacked me? La Scala should have protected me, the show should have been suspended. Instead they carried on as if nothing had happened. After all, John Lennon ended up being killed."

I know the word Diva originated in the world of opera, describing the egoism of the leading lady, usually the soprano. So does Prima Donna, or "first lady," for the same reason. But is there an analogous word for a male opera singer with a similar set of melodramatic traits, affectations, imaginary grievences, and overblown sense of self-importance? Perhaps Alagna will soon be such a word.

And . . . straight from the mouth of the 21st Century's first true Alagna, speaking of La Scala's criticism that he doesn't properly respect the opera-viewing public:
* "They are the ones lacking respect toward the public if they don't let me go back. I have another five performances to do, and the audience is waiting for me."
Ohhhh, I'm gonna have to agree with him on that last point! They're waiting for him, all right. My heartfelt advice to the folks at La Scala: Let him go on again.



I realize we probably have very few dedicated "wingers" here in The Neighborhood, and those who do visit are probably quite unlikely to post comments. That said, I'm curious enough to ask this question: When does someone who supported the War In Iraq look closely enough at the current state of affairs and say, "You know, I think I'm gonna change my mind on this one, starting . . . now"?

Little confession here: while not gung-ho, I supported the Iraq effort in 2003, and a good ways into 2004. Why? I thought we had something tangible to gain by establishing a US presence in a country as strategically-located as Iraq. Remove Saddam, exert influence over Iran & Saudi Arabia & Syria to reel in their own terror networks, demonstrate some power against those who had or would harm us. And, very much as David Letterman explained to Bill O'Reilly last month, I was angry, I was scared, I wanted someone, somewhere, to know we were fighting back.

But that was 5 years ago. I'm no longer as angry or scared, and the mission, whether noble or not, has been an utter failure. It needs to end.

I never believed the WMD story, and I had no thoughts about "establishing Democracy" or any of the other mission-creep adventures that have . . . crept into US strategy. And I certainly didn't want hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, a demolished nation, thousands of dead Americans, billions, if not trillions, spent on a senseless war. And, despite all that, I have to admit I was naive. Very much so.

Naive to believe the Administration would make its best effort. Naive to believe the Rumsfeld Doctrine of limited war. Naive to believe we could occupy only the perimeter of a foreign country. Naive to believe our leadership would attempt only such a borderlands invasion.

But I came to my senses a while back, and not only stopped believing what I'd thought in 2003, but began to speak out against it. It doesn't ease my mind completely, regarding what I said and thought nearly 5 years ago, but I can certainly embrace my willingness to change my mind, to react to changed circumstances. But the fact that I entered the pre-war run-up with my skepticism & cynicism intact, yet still opted to support the invasion brings me no shortage of self-disappointment.

To trundle out the standard analogy (standard, yes, but so apt it's foolish to leave it in the shed), I know folks who by 1969 were vehement anti-war activists, appalled at the senseless slaughter in Indochina, committed to do all they could to stop it. And yet, many-if-not-most of them were adamant war-supporters before Tet, before the general draft, before the Bombing of Cambodia, before Kent State, before the death toll crossed 30, then 40, then 50,000 men. And good for them that they came around. Good for the soldiers and sailors and marines. Good for the country. Good for Vietnam.

Yet some people didn't come around. Most Americans supported the war in 1966. Many in 1967. Some in 1968. Less than half by 1969. Even fewer by 1970. By 1973, and certainly 1975 it got harder and harder to find unabashed supporters of the US war in Vietnam. And today? Where are they? Who'll come out right now and say, "The War in Vietnam was a noble effort, a fight worth sacrificing for, a battle we never should have quit without victory"? Anyone?

Yet, on the verge of 2007, the 5th calendar year during which the US will have been at war in Iraq, why are so many Americans still arguing that the war is worth continuing, that the sacrfices still have meaning, that Iraq can be saved? That we can actually Win? Who are these people, and when will they wake up?

And will they be able to stand up in mixed company in 2025, and admit without shame that in 2007 they still hadn't altered their views one bit?

Monday, December 11, 2006


Straight from the "Well That's What You Get For Hanging Out With Paris Hilton" Files, we learn from A.P., that Nicole Richie was busted for DUI in Burbank, CA.

There's gotta be a joke in there somewhere about drinking on an empty stomach, but damned if I'm the man to go there.

(Oops. I just went there, didn't I? Oh well.)


I'm sure you've all heard that Chile's Augusto Pinochet has shuffled off to the great hereafter, joining the 3,000+ people he sent there against their will, and before their time, some 30 or so years ago.

