Tuesday, December 30, 2008

J. Robert Operaheimer

I saw the oddest thing on PBS the other night. No, not John Tesh. Yanni, neither. Nothing THAT odd. It was an opera about the Manhattan Project. You know, the code name for the atomic bomb. It actually wasn't that bad, but it ran kind of long. About three quarters of a way through, I was ready to change the channel, but then I thought:

It ain't over 'til the fat lady's singed!

Quips and Quotations (Special Nostalgia Edition)

Greed, for want of a better word, is good.

--from the movie Wall Street (1987)

You and I are both such similar creatures, Vivian. We both screw people for money.

--from the movie Pretty Woman (1990)

Money, it's a hit
Don't give me that do goody good bullshit

--Pink Floyd (1973)

Friday, December 26, 2008

In Memoriam: Eartha Kitt 1927-2008



Monday, December 22, 2008

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Christmas is wonderful for those of us out of touch musically. Go to the mall and what do you hear? Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, etc. Artists before my time, actually. Artist before just about everybody's time, actually. But at least I recognise them. So here's what's playing at your local shopping center:

The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole

This is the one about chestnuts roasting on an open fire. It was written and first recorded by Mel Torme, but Cole's lacquered version in the one everybody knows. Whenever I hear it in the mall I stop in my tracks, close my eyes and listen. At least until folks dressed like Eskimos start colliding into me (you got to move fast in these malls, or you'll hold up traffic.)

White Christmas by Bing Crosby

Man, Bing must have downed a whole quart of syrup ipecac in preparation for this number. The Ken Darby Singers offer an ethereal counterpoint to Crosby's golden groan.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Judy Garland

While Judy Garland wasn't bad looking, I've never found her particularly sexy. UNTIL I heard her here. This song makes me want to show up at her house one night with some champagne on ice and see just what those fates will allow.

(Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed when I finally saw Meet Me in St. Louis, the movie from which this song originates, only to find Judy, in Victorian dress, singing it to her bratty little sister.)

Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt

Eartha Kitt never disappoints. This woman was sexy from conception. If I was Santa, all the good little boys and girls would just have to rough it, 'cause Eartha's chimney would be the first and only one I'd jump into. Even if she had a fire going (how could she NOT have a fire going?)

Holly Jolly Christmas by Burl Ives

Ives, incredibly, started out as a folk singer riding the rails, a la Woody Guthrie. I could see where this song might get him banned permanently from coffee shops, but that's all right, he still has the mall.

The Little Drummer Boy by Johnny Mathis

I can't find this character anywhere in the Four Gospels, so I guess it's heresy. But lets not burn Mathis at the stake. I like this song too much.

Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Andy Williams

Most people blame Elvis and the Beatles for the end of the reign of crooners like Cole and Crosby. Personally, I blame Williams' "Moon River". But he's partially redeemed by this song, which serves as good filler between Cole and Crosby.

Speaking of Elvis and the Beatles, let's move into the rock era...

Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley

This song makes me want to drown my sorrows in egg nog.

Jingle Bell Rock by Bobby Helms

Bobby Who? He was actually a modestly successful country singer who decided to give this new music a try. Turned out to be the bright time, and the right time, to rock the night away.

Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee

Here something I bet you didn't know. This song was written by Johnny Marks. Never heard of him? Neither did I, until I did some googling, I mean, research. He also wrote "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer" and all the songs for the subsequent TV special (including "Holly Jolly Christmas"). Rock and Roll wasn't his main thing, so I suspect he wrote this for a fast buck. Lucky for us that Brenda Lee knew how to sex up that fast buck.

Happy Xmas (War is Over) by John Lennon

I just love this one. Unlike so may other rock stars who do Christmas songs, Lennon doesn't treat it as a lark. It's reverent, but with a hippie aesthetic.

Wonderful Christmas Time by Paul McCartney

This falls into the lark category. But I like it. At least in the mall.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Bruce Springsteen

I love the way this one ends. You hear Santa going "Ho, ho, ho" as the Boss breaks down laughing. Or maybe he was crying. Or both.

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer by a lot of different, and nondescript, artists over the years.

You won't hear this one in the mall. Unless your mall has a biker bar with a jukebox.

Over the years, just about anyone who's ever signed a record contract has put out a Christmas song. But these seem to be the ones that have stood the test of time. Sort of like the holiday itself.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Quips and Quotations

I like long walks, especially when they're taken by people who annoy me.

--Fred Allen

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Left Behind

Rick Warren? He's going to read the benediction (a highfalutin prayer, as I understand it) at Obama's inauguration?

