Monday, April 27, 2015

Non-Jew Telling a Joke

On a whim (and after a fairly aggressive Groupon campaign), my wife and I and a friend went to "Old Jews Telling Jokes" this week- basically five actors on a bare set telling or acting out jokes interspersed with a few brief monologues about the characters.   Yes I've heard a lot of these before, but a lot I hadn't.  It grew out of a website featuring what the title says.   I really liked it and having my wife there was good so I knew what I was OK to laugh.  Kind of like a dirty meaner Soupy Sales (they mentioned him in the show- I'd forgotten all about him)

....So a guy goes into the doctor with carrots sticking out of his ears and mushrooms shoved up his nose.  The doctor says "You're not eating right.".....

I got a million of these.   Please remember your waiters and waitresses.  I'm here all week. 

Did you hear about the moil who didn't charge a fee?

Detroit New Wave

Happy birthday, Wally Palmar, co-founder and co-lead singer of The Romantics.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

George must have lost a bet

Is America ready for President Graham?

So Long Sid

Sid Tepper has died.  He was one of those guys you never heard of who wrote a bunch of songs we're still humming.

He had great success in the pre-rock era, but unlike many contemporaries, had no trouble adapting to the new sound, indeed becoming a favorite tunesmith for Elvis.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Brown Notes

Michael Brown died last month, or he'd be turning 66 today.  He's best known for his work with the Left Banke, writing their two big hits.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Statistics on display

I couldn't help but think of LAGuy today as I watched a television screen at my favorite coffee shop.

A Brendan Fraser "Mummy" movie (anyway, something with Brendan Fraser, period costumes and a sarcophagus) was on, stifled, with closed captioning.

And I swear, it was as if a tribe of monkeys was typing it, lots of t's and x's and spaces and random punctuation, with nearly none of the near-words intelligible, either singly or in context, since you rarely got two of them visible at the same time. Of 100 word-efforts that I must have seen, I don't think a single one was typed correctly. Hard as it may be to believe, I think it was actually slightly worse than if I had been typing it.

All in all, it was an awesome display.

Big Food

"Denial, doubt and confusion"

No, it's not a new book about the Clintons.


It's been a good year for fans of Mary Elizabeth Winstead--she's already starred in two films, Faults and Alex Of Venice.  They might not be playing wide, but that's why Los Angeles is the film capital.  Faults was better piece, but it's still nice to see her in Alex.  It was not so nice to see this squib in the LA Weekly about the movie.

(What follows will be spoilers of a title that will not be appearing in a theatre near you.)  Winstead plays an environmental lawyer, fighting against development of Los Angeles marsh land. Just once I'd like to see the protagonist of a film be on the side of the developers.

Her husband walks out, and in a subplot, her character has a fling with the guy who's behind the building she's against.  Here's how Pete Vonder Haar describes this in the Weekly:

[Alex is] abetted by [...] Derek Luke as a deceptively charming enemy real estate developer.

Where does Vonder Haar get the idea he's "deceptively" charming.  When they meet--by chance--and he picks her up, she already knows who he is, and he knows who she is.  He doesn't try to pretend he's anything he's not, or fool her into changing her mind.  They remain opponents in court and he's the one who still wants to talk after the case (which, admittedly, she loses), while she walks away.  Unfortunately, Vonder Haar is so prejudiced against real estate developers (as he proves in his parenthetical comments along the way) that he can't imagine the character's charm is anything but deceptive.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Glue

Some Saturday Night Live stars--John Belushi, Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers--could be quite versatile but still had a personality that shone through. Others, Dan Aykroyd being the original, would immerse themselves so deeply in the role that you almost forgot who was playing the part.

The ultimate such performer was Phil Hartman, who'd take any role, big or small, and play it for all it was worth.  His co-stars called him the Glue, because he helped hold things together.  His life was cut short, but now there's a biography by Mike Thomas--You Might Remember Me--to recount how he got to be such an essential player on SNL.

He was born in 1948--actually older than some of the debut cast.  He kicked around, doing various things in his 20s.  He was quite successful, in fact, as a graphic artist, designing several classic rock albums.  He also joined the Groundlings, L.A.'s top improv group, which was a feeder to SNL from the start.  Once there he worked with fellow performer Paul Reubens to help create Reuben's Pee-wee Herman character. Hartman played Captain Carl in the early shows once Pee-wee got on TV.

But it was Saturday Night where he'd become famous, and do his best work.  He joined in 1986, not long after creator Lorne Michaels took the reins back after being gone for five years.  Hartman stayed for eight seasons and created characters such as the Anal Retentive Chef, Frozen Caveman Lawyer and Frankenstein.  He also did spot-on impressions, avoiding caricature and trying to get as close as possible to the original, such as his Phil Donahue, his Frank Sinatra, his Ed McMahon and--probably his most famous portrayal--Bill Clinton.

