Last baked good of 2010

An apple crisp. Who has two thumbs and a seven-inch penis, and bought 15 pounds of apples for less than five bucks today?

The Grammar Nazi Ten: New Year's vs. New Years

It's the Eve or Day and/or resolution that belongs to the New Year, so New Year's Eve/Day/resolution. I'll admit that I just looked this one up myself; then again, I also write the wrong year on my checks/deposits well into the summer months. Time is probably my biggest blind spot.

The 27th and 30th

Every now and then, I unwittingly catch glimpses of what my art used to be, even if it's just lettering on a DVD jacket I made from the front page of THE ASIAN REPORTER free newspaper. Also, I liked this Xmas display.

Xmas Day

Very quiet. Boxing Day (actual) was even moreso.

Xmas Eve Cocktail Party

Before and after.

Two weeks in December: The 12th to Xmas Eve afternoon.

I don't know if these really are Australia's Favorite Cookie (tm), but I was fascinated that they were end-capped in the frozen pizza section. Also: Little Man and Noogie nap, a dead crow and vibrant moss in St. Johns, and Doo rages between the chair bottom and its back.

The Week in Photos: December 5-11, 2010

Cleaning out my memory card for New Years: My first group-job interview; shots of Littles on his way to the Vet and Abuela and Lyndon Johnson back East; and a farewell dinner for Mr. P.

The Grammar Nazi Nine: Complimentary vs. Complementary

"Complementary" means related or harmonizing, like complementary colors.

"Complimentary" means giving a compliment and/or gift; high-rollers get their rooms comped at the casino.

How I tell them apart: There's an "I" in "complimentary," "praise" and "gift."

Saturday Night at the Movies: COCKSUCKER BLUES




Robert Frank seems an odd choice to helm a film like this, a fly-on-the-wall documentary of the Rolling Stones' first tour since the disaster of Altamont, in support of their just-released double-album EXILE ON MAIN STREET. The album's packaging is largely taken from Frank's still photographs, but even that doesn't suggest that Frank's the best man for this cinematic job: The Stones were never hippie enough to venerate the Beatniks, whom Frank captured in the semi-iconic PULL MY DAISY, nor do any of them seem like they would have been fans of ME AND MY BROTHER.

The 1972 tour is widely held as the band's greatest, although you only get slivers of live performance in this particular tour documentary. Much like the Maysles brothers' film about the disastrous 1969 tour and its homicidal coda, GIMMIE SHELTER [and the only recently released ROCK & ROLL CIRCUS, come to think of it], here the stars of their own film are upstaged by their opening act; the most electrifying musical moment in BLUES is undoubtedly the first half of the "Uptight/Satisfaction" medley driven by Stevie Wonder as part of a gesalt-super-robot melding of his band and the Stones. Even less than seven years since the song was written, Mick Jagger already sounds like he's singing "Satisfaction" out of obligation rather than passion.

[In you were wondering, in SHELTER and CIRCUS the Stones are upstaged by Ike and Tina Turner -- her microphone-stroking technique in particular, if you ask me -- and The Who, respectively. If they weren't already an institution, the Stones would have been thoroughly blown off stage every night of their '89 tour that had Living Colour opening for them as well. At least by then they had the sense to not include such upstarts in the concert film from that tour.]

In its shambling, shapeless monotony, Frank's movie gives a truthful sense on how tedious being on tour really is. The only that would drive it home harder is if the only stage performances were all of the same song from different cities, but that would force the viewer to consider the lie we all tell ourselves when it comes to watching documentaries -- that what we are seeing was crafted more to be entertaining than to be true. The best docs balance both, of course, but you rarely find one that chases accuracy to the exclusion of entertainment.