First he kept on Robert Gates, and now this. I know he wants to "reach out" to the opposition, but sooner or later his arm's going to come right out his socket.

Or maybe not. As some pundit on TV said, Obama never promised to govern from the Left, or enact a liberal/progressive agenda . It's just that when he ran against McCain--a conservative--he promised "change". And earlier, when he ran against the Clintons--both centrists--he promised "change". By process of elimination, I would just assume...

He's getting praised for this, of course, and that's my real beef. He's showing his "maturity" by governing, or preparing to govern, from the center-right. Never mind what the center-right has done to this country lately. It was the center-rightists who approved both the war in Iraq and the deregulation of just about everything. Doesn't matter. Liberals are still expected to sit at the children's table, while the adults have an orgy in the rec room.

There are those who opine (Chris Matthews, in particular. I know he can be a pain at times, but watch his show. He's been on the top of his game lately) that it's all a ruse, that Obama's going to govern from the Left, and this is just cover. Well, if that's what happens, I'll eat my words. NO, I WON'T! I'm taking him at face value. Isn't that what all politicians want?

Meanwhile, if Obama really wants political reconciliation, if he really wants to bring us together as a nation, he'll reach out to the one person so many Democrats loathe and fear. More than Rick Warren. More than Robert Gates. Hell, even more than Dick Cheney.

He'll reach out to Ralph Nader.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Recommended Reading

While I don't particularly like taking advantage of somebody dying, W. Mark Felt's untimely passing does afford me the opportunity to plug a book that came out a couple of years ago, The Secret Man by Bob Woodward.

Particularly interesting, even compelling, are chapers 12 and 13, detailing Woodward's 2000 trip to see Felt one last time. Woodward finds that Felt doesn't even remember being Deep Throat. Is it Alzheimers, or an old G-man's final ruse?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Quips and Quotations

Certainly none of the advances made in civilization has been due to counterrevolutionaries or defenders of the status quo.

--Bill Mauldin

Monday, December 15, 2008

Finite Feagler

Yes, yes, I know. Dick Feagler also drives me crazy with his constant blather about the "good old days". As if the era he coincidentally grew up in was Western Civilization's absolute pinnacle, with the inevitable decline beginning, I guess, when he graduated from college somewhere around 1960, thus leaving him untouched, and thus unsoiled, by the Beatles, shag carpeting, lava lamps, and campus demonstrations. Of course, at that point he and his peers should have, and would have, and did have, a hand in running that inevitable decline. If they didn't, then they're the most passive generation in history, stuck in-between those that fought and won World War II, and those that tuned in, turned on, and dropped out, unable to squeeze even a lousy Tom Brokaw book out from their descent into post-Saturday Evening Post hell. I actually don't have much of a problem with the belief that yesterday was better than today and probably tomorrow, I just want it based on something a little more objective than the fact you have a lot less tomorrows today than you had yesterday. I can just imagine Feagler looking at his aged, crumbling self in the mirror, and then stomping off to the Heinans in Bay Village, shouting to anyone unlucky enough, or worse, young enough, to cross his path, "HOW DARE YOU BE BORN AFTER 1946!"

Having said all that, Dick Feagler was, and is, one of the best writers in Cleveland, and absolutely the best on the Plain Dealer. Connie Schultz? The Pulitzer Prize winner can't hold an empty tip jar to Dick Feagler. And I AGREE with her more than I do with Feagler! Plus, I voted for her husband! No, I suspect the reason Feagler pisses us all off so much is that, unlike others we may disagree with, we just can't dismiss him after that first paragraph with a "Same old, same old, let's see what Regina Britt has to say." Instead, we find ourselves, willingly, yet unwillingly, shoving his words down our own throats until that last pointed sentence protrudes out from the back of our necks. That's the power of the man's writing. Like the late, great, Mike Royko, Feagler is to sarcasm what Sinatra is to phrasing, Astaire is to dancing, Mayor Frank Jackson is to reticence. He does it with impeccable timing, even as he sometimes seems behind the times.

Odd thing is, Feagler, when he wasn't waging generational warfare, could play the radical every now and then. A while back, he wrote a column criticizing both the Medical Mart and the Euclid Corridor. That might not seem all that controversial, but when you consider his newspaper's editorial board seems to have Sam Miller as it's muse, it's downright revolutionary!

Then there's his constant complaints about The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Even though he personally doesn't like the music, he nevertheless thinks the annual induction ceremony should be held right here in Cleveland. As someone who does like Rock, I have to say, he's right! It should be held here! And while we're on the subject, what was all that bullshit with Jann Wenner and his wistful regrets about the Rock Hall not being built in New York?! Let's face it, folks, they didn't build it here because this is where Alan Freed coined the term. They built it here because We, the Taxpayer agreed to foot the bill! If they're now having--well, I can't say buyer's remorse, can I? OK, how about this?--seller's remorse, then give us our money back, annex whatever you want back to Manhattan, and we'll use the empty building as a convention center, or a juvenile justice center, or a Superman museum, or something!