Meanwhile, he did lots of voice work, most memorably on The Simpsons, where he created characters such as useless lawyer Lionel Hutz and former matinee idol Troy McClure (who'd always note "You might remember me from..." hence the book's title).

Unlike some of his castmates, Hartman never hit it big in movies.  Maybe that's because he was such a chameleon he didn't personally come across.  After eight season on SNL, he did hit it big in prime time on the NBC sitcom NewsRadio.  It may have been good money, but for many of his fans, it was a letdown--we were used to him doing a handful of characters each week, and now he was stuck doing only one, episode after episode.

He'd married his third wife, Brynn, in 1987, and they had two kids.  He seemed to be a happy family man, but Brynn could get insanely jealous, and also had trouble with drugs.  On May 28, 1998, full of cocaine, alcohol and Zoloft, she shot her husband dead, and a bit later turned the gun on herself.

Mike Thomas tells Hartman's story in a straightforward enough fashion, though his writing is fairly cliché-ridden.  But even if the biography were better, it's hard to read because you know how it'll end--a large portion will describe how Hartman was be struck down while still in his prime.  But if you'd like to know where he came from, this is the book.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Glen Campbell is at a treatment facility for Alzheimer's right now, but I have to wonder if, on his birthday, he hears his old songs and smiles.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Stupid metrics or stupid headlines?

"respondents [were asked] seven separate questions about their finances, including whether they thought they had enough money for retirement, to maintain their standard of living or to cover their monthly housing costs. Those who expressed concern about three of the seven metrics were counted as worried about their finances."

But then comes the results and the headline: "Half of Americans have money worries"

Sorry. That's more likely to support the conclusion that half of Americans can't find their arse with both hands. But we'll never know if we rely on the news story, because that reporter and publisher can't find their arses with all four hands (or, if you want to be sunny and optimistic, they just don't care). Although I must say, I do like the hardly sly intimation that it's Bush's fault: "As few as two in five people were worried about financial challenges in the early part of the George W. Bush administration."

Yeah, not even Barack Obama has been able to undo the damage, and we all know why.

Song Clearance

One of the fun things about watching David Letterman has always been figuring how the song Paul Shaffer selects is related to the guest it introduces.

Last night was one of my favorites.  For Jon Travolta, he chose "I Can See Clearly Now." Fairly edgy for Paul.

Black And White World

Pretty good episode of Game Of Thrones on Sunday, "The House Of Black And White."  The producers promised we'd be getting new mixes of characters and they're starting to deliver.

We start with Arya gliding in Braavos.  Too bad Stannis already left or we'd have an interesting intersection.  She's taken straight to the House Of Black And White, so that solves that mystery.  Apparently everyone in Braavos knows this place and also knows they don't mess around, which is why Arya gets curbside service. But once she knocks on the door and shows the coin, the guy who answers doesn't let her in.  So she hangs around for at least a day, maybe longer, repeating her prayer (which has gotten a lot shorter--her enemies have been dropping like flies without her).  Eventually, she tosses her fancy coin and hits the road. Hey, Arya gotta eat.

Speaking of which, Brienne and Pod are at some sort of tavern, and there's Littleginer and Sansa across the way. After last week's near miss, it's so satisfying that they notice her,  Brienne doesn't think it'll go well and has Pod get the horses ready. She approaches the heavily guarded two and tries to explain that she's vowed to protect Sansa.  Baelish has heard of her and isn't impressed--she was sworn to protect Renly and Catelyn and both died.  But what does Sansa think?  She wants a word alone (to tell her Ayra is alive as well?) but Sansa wants nothing to do with her--she saw her at the bow to Joffrey at the Purple Wedding. Pretty funny, actually.  When Brienne set out to find the Stark girls, she had all of Westeros (Essos, too) to find them, yet managed to do it.  And both turned her down.

The heat is on and Brienne and Pod escape.  They're chased by Littlefinger's men, and for all we know Pod will die--it's not like he's a major character.  But, leaving behind a few corpses, they survive.  Pod makes a good point: the Stark girls have turned you down, doesn't that release you from your vow?  For the first time we'd see Brienne unbound. But all she's ever wanted to do was swear fealty to someone important, so she's going to be following Sansa and Petyr. Good, that'll add some spice to their story.