So, if not music, what do Frank and the Stones find on the road? Coke-snorting [with a handy tutorial from Keith Richards], heroin-shooting, dick-fondling, groupie-mauling [Frank has said that the infamous mile-high sex scenes were staged but, judging by her screaming, it's extremely hard to tell if anyone told the one girl that beforehand], shooting pool with who may or may not be Muddy Waters, the hilarious but curiously poignent title track that meant to be the Stones' final pop single for Decca Records, obsessing about monotony ["Do you wear the same socks every day?"], home movies, home porno, tedious press interviews, stir craziness, politely greeting old ladies in hotel lobbies, listening to test masters of their next single, struggling to order room service, the racially insensitive but entertaining rap from the head of a militant heroin advocacy group, nodding out, trying to wake up, backstage hijinx, smoking dope and talking shit in a station-wagon driving across Montana, and the greatest rock & roll touring moment ever -- a profoundly hammered but curiously considerate and polite Keith Richards [deeply into his blonde-skunk-stripe and broken-front-tooth heroin years] and Bobby Keys dropping a hotel television off a balcony [staged or not, it's always funny, especially Keef's concern about the set landing near "the garbage area"] -- the movie is as murky and ragged as EXILE, and almost as memorable.

Being largely filmed with handheld cameras by the Stones entourage -- trust me, you won't hear the incessant whirring of the cameras' motors by the fourth or fifth reel -- the movie is a hodge-podge of oddball angles and utterly pedestrian shots, but every once and a while Frank presents an image as arresting and fascinating as his photographs. The glorious, unwittingly gorgeous shot [part 3, starts around 6:30] of the band walking from backstage to the stage, with Jagger stopping as the rest of the musicians head out the door to take their places -- perhaps it's just the low-fi cameras, maybe it's just that this is a digitized copy of a bootleg copy of a bootleg copy of a bootleg copy of a bootleg copy, etc. of a print of the original low-fi film, but it's stunning to see how light floods the screen around Jagger as he waits to go onstage. Then, he turns away from the light and is escorted back into inky blackness as the sound effects from "2000 Light Years From Home" begin. There's no way one could could plan something so perfect.

It's become quite the pop-music cliche; rock band commissions a documentary about itself but is surprised and dismayed by the final results. Also: Rock band commissions a documentary about itself and the coked-out director gets more lines [dialogue, that is. wink.] and screentime than most of the actual band combined. Frank does Martin Scorcese and THE LAST WALTZ several times better, bringing what seems to be his whole crew into the drug-taking and screen-hogging. Or maybe those guys are members of the extended Stones touring band or road company, who the hell can tell? With no chryons or narration, we're out to sea on who anyone is here. When people talk about this wild, under-underground cult movie about the Rolling Stones, they rarely point out that the band really only provides the bulk of the rock & roll and a bit of the drugs, with other people handling most of the sex and drugs. Embarrassed regardless, the Stones produced a second, much more conventional concert film [LADIES AND GENTLEMEN ... THE ROLLING STONES] and filed an injunction against BLUES' release, eventually leading to a curious court order decreeing that Frank must be in attendance for any showing of the film and there can be no more than five such airings per year. It's safe to say that far more people have sought out and seen COCKSUCKER BLUES than LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, but I doubt that's not just The Streisand Effect at play.

If I were a producer at Shout Factory or Criterion/Eclipse, I would be busy sweet-talking the 83-year-old Frank and/or his family into buying his ashes after he dies, so they can be mixed with the ink printed on a limited-edition official release DVD, along with a DVD-case insert that firmly requests that the disk's owner only use it five times per year; the then-late director would still abide by the court's ruling all the way down to being present for every airing each DVD received. I shoulda been a lawyer, but I don't have the Latin. Anyway, it's a movie that provides much more food for thought than the clips typically reused in later Stones documentaries [roadie curling the naked girl on the plane, Keef & Bobby & gravity vs. the television] would suggest.

ps. Happy Christmas; try not to let your relatives catch you watching this, at least not the kids.

[For further reading, or to just look at some period pictures, check out this excerpt, about the '72 tour, from Keith's book LIFE.]

Antepenultimate Xmas watching: HAPPY DAYS "Guess Who's Coming to Christmas"

Take the snowball from my hand, grasshopper:



Produced in its second season but actually its first Christmas story, this episode of HAPPY DAYS is remarkable for a number of reasons; for one, it's nearly perfect despite being so seemingly simple. It struck such a clear chord with everyone that the producers reaired it every December for several years, simply filming season-appropriate scenes to present the original story as a flashback. The following is from, I think, the second encore, with Fonzie telling Al the story of his first Christmas with the Cunninghams.