The portrait at left tells you just about all you need to know about the guy. And if it doesn't, read up on the coup that put him in power. Or about the Dirty War he conducted against his own people.

Or, just look the picture below to the right. Maybe that's the one that tells you all you need to know about the guy.

Anyway, I'm trying to become more dignified and respectful when I hear that a famous person of whom I'm not a fan has moved along. So I'll save the barbs. Let's just say, though, I won't be joining his grieving family members at the funeral, nor should they expect flowers, nor donations in lieu thereof.


Tom at If I Ran The Zoo explains. "Dragonsfanatic" uploaded today's pic on May 28, 2006, as "DSC_9609."

Apparently, calling the game on account of rain is not an international baseball tradition.

Friday, December 08, 2006


Ok. We've crossed many new threshholds here in the FSMOMYOTD the past few weeks. The Warriors brought movies that we've all actually seen & liked. Kiss Meets The Phantom Of The Park brought television movies, as well as a grown man wearing cat make-up. Now, we enter yet again uncharted territory. Another TV movie. But this one . . . this is special. It stars a man who started on TV. Then a campy, classic horror/proto-slasher flick. Then, into iconic roles in not one but two iconic movies that came out a mere six or seven months apart. And then, he returned nearly two decades later, for yet another iconic role in another iconic film.

This is the type of career for which the FSMOMYOTD was invented. This man, this icon, this Ba-ba-ba-ba-Barbarino, this wacked out scientologist who was a wacked-out scientologist when Tom Cruise was still playing teenagers in Taps and The Outsiders, this Vincent Vega/Tony Manero/Danny Zuko was the star of a movie destined one day to be The Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of The Day. That's right folks, Englewood, New Jersey's own John Joseph Travolta was . . .

The Boy in the Plastic Bubble

That's right, John Travolta played a kid who couldn't dance, fight, shoot heroin, score chicks, or jump around on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, because he had no functioning immune system and therefore spent all his time in a gigantic . . . well, plastic bubble. Let's just make it very clear right up front: this was a deeply silly movie. Why?

Mostly because the "boy" was played by a 22 year-old. Secondly, because as anyone who saw the movie knows, Travolta went through the entire film with that goofy, "innocent" face you see in the picture above. And, because the scene where he ventured out for the first time -- outside his plastic bubble -- while wearing that space suit, well it may have been the first time in my life that I learned to laugh at a scene where I wasn't supposed to laugh.

I knew nothing at 8 or 9 years old of irony. Of unintentional comedy. Of cheese. All I knew is that John Travolta (Vinny Barbarino to me), walking like the robot from Lost in Space, with that goofy smile on his face, as he ventured out for his big "date," was fall-down funny.

As with seemingly every movie I do here on Fridays, it was 1976. Welcome Back, Kotter was, or had been, one of the biggest shows on TV. I owned a t-shirt featuring a smiling, white-boy fro'd Gabe Kaplan, alongside the faces of The Sweathogs: Juan Epstein, Arnold Horshack, Freddie Washington, and none-other than Vinny Barbarino. I don't recall if they were captioned, or simply free-floating, but the t-shirt included many of that show's famous & (apparently) funny catch-phrases: Hi there; I'm a Puerto-Rican Jew (did they really put that on a kid's t-shirt?); Oooo, oooooo, ooooo, Mistah Kottah; Up Your Nose With a Rubber Hose; and of course Barbarino's own, What? I, all my friends, and an embarrassing number of adults felt this was somehow funny. Unsolicited advice: don't ever go back to revisit your favorite sitcoms from your youth. I'm warning you. You could retroactively destroy every shred of good memories from your childhood. Just don't do it.

1976. As I mentioned in a FSMOMYOTD entry a few months ago for Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, the pre-cable world of the Sunday Night Movie was a big deal. And I remember a little stretch in 4th grade when they seemed to be doing the sick and/or dead kids movies (DMCL didn't feature kids, but sort of qualifies, as any who've seen it know). One of those movies was Something For Joey, which should've been called Joey's Song. It was the based-on-a-true story about Joey Cappelletti, the leukemia-afflicted little brother of 1973 Heisman Trophy winner, and Los Angeles Ram, John Cappelletti.

(And yes, I am old enough to remember John's career, as well as a team called the Los Angeles Rams. Hell, I'm apparently old enough to remember a time when white running backs won the Heisman Trophy.)

So, it was into this storm of Sunday night death and disease that The Boy in the Plastic Bubble leapt. Depression on a Sunday night. But not as depressing as that last paragraph, above in parentheses, makes me feel. And not as depressed as something I'm gonna get to in a second. Sorry. You'll see.