At King's Landing, Cersei fears for Myrcella in Dorne, now that Oberyn is dead.  Jaime is worried, too, and decides to do something about it.  Once again, good. Jaime and Cersei were getting to be a dreary couple, so getting a change of scenery might make him fun again.  But he needs a hand, so he invites (forces) Bronn to come along.  Double good--he's been out of action for too long as well.

And we cut to Dorne, as far south as Westeros goes.  We've heard jokes about it since season one, but we're finally here.  One of Oberyn's Sand Snakes are pissed about his death, but the calmer head of Prince Doran, prevails--for now anyway.  Myrcella is safe at the Water Gardens, but for how long?

In Meereen, the Unsullied patrol the streets, searching for Sons Of The Harpy.  But they're too obvious.  Daario is much better at finding these terrorists, and sure enough, he finds one hiding.  He's brought before Dany and her counselors.  Most want to kill him, but Barristan wants a fair trial.  (They've got due process in Westeros?)  Once alone with Dany, he actually makes a pretty good speech about her "mad" father, and how his ways didn't work.  But hey, Dany, this is Meereen--do the same rules apply?

In a covered wagon, we've got Varys and Tyrion on the way to Volantis which is on the way to Meereen.  Varys has come a long way, but he does seem to care about the realm. (Didn't help Ned Stark very much.).  The Imp is still filled with regrets, while the Spider sees his talent and thinks he can help make things work.

Via a comic cut, we see the head of yet another dwarf being dropped in front of Cersei--she is willing to kill every dwarf until she gets the right one, so Tyrion better hide.  Then she goes to a meeting of the small council and, denying she wants any power but is merely aiding Tommen, makes it clear she's in charge.  She deals with the dopey Tyrell guy by giving him so many titles that he couldn't serve as hand, and she deals more harshly with her Lannister uncle. Pycelle doesn't dare do much, even when she promote the creepy Qyburn. Cersei can use some wise heads, but she'd rather have dwarf heads. Doesn't bode well.

Now we're at the Wall.  Shireen is teaching Gilly to read--see, this is the sort of mix we never would have guessed would happen.  They talk about her disease, which Gilly has seen kill people--wonder if that information will matter in future episodes?  Then Queen Baratheon comes in and shoos Gilly (and Samwell) away--don't get too close to these people.  No, better to stick with the Red Woman.

Meanwhile, Snow is meeting with Stannis. He's not thrilled about showing Mance mercy.  The real trouble is the Free Folk will never follow Stannis, only one of their own. But Stannis has a plan, and not a bad one. He's got the power to turn Snow in Stark--he can destroy Bolton and become the true King of the North, who'd be followed by the people.

Snow has to think about it.  Really?  Isn't this everything he's always dreamed about? I don't care if he took the black, don't you want to be able to spend the winter in Dorne?  Before Snow can even turn it down, though, the election for Lord Commander (998th--really?  How many thousands of years have they been there?) takes place. Samwell makes a stirring speech for his surprise nomination (knocking Janos Slynt along the way, which is always worth it), and the tie is broken by Maester Aemon for Snow.  Okay, as long as you're stuck there, might as well be in charge.  Though it's pretty clear by this point that George R. R. Martin, and probably Weiss and Benioff, have bigger plans for him.

Back at Braavos, Arya walks the streets. She's tough, but is she--and Needle--tough enough.  We don't need to find out, since the guy from the House Of Black And White walks by and the street toughs poop their pants.  The real problem is Arya has no mentor.  By my count, not counting her dad, she's had five major mentors along the way, and each one made for great scenes.  She follows the guy back to the House. He pulls of his face and--voila!--he's Jaqen H'ghar.  And ten million fans rejoice.  They walk into the House, and I guess her faceless training has begun.

This could almost be the end of the show, but Dany has a problem to clean up.  One of the former slaves and killed the prisoner.  Good riddance, a lot of people would say, but he went against the direct commands of Mhysa.  They take him out to the public square and, very much against the public will, execute him.  Hey Dany, who do you think you are?  Joffrey?  That night, walking out on her balcony, who should appear but her long lost Drogon (her favorite child, no matter what she tells the other dragons).  Did he hear she's gotten tough?  Then he flies away, but he's around, and that's a big deal.  Maybe it's time to stop ruling Meereen and sail to Westeros already.

And with that we're done.  Not too many characters left out.  None of the Bolton/Reek stuff, but that's usually unpleasant anyway.  And we've set up what Brienne will be doing (after an existential crisis that lasted about two seconds), where Varys and Tyrion are going, who'll be training Arya and where Jaime is heading and quite a few other plans.  We're still not so sure what Littlefinger plans, but if he's heading up North with former Winterfellian Sansa, things might be heating up, since he might meet with the Boltons, Snow and Stannis.

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