The episode was written by Bill Idelson, best known around here for playing Rush Gook in Paul Rhymer's brilliant radio show, VIC & SADE. After serving as a Navy fighter pilot in WWII, Idelson struggled to break into the writing business and continued acting whenever he could until his big break in 1961, writing the classic "Long Distance Call" for THE TWILIGHT ZONE while he worked as a real-estate agent. He quickly became an A-list TV-comedy writer/producer and part-time actor -- THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW [where he also played Sally Rogers' sadsack boyfriend, Herman Glimscher], THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, GET SMART, THE ODD COUPLE, HAPPY DAYS, THE BOB NEWHART SHOW -- before retiring to turn his sidecareer of teaching screenwriting at UCLA into an autumn-years home-based industry, offering the greatest writing workshop the world has ever known.

To make room for the new introductions [and presumably to make extra room for the modern amount of commercials], the editing is a bit choppy in this repackaged version -- largely dropping one liners and bits. Regardless, it's striking how the plot takes its sweet time to kick in yet it's difficult to find a scene that could be cut entirely without the episode suffering from the loss. Idelson was brilliant at this, perhaps picking it up by osmosis from Rhymer, with his scripts for ANDY GRIFFITH being another grandmaster example of how a writer can/should skip getting right down to the plot and make what seems like meandering a vital part of the story. As many times as I've seen this episode, I still can't figure out how he solved that storytelling puzzle, at the same time he discovered the cold-fusion equation of how to make The Fonz a three-dimensional character. While Henry Winkler was always an underrated actor, the Fonz in the print of Bill's script is even more yearning but proud than the Fonz on the tape of the finished episode. [This characterization didn't last long, obviously; Americans reward the TV protagonists who are presented as icons rather than people.]

Because it's Xmas and I'm never happy until I complain about something: Considering the bad "I gotta catch the five four o'clock bus" dub job in the Arnold's scene, I wish they had gone back and dubbed in Mrs. C. calling Fonzie "Arthur," unless there was a later episode I'm forgetting about everyone finally learning his full name. It's weird hearing Marion Ross even saying the word "Fonzie." Also, I would like to behead the men responsible for the laugh track, especially that percussive cackle that usually leads off the canned guffaws.

Even for a one-camera production, it's fascinating how placid those first two seasons of the show were before "HAPPY DAYS was filmed before a live studio audience." Maybe that played a part in Fonzie's evolution from sanitized-for-TV biker/tough to human being putting on a tough-guy attitude to poster-sized TV superhuman to shark-jumper -- it must be difficult to play vulnerable when you have a crowd just itching to give you a standing ovation for hitting a jukebox to make it magically come to life.

Buon Natale, Mio Piccolo Fonzarellis!

The 12 Old-Time-Radio MP3s of Xmas 2010



At the last minute before Christmas, my inner alcoholic stepfather gave to you: Norman Corwin's THE PLOT AGAINST CHRISTMAS.

[This is the 1942 rebroadcast of the original 1938 production, with the unwelcome intrusion in the second act of breaking news about an assassination in Algiers -- really CBS, it couldn't wait until after the show?]

At 50 seconds before Christmas, my inner alcoholic stepfather gave to you: Two Orson Welles programs and Norman Corwin's THE PLOT AGAINST CHRISTMAS.

["A Christmas Carol" from THE CAMPBELL PLAYHOUSE of 12-24-39, and the 12-22-41 episode of THE ORSON WELLES THEATER, featuring Welles' reading of the "Nativity" from St. Luke's and a G.K. Chesterton poem as well as a dramatization of Oscar Wilde's "The Happy Prince."]

At 45 seconds before Christmas, my inner alcoholic stepfather gave to you: Three SUSPENSE episodes, two Orson Welles programs and Norman Corwin's THE PLOT AGAINST CHRISTMAS.

[12-23-43's "Back For Christmas," starring Peter Lorre; 12-13-55's gangster tale, "A Present For Benny"; and 12-20-59's "A Korean Christmas Carol"]

At 40 seconds before Christmas, my inner alcoholic stepfather gave to you: Four selections from LUX RADIO THEATER, Three SUSPENSE episodes, two Orson Welles programs and Norman Corwin's THE PLOT AGAINST CHRISTMAS.

[Adaptations of MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET and THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER.]