Feagler's most radical act may be his support for Gay Marriage. True, his newspaper also supports it, but Feagler didn't bother with the whole dubious it-will-help-bring-outside-business-to-Ohio argument. He's for it because he thinks it's the right thing to do, a stance that got him a gig one year as Grand Marshall in a Pride Parade. Can't imagine THAT happening in the "good old days"!

So, farewll Feagler, may your puss, and whatever writing you've got left, remain forever sour! So long Aunt Ida, maybe all those relatives will invite you over to their houses for a change. So long, guys at the coffee shop, there's a Starbucks opening up down the street. Maybe you should give it a try.

And finally, to Mrs Figment, who lives in that old neighborhood where the fallout from the steel mill turns the laundry on the clothesline orange, I have just one question.

Why don't you just go to the laundromat?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Recommended Reading

According to Michael Moore, the Republicans are willing to bail out the auto industry, but with a string attached--the string tied around Labor's throat.

Friday, December 12, 2008

In Memoriam: Bettie Page 1923-2008

'50s under-the-counter pin-up queen, and latter-day cult icon

"I was never the girl next door."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Old Standard

The one disease where you don't look forward to the cure.

--From the movie Citizen Kane

I dread getting old.

Not that it's imminent, but I do have a birthday coming up, so it'll be just a little bit closer this year than it was this same time last year. Which was just a little bit closer that year than that same time the year before.

Nice, leisurely pace, huh? Then how come it feels more like justalittlebitcloserthisyearthanitwasthissametimelastyear whichwasjustalittlebitcloserthatyearthanthatsametimetheyearbefore?

And that's just during the waking hours.

Why should I look forward to the aging process? Liver spots change your complexion. There's wet spaghetti where your neck used to be. Your fingers and toes petrify. Your flesh turns to corduroy. A speed bump sprouts from your back. And, if your male, your pelvis apparently disappears so that you have to pull your waist band all the way up to your nipples.

When you're old your voice hushes up. Maybe that's where the phrase "dirty old man" comes from. If you're going to talk like an obscene phone caller anyway...

You walk, talk, think, eat, breathe, and do absolutely nothing, at a much slower pace. You become more susceptible to gravitational force. Why else do so many elderly people walk with their heads bent over like they're at Catholic Mass?

When you're old your eyesight deteriorates so that your squint is just one more line on your face. Your hearing deteriorates so that you tip sideways, like a buoy, trying to understand what people are saying. And, finally, your mind deteriorates so that you no longer have to squint or tip your head sideways, as you can now see and hear people who aren't even there!

Getting old is a bummer. Huh? What's that? Nobody says "bummer" anymore? That's another problem with the aging process--your vocabulary deteriorates.

Thinking about all this the other day left me in a very bad way. So I did what I often do when consumed with despair. I reached for the remote and started channel surfing.

I came upon Entertainment Tonight. This show has been on the air for a very long time now. In fact, I think the year it premiered, the term "bummer" was at the height of it's popularity. Anyway, watching ET I flashed back to a segment that aired, oh, God, some twenty-five years before.

Estelle Winwood was an acclaimed British stage actress who, in her later years, played character roles in Hollywood movies. In 1983, she turned 100. About this same time, comedian George Burns, then 87, came out with a book titled How to Live to be 100 or More. Some publicist got the clever idea that Miss Winwood should appear at a book signing with Burns.

She agreed to do it, but she may not have been vetted properly. As they both sat there before the assembled media (including Entertainment Tonight), a reporter held the book, which was about the positive aspects of aging, up to Miss Winwood. She took one look at the title and said, "Oh, dear, don't remind me!"

A moment later, she turned to George Burns, whom she had apparently never met before, and asked, "Are you some sort of doctor?"

Never one to take offense easily, Burns answered, "No, I'm an entertainer. I sing a little, dance a little, tell a few jokes."

"Oh!" exclaimed Estelle Winwood. "How marvelous!"

If I could just hang around with the likes of those two, I think I'd look forward to aging.

Checkered Speech

The day before his arrest, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was asked if his office was under investigation. He said he didn't know, but if there were people following him around with hidden tape recorders, then "that's what Nixon and Watergate was all about."

Governor, let me make this perfectly clear:

Nixon's crime wasn't that he was secretly recording people, it's that he himself was caught on tape breaking the law.

