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October 2005 Archives

October 1, 2005


Hope you enjoyed hearing me filibuster on the radio last night- thanks to Rollye James for saying nice things about me and letting me spew on national radio. Cold's finally abating, lots of catch-up to do, so I'm going to leave y'all to browse the archives while I return to normal.

Oh, and the sky's back to normal color.


October 2, 2005


Bill Bennett made an ass out of himself, ergo everything he says is wrong and all conservatives are Klansmen in suits. Jayson Blair made stuff up, so everything in the New York TImes is a fraud and you can't believe anything the liberal press ever prints. George W. Bush was a partier/drinker/alleged druggie, and that means he can't ever be right on anything again. CBS got caught trying to claim forgeries were real, so anything on that network's obviously fiction. Tom DeLay's charged with conspiracy to funnel illegal donations, so every position he's ever held is wrong and all Republicans are corrupt. Ted Kennedy left a girl for dead in the water at Chappaquiddick, so his positions on economic issues are invalid and all Democrats are drunks who kill women.

See? See how we've exposed you? Gotcha! All (name of political afffiliation)s are (random pejorative).

I hate politics.

Lately, it's become such noise on both sides that I feel like I need to take a break from it. I won't, of course, but it's just stupid now.

And that's how I feel BEFORE the week starts. By Thursday, I should be extra well done.


October 3, 2005


Having to edit and send sound files tonight. It's taking forever. I'm getting annoyed. I am contemplating breaking something.

Happy Rosh Hashonah!


October 4, 2005


Everything's working.

The other web site, for the most part, is working.

The cable is finally working better- turned out that a squirrel or raccoon had chewed through the cable on the pole out back. The HD is working in time for the Angels game. The Internet connection's working.

The Benadryl's been working- I'm almost back to normal. Coughing not too bad, congestion lessened. Just a vestigial headache.

The audio files are working- finally edited and converted and shipped.

My last-second, emergency Photoshop skills were working- I got a new graphic for the other web site done in a matter of minutes. The weekly newsletter went out, too (thanks, Matt Shapo). I'm just about caught up with work.

I'm feeling a sense of accomplishment now.

Wait a minute.

Why am I still working, then?

Let's put a stop to that right now.


October 5, 2005


The first thing that comes to mind when the stories about Oregon's assisted suicide law at the Supreme Court come on the radio is last winter.

It was late in 2003 when the pain became unbearable. My father had mesothelioma, and as the cancer progressed, the sharp pain became incessant, debilitating. He took morphine, but after a while, it stopped having enough of an effect- the pain was still there, and it blocked his intestinal tract up as well. If he got a good hour or two in a day- just a short time when the pain subsided enough to let him concentrate on a book, or on a TV show, or maybe walk around the block- that was a good day. But the good days became fewer and farther between, and then the disease blocked him from even being able to eat or drink or swallow.

And as this progressed, he read about ending it all. He began to get mail from groups that offered advice, groups lobbying to change the laws in Florida, groups that told of the Oregon law and how the Justice Department was fighting it.

And he would tell me how he couldn't live with the pain anymore. He would look at me and say "what kind of life is this? I can't eat, I can't walk, I can't sit or lay down or stand up. This is no life." But he would not- could not- bring himself to end it himself. If it was legal, he may have done it, but he couldn't. And that's why he had to endure several last months of agonizing pain, unable to enjoy anything, able only to writhe in agony as the morphine didn't have enough effect.

So when I see the objections to assisted suicide, I can only think that the people fighting it tooth and nail- the people likening it to murder, to abortion- have never seen a loved one die in agony. They trot out the extremes- Kevorkian, people who are merely depressed, people who aren't terminal, people who aren't in pain- and they ignore or avoid those who they sentence to an extended period of the most intense physical pain known to man.

And I think of my father. He was a good- no, a great man, a man whose life's work helped countless children survive the inner city and get an education and prosper. He was a wonderful, loving father and husband. He did not deserve to have to spend the last few years of his life in an increasing state of torture.

I wish he was here today, not to suffer but to tell the court what it's like to suffer, what it's like to be terminal and without hope of a cure and in intense pain yet not permitted to end the agony. In the debate over Oregon's law, someone should be there to tell his story.


October 6, 2005


Threat in New York:

    There were indications that a terrorist attack on New York's subway system is possible "in the coming days," said New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. Both he and Bloomberg declined to give further details, citing security concerns. No arrests have been made in Manhattan, but operations continue outside the city, Kelly said, without mentioning where. And Bloomberg said that officials "do not have any reason to believe" that any of the plotters "are in New York at this point in time"

    "There is a possibility that this particular threat may be resolved in the coming days," said Mark Mershon, assistant director of the FBI's New York field office.

    It was the first specific threat against the city's subway system, Bloomberg said. But the threat did not mention specific subway stations, he said. "It was more specific as to target," he said. It was more specific as to timing, and some of the sources had more information that would lead one to believe that it was not the kind of thing that appears in the intelligence community every day."

    Bloomberg urged New Yorkers to be vigilant.

    "If you see something, say something. Call 311 or 911, if it's an emergency," he said, urging vigilance. (311 is New York City's phone number for government information.)

Okay, if there's a real threat to the subway system and you know it's a possibility, WHY WOULD YOU TAKE THE SUBWAY? Why would you go down there to be vigilant KNOWING that something could happen? Why would you NOT just take the bus? Or walk?

But there WERE explosions in New York today. In fact, they're still going on. Maybe it's just me, but fart humor stopped being funny, oh, 30 years ago. Except for Stewie, but that's different.


October 7, 2005


Here's the FCC's new indecency complaint website.

And here's their handy one-stop site for all of the indecency cases they've handled, including explicit transcripts.

Yes, they fine people for saying the same things they're happy to let anyone- including children- see on the Internet.

They've likened the broadcasters they've fined to pornographers. But that makes the FCC pornographers, too.

And while the FCC will claim that this is merely instructional, to show everyone what they've done on indecency, there is no warning label, no disclaimer, no content rating to protect children. And there's no safe harbor, either- the kids can access this stuff at any time from any computer. In fact, the FCC's indecent material is MORE pervasive than a local radio show, because unlike a radio show that can't be listened to in school and can't be listened to in mom's car without parental permission and guidance, this stuff can be looked up on any computer at any time, and no filtering program is going to block a government agency's educational website, is it?

You might believe that the two situations- raunchy radio shows and a government website with raunch- aren't the same. You're right. The FCC website is worse. Doesn't the FCC have a part of the same website designed to appeal to kids? Why, yes, it does.

Come on in, kids, and learn about the Cleveland Steamer! Maybe we'll throw in some Rusty Trombones for you! Unca Kevin and his Kommissioner Klowns are here to entertain you!

Maybe they just ought to fine themselves.


October 8, 2005


It's Saturday. You shouldn't be online Saturday.

What should you be doing Saturday? Shopping. Buy this. And pre-order this.

There. Now you can go do something else.


October 9, 2005


The Eagles' embarrassing loss to Dallas wasn't worth the planned few hours watching on the HD set- by the time I could get away from the computer to see some of the game, the Cowboys were already blowing them out and I didn't get the feeling that the Igs were going to do in Dallas what they did to Kansas City in the second half.

But by then, the Astros-Braves game was lurching into the bizarro world. As the innings flew by, at least that was worth watching- Burke's homer came as a relief, and I can't say that I'm sorry the Braves are out once again (sorry, Larry). I've pretty much had enough of the annual Braves' 90 win regular season followed by playoff failure. I'm tired of thinking that the Phillies could have made a better showing than that in the playoffs, too, but the Phillies have the same problem as the Braves, only worse: as I wrote about the Phillies a few weeks ago, the Braves are afflicted with the disease of being happy to be there, the acceptance of the "Also Participated" ribbon. The Phillies seem to think that it's enough to hang in there in the pennant race until the last week of the season before failing; at least the Braves wait until the first round of the playoffs before picking up their little trophies and heading to the ice cream parlor with all the other Good Losers.

None of the remaining baseball teams gets me all that excited in a positive way. I still can't stand the Yankees, but whether the Angels do them in back in Anaheim or not isn't really my biggest concern- I watched tonight's game, and while I worked up a healthy disdain for the Yankee louts in the stands, the same front-running suburbanites that were there when I was a kid, I don't feel the same blind malice towards Bernie Williams or Derek Jeter or Robinson Cano that I did towards Stottlemyre and Bahnsen and Murcer, Reggie and Rivers and Catfish, Mattingly and Guidry and Righetti. I have more important things to hate these days, like the Lakers and the New York Football Giants. If the Yankees win, I won't be happy, but I won't be all that upset...

...Aah, who am I kidding? I'll be pissed off, just like when they won in other years. And if they lose, I'll still take a little bit of pleasure, just like in the early 70's when they really sucked and their pitchers were swapping wives. And I'll still think dark thoughts when I see some clueless geek walking around wearing a Yankee cap. Can't wipe that completely out of my consciousness. Sorry.

Maybe the White Sox will pull it off, or maybe Carpenter and Mulder are enough to push the Cardinals to the title. Good for all of them. Has basketball started yet?


October 10, 2005


You tell me whether it's necessary for the winner of tonight's Angels-Yankees game to have to fly to Chicago immediately to play tomorrow in Chicago.

You tell me whether there's any justification for making two teams who played until late Sunday night in the Bronx, then flew directly to California, arriving at 4:30 am, then played a game at 5 pm in Anaheim to have to get back on a plane and play again the next day.

Why would anyone insist on this inhuman schedule?

Oh, right, it's Fox. Never mind.

I know what I feel like after flying cross country, even when it's not a red-eye. ANY athletic endeavor seems like a bad idea, but when I go for a run or hit the gym after a transcon flight, my performance is lacking. And Fox, to preserve its schedule after a rainout, is insisting on the criss-cross schedule.

At the moment, there's a chance that the network will relent and flip-flop the AL and NL series' starts. May common sense prevail. Lord knows I don't expect it.


October 11, 2005


Well, yeah, they WERE tired. But they won anyway.

That'll teach me to pop off about the inhumane travel arrangements made at the behest of Fox.

Some offensive display, though, huh? It's like the bats were turned off after the fourth inning. "I live for this"? I sleep for this.

All right, gotta go. Too agitated to think straight at the moment. Bear with me.


October 12, 2005


I'm getting tired of seeing stuff I want but don't absolutely need. Gadget lust gets aggravating when you realize you really can't be buying everything that seems cool, especially when there'll be something even cooler coming along in a month or two.

It's been worst with cell phones- I was on the every-Treo-upgrade kick until last year, when I went cold turkey refusing to buy the 650 because it just wasn't quite a big enough upgrade to justify the $600. expense. But if Sprint eventually offers the Windows Mobile 700 next year (after Verizon's exclusivity