At 35 seconds before Christmas, my inner alcoholic stepfather gave to you: Five two-fisted Xmas episodes, Four selections from LUX RADIO THEATER, Three moments of SUSPENSE, two Orson Welles programs and Norman Corwin's THE PLOT AGAINST CHRISTMAS.

[GUNSMOKE's 12-20-52 "Xmas Story," THE SHADOW's 12-24-47 "Stockings Were Hung," SHERLOCK HOLMES' 12-21-47 "Christmas Bride," TARZAN's 12-27-51 "Congo Christmas" and the truly depressing DRAGNET of 5 Dragnet of 12-21-50, ".22 Rifle For Christmas."]

Here's a zip file of the first half of the files. Enjoy.

At 30 seconds before Christmas, my inner alcoholic stepfather gave to you: Six brief interludes with VIC & SADE, Five two-fisted Xmas episodes, Four selections from LUX RADIO THEATER, Three moments of SUSPENSE, two Orson Welles programs and Norman Corwin's THE PLOT AGAINST CHRISTMAS.

["Vic's Christmas Card List," 1939; "Smelly Clark's Christmas Presents," 11-21-39; "Christmas Present Money," 12-xx-40; "Christmas Cards C-O-D," 08-06-42; "Christmas Suggestions for the Boss," 10-27-42; and the immortal "North Dakota River Bottom Revel" of 12-25-41.]

At 25 seconds before Christmas, my inner alcoholic stepfather gave to you: Seven jokers joking, Six brief interludes with VIC & SADE, Five two-fisted Xmas episodes, Four selections from LUX RADIO THEATER, Three moments of SUSPENSE, two Orson Welles programs and Norman Corwin's THE PLOT AGAINST CHRISTMAS.

[Fred Allen's TOWN HALL TONIGHT of 12-22-37, featuring "Santa Will Not Ride Tonight" and guest star/archenemy, Jack Benny; and his THT of 12-20-42, featuring the classic " Santa Claus Sits Down." Benny stars in two of his own shows, "Jack's Christmas Open House" of 12-25-38 and "Christmas Tree Decoration" of 12-23-51. Benny's longtime player, Mel Blanc, stars in his own self-titled program's Xmas episode: "Mel Plays Santa Claus," 12-24-46. And humorist Jean Shepherd brings up the rear with "Earliest Christmas" and 12-17-75's "MONOLOPY {sic} and Christmas Cards." Yeah, nothing from A CHRISTMAS STORY; kiss my black ass if you don't like it.]

At 20 seconds before Christmas, my inner alcoholic stepfather gave to you: ... well, at this point, my collecting/organizing almost totally craps out, so: One LIGHTS OUT creeper, Seven jokers joking, Six brief interludes with VIC & SADE, Five two-fisted Xmas episodes, Four selections from LUX RADIO THEATER, Three moments of SUSPENSE, two Orson Welles programs and Norman Corwin's THE PLOT AGAINST CHRISTMAS.

["CHRISTMAS STORY," 12-22-37.]

At 15 seconds before Christmas, my inner alcoholic stepfather gave to you: One INFORMATION PLEASE, One LIGHTS OUT creeper, Seven jokers joking, Six brief interludes with VIC & SADE, Five two-fisted Xmas episodes, Four selections from LUX RADIO THEATER, Three moments of SUSPENSE, two Orson Welles programs and Norman Corwin's THE PLOT AGAINST CHRISTMAS.

[12-25-45, featuring guests Fred Allen and Judge James G. Wallace of the New York Court of General Sessions.]

At 12 seconds before Christmas, my inner alcoholic stepfather gave to you: One episode of OUR MISS BROOKS, One INFORMATION PLEASE, One LIGHTS OUT creeper, Seven jokers joking, Six brief interludes with VIC & SADE, Five two-fisted Xmas episodes, Four selections from LUX RADIO THEATER, Three moments of SUSPENSE, two Orson Welles programs and Norman Corwin's THE PLOT AGAINST CHRISTMAS.

["A Letter To Santa."]

At 5 seconds before Christmas, my inner alcoholic stepfather gave to you: One block of NO SCHOOL TODAY, One episode of OUR MISS BROOKS, One INFORMATION PLEASE, One LIGHTS OUT creeper, Seven jokers joking, Six brief interludes with VIC & SADE, Five two-fisted Xmas episodes, Four selections from LUX RADIO THEATER, Three moments of SUSPENSE, two Orson Welles programs and Norman Corwin's THE PLOT AGAINST CHRISTMAS.

["The Day Before Christmas Program."]

A second before Christmas, my inner alcoholic stepfather gave to you: One clip of Howard Stern & co. making fun of Artie Lange's gift choices, One block of NO SCHOOL TODAY, One episode of OUR MISS BROOKS, One INFORMATION PLEASE, One LIGHTS OUT creeper, Seven jokers joking, Six brief interludes with VIC & SADE, Five two-fisted Xmas episodes, Four selections from LUX RADIO THEATER, Three moments of SUSPENSE, two Orson Welles programs and Norman Corwin's THE PLOT AGAINST CHRISTMAS.

[Excerpt from the 12-18-03 show. Not OTR, but it's my bad gift to you, regardless. Speaking of which, don't bother scoring an Al Hirschfeld-signed lithograph for Howard.]

And here's a zip file of the second half of the files. Also Enjoy.

The Grammar Nazi Eight: Its vs. It's

This is stupidly easy: "It's" means "it is" and "its" means "belonging to it." When I see/write an "it's" in a sentence, I usually say "it is" while to reading it to myself to make sure it's [it is] the right its.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Many pundits on both sides of the issue of gays serving in the military are bellowing one way or the other about the long-debated repeal of DADT.

What's been lost in this discussion is, much like the 1950s-'60s Civil Rights Movement's relationship to the 1860s-'70s Reconstruction Era, this week's decision merely restores rights that a minority group once briefly held despite that fact being largely forgotten by the public.

It's largely been written out of the United States Military's official history, but prior to the hard swing into Conservatism following the psyche-shattering carnage of World War I, it was quite common for Two- and Three-Star Generals to marry; it made them more like the Greeks and Romans of Antiquity, and the combined forces under a couples' command would put on amazing dinner parties.

In fact, it was such a marriage at the highest rank that brought the Marine Corps and the Navy together back in 1789, hence why they remain so close to this day. However, in the face of such rampant homophobia for most of the 20th century, the only public display of affection/acknowledgement of the Marine-Navy marriage was how the leathernecks love to complain about the Navy's driving.

Admittedly, they are terrible drivers but at least they will radio headquarters for directions when they're lost.

ps. If you happened to be worried that you just lost your Ace In The Hole for getting out of serving in the armed forces in the unlikely event of the Draft being reinstituted [we need the Vietnam generation to die out/fade away before we get to repeat that mistake], relax: Now, instead of claiming to be gay, you just have to claim to be a raging homophobe.

A Vignette from WHY BOTHER?

Few things are as tragic as seeing Peter Cook serve as an Ed McMahon-like second banana on Joan Rivers' dreadful 1986 TONIGHT SHOW clone, CAN WE TALK? -- At least Orson Welles was the star in those Paul Mason wine advertisements, and Rod Serling wasn't used as a punching bag for the guests on LIARS CLUB. Thankfully, CAN WE TALK? lasted only six episodes.

It warms my heart to hear/read the following improvised conversation between Cook, in his last public appearance as his character Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling and Chris Morris of BRASS EYE fame, as recorded for the 1994 BBC radio series WHY BOTHER?:

CHRIS MORRIS: Is it not true that the reason you won't appear on television is because a crack pipe cannot be hidden?

PETER COOK: [long pause] It can be hidden, and I-I, I … am willing to own up to the errors that I've made, and if there's any young people listening -- for goodness sake, don't spend 1,000 pounds a day on crack, because you can get a lot cheaper than that in Leicester's Square.

MORRIS: So, on television, you would not be able to last without resorting to one of the tools of your addiction.

COOK: I would have to, after -- after, really, one and a half minutes to be realistic, and I think we are in the business of honesty here -- after one and a half minutes I would have to leave the studio unless the presenter himself … Unless he was able to inject me, which I think the viewer would, uh, would object to.

MORRIS: Well, there was a failed experiment on a talk show when you appeared with an intravenous device which came from beneath the chair.

COOK: I think you're confusing that with Joan Rivers, who did come from beneath a chair and I sat next to her.

MORRIS: That's right, yes.

COOK: But Joan is not a prescribed substance, she's just a pain in the ass.


I'll admit, this reunion of Cook & Moore playing their closing song "Goodbyeee" one last time together does get me a little misty-eyed, especially seeing Peter practically skipping to the piano ...



... or this weepy-reddened-eyeball issue may be just a case of psychosomatic Pink Eye from remembering how CAN WE TALK? rubbed my eyeballs in its shit for hours. It's a hard life, being a Peter Cook fan.

Shameless Hype Of The Month #1: I wrotened a column.



My first boxing column for FIRST OF THE MONTH magazine is now up on the FOTM Web site. Go read. Then read Bob Levin's great piece on his adolescent Top Ten 45s, then read everything else there.

I had to see how many of Bob's selections were on YouTube: Eight and a half -- the Wilt Chamberlain single was recently deleted from YT when the video's user was thrown out, and the original "How Come Your Dog Don't Bark" is replaced with a live Dr. John cover that includes a comment from a user claiming to be Prince Partridge's grandchild. I was surprised that there weren't more videos of vinyl nerds filming their turntables playing the singles than this collection contains. Oh well, it's still a sweet little block of fine reading music:

Monday Morning Infotainment

So this crayon video is now making the rounds, made by the same people who produced the beautiful but slightly boring informational clip about how ink is made. Enjoy:



Very nice, although it reminds me of this old SESAME STREET film about the same subject from what must be 30 years ago:



It seems the process hasn't changed at all, much except that now three or four smiling factory workers don't have a job there anymore.

Your cup of outrage for the day/week



Because the original version of this video didn't piss us all off enough, here's a revised and expanded version of what's going on according to the woman in The Glass Case of Intimidation.

Even if half the allegations in this video are true, they speak to a thuggish, Banana Republic mentality -- even if it's not a top-down institutional attitude, that any of these TSA checkpoints can be run with a "chee, dat's a nice boarding pass you got dere -- it'd be an awful wicked shame if something baaaaaad happened to it" mentality with no immediate correcting measure taken the Powers That Be indicates that such abuses probably go on everywhere every day. Airline travel today is essentially a world of shit rising up to everyone's chins; no one wants to make a wave.

I've been trying to remember a time when Americans didn't fail at everything, but I failed. It's to the point that I'm deeply skeptical of these urban legends that there was once a time when foreigners were actually excited to see Americans. That sounds like science fiction/banana oil to me. Also, I keep forgetting that The Terrorists hate us for our Freedom, and that everything changed for the better under Obama.

Once again, to take the edge off: Here's a video of entertaining animals. This time, chimpanzees. Enjoy:

Du deeply resents

Something. Taken Friday.

Dooey, as photographed on many surfaces he's not allowed to be on.

El gato loco es muy malo.

Meanwhile ....

Little Man is still too cute for even an astute brute to compute much less refute. Taken by my sister yesterday and the day before. Even the reflected sky looks cold in the outside photo!

Unwitting Abstract

Cat, wires, shoes: 12/01/10.

Strolling through Sellwood

Fine car repair at Tom Dwyer, shitty staff at New Seasons, solid chicken-sausage scramble at Fat Albert's Cafe. Taken Monday.

The Grammar Nazi, Part Seven: Palette vs. Palate vs. Pallet

A palette is the board or paper a painter uses to mix and hold his paint. A palate is the roof of his mouth, which only gets paint on it if he's Van Gogh and/or crazy/stupid. And a pallet is the wooden platform his paintings are bundled on and taken away on a forklift.

How I keep them straight in my head:

You can't cleanse the palATE unless you ATE.

The "ll" in "pallet" looks like a forklift's forks.

And PALEttes are used by PALE, starving artists.

[There's also "pallette," which is an obscure form of armor that protects your armpit, but that term should only be used if you're writing at a Renaissance Faire or somesuch.]

The things you see when job-hunting with a Mac


Click for larger.

Security experts Brinks can keep billions of dollars in hundreds of company bankrolls safe every day, but their Jobs website pulls up its skirts and runs away at the sight of non-IE web-browser technology that hasn't been abandoned and Operating Systems that aren't about to celebrate their bar Mitzvahs.