Let's get to The Cast:

Robert Reed, better known as Mike Brady, played Travolta's father. Reed, like his fictional son in this film eventually died from a condition where one's immune system ceases to function properly.

(And, no, I'm not going to make some lame joke about that; just pointing it out, ya know?)

And it gets even worse. Playing Travolta's mother was Diana Hyland, who played Joan Bradford, Tom Bradford's first wife on Eight Is Enough, before her character died, and Bradford remarried with Betty Buckley's "Abbey." Buckley was the "mom" we all remember for the duration of that show. But Hyland's character died because Hyland died tragically of breast cancer at the age of 41. But not before she embarked on an affair with Travolta, who was 17 years younger than her, and played her son in today's movie.

And yikes, enough of that. Ugh. Back to the frivolity. I don't think anyone else in this movie is dead, and I'm gonna get right to the juicy morsels here, because . . . well, why the hell not?

Among the names in the credits, you can't help but notice Buzz Aldrin. That's right, Buzz Aldrin, the fellow who just seven years earlier was the second man to walk on the moon. Who served as the model for MTV's "Moonman." Who later had a fantastic appearence as a guest on Da' Ali G Show, in which he handled himself really well, coming across as a nice, funny, gentle guy. But his start on television? That's right:

The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. And who did Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin play in this masterpiece. Who else but Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin. Now we know why Travolta got into space aliens and flying.

Ralph Bellamy played the doctor (yeah, I know he's dead, but he was old when he died, so it doesn't count). Bellamy's career goes back all the way to the 30's, when he often played the sap who lost out to the slick, smooth talker in screwball comedies. Most famously, Bellamy lost Rosalind Russell to Cary Grant in the great His Girl Friday.

Of course, far more importantly to this crowd, Bellamy played alongside Don Ameche as Randolph, one of the two Duke Brothers in Trading Places, a movie that just gets better and better as the years go on. And, in a move that forever cements his place in my "Damn, That's Cool" category, he and Ameche briefly reprised those roles for a very amusing cameo in 1988's Coming To America, a not terribly funny movie that nonetheless includes about three of the funniest scenes you'll ever see.

(But Bellamy was also in Disorderlies, which qualifies for this week's, "That's Not A Career Highlight" moment, so maybe it balances out.)

But you guys all know all of this anyway, so let's get back to more obscure members of the cast, shall we?

Anne Ramsey. That's right. Momma, from Throw Momma From The Train. I'm not in any way certain who she could've played in this heart-warming TV movie. The mean neighbor who barked mean things at Travolta when he made his spacewalk? Arrggg, get off my lawn, bubble boy! Owwwwwen, get that astronaut freak off my lawn. I'm not sure. And you know what, she's dead too. Hmmmm. Onto a happier entry.

Kelly Ward. Followed Travolta from the plastic bubble right into full-fledged membership in Hollywood's least-frightening gang, The Thunderbirds. That's right, he played Putzie, in Grease. (I think Putzie was the blonde one, and Sonny was the dark-haired one who sang "Didja' get very far?" in "Summer Nights." I'm not positive though, so if any of the usual crew of Johnnies-on-the-spot can gimme a little help here, I need to know this.)

Hilda Haynes played "Nurse Rachel." Hilda Haynes? Nurse Rachel? Hmmm, I thought it was a television movie. I don't remember the scene where his parents got him a "special" 16th birthday present.

John Megna has some intruguing entries on his IMDB page, including a role in Cannonball Run II, and an uncredited appearence in The Godfather: Part II as "Young Hyman Roth." But, he's yet another from this haunted movie who died young, so I simply can't investigate. Sheesh, why'd I choose this flick?

Vernee Watson-Johnson, whose IMBD page tells me she "testified on behalf of the defense in Michael's Jackson's trial." She's still alive, I'm happy to report, but clearly she too was touched by tragedy, so . . .

To end on an up note, P.J. Soles. Oh yes, you know her. Bill Murray's super-duper cute girlfriend in Stripes. Think spatula & ice-cream scoop. Yeah, that. (Quick, without looking it up, anyone know who played Harold Ramis' girl?) P.J. was also in Carrie, along with Travolta. She was in Rock n' Roll High School and she was in Halloween. She was even in Breaking Away, which starred her ex-husband Dennis Quaid and Jackie Earle Haley. In other words, fellas, your very adolescence would've been demonstrably different if not for the presence of Ms. Soles.

(I'm not saying it couldn't have been better, or worse, or whatever. But it would've been different.)

And, just so you don't think I've left behind the depressing digressions of a few paragraphs back, let me say that P.J. Soles is now . . . 56 years-old. No, I can't handle it either.

Next week's entry will be more light-hearted. I promise.