Sort of like you were.

Well, I shouldn't say that. You'll get your day in court.

Or on David Frost.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Quips and Quotations

If the United States wasn't the United States, it would be a banana republic in need of UN intervention.

I don't think Sarah Palin will get the nomination in 2012, but if she does it will only confirm my belief that the Republican Party should be euthanized, and probably will be.

The Clinton Wall Streeters contributed to the current economic mess.

Too big to fail? Then don't let it get that big in the first place!

My next book is on the Revolutionary War. Let some Democrat criticize Obama.

--longtime Republican, and frequent Bush critic, Kevin Phillips, on C-span, 12/07/08

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Recommended Reading

The first four days of last week's Doonesbury. It's a funny take on downsizing until Day 5, when that guy from Brzkistan shows up, and the strip suddenly goes off in a different direction.

Trudeau downsized his satire!

Thursday, December 4, 2008


As the US auto industry teeters of the edge of oblivion, there's been no little debate over the mechanical quality of the American car, or lack thereof. I'm not sure of that quality myself. I've only driven used cars, usually junkers. Or are all used cars junkers? Are all junkers used? If there are junkers that are new, no wonder the industry's teetering.

One area of possible improvement, aside from the mechanical condition of the vehicle itself, are those devices meant to inform, and then warn, us of that aforementioned mechanical condition. I'm speaking of all those little lights on the dashboard that come on when you start the car, and that are only supposed to come on again if there's an emergency. Unless they're broke, in which case THAT'S the emergency.

First up is the OIL light. Back when I first owned a car, and was relatively inexperienced about their strange ways, I assumed the OIL light came on when the car was about to run out of...oil. And so, I'd put in more oil. The red light would go off for a little bit, then go right back on. So I'd put in even more oil. The light was off for another little bit, than on again, and yet again I'd put in more oil...This went on until my car emitted so much black smoke it looked like a crematorium on wheels. I finally took it to the mechanic, and was told the OIL light doesn't come on when the car's actually running out of oil, but when there was something wrong with the engine (like it having too much oil. God knows what the original problem was.)

Now, I had an acquaintance who was similarly ignorant. In her case, the OIL light didn't go on, and she assumed the car didn't need oil. She kept on assuming her car didn't need oil, even after she heard a slight rattle. Maybe the doors weren't shut tight enough. Eventually, the rattle turned into a RATTLE. In fact, the car rattled even when it would no longer move. Then the SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE ENGINE light came on. The car was towed to the shop. The mechanic explained the problem. The car had run out of oil. But why, she asked, hadn't the oil light come on? Well, he explained, that's the whole purpose of the SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE ENGINE light.

If any members of Congess are reading this, next time those auto executives are seated before you, how about getting them to produce a car where the OIL light comes on when it's actually low on oil, and the SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE ENGINE light comes on when there's actually something wrong with the engine?!

Another problem with these lights are their timing. For instance, the BRAKE FAILING light usually comes on about 3.7 seconds before you're about to hit the back of an eighteen-wheeler. The NEEDS WATER light comes on about 8.4 seconds before you're about to pass out from smoke inhalation. And, of course, the BATTERY light comes on when the car's having trouble starting. Unless the car doesn't start at all. Because the battery's dead. So nothing works. Including the light that tells you the battery's dead.

One thing you don't have warning lights for, at least not in any of the junkers I've ever driven, are, well, lights. The ones outside the car, I mean. You don't really need to be warned about headlights. You can SEE they're not on. But what about the lights in back? There's no warning whatsoever.

Unless it's the light on top of the police car in the rear view mirror.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dick Flick

I haven't seen it yet, but there's a new movie out about Richard M. Nixon. He's played by Frank Langella.

Langella once played Dracula.


Monday, December 1, 2008

What's the Appoint?

I know it's been a foregone conclusion for about two weeks now that Hillary Clinton would be our next Secretary of State, but I wanted to be absolutely, positively, empirically, unquestionably, and pretty gosh darn sure before I posted this...Let me check again just to be sure. Be right back.

Yep, she's got the gig. All the talking heads think it's a great choice. She's smart. She's respected. She's experienced.

So why ain't she president?

I mean, wasn't that her main argument during the primary race, that she was more experienced than her main opponent, a one Barack Obama. But Obama, if you'll recall, had one great comeback. HILLARY HAD VOTED FOR THE WAR IN IRAQ! How could you possibly trust her judgement?

Apparently Obama can. Oh, well. What was that Jesus said again? Oh, yeah. Love your enemy. Especially after you've kicked his or her ass.

Maybe he'll appoint Bush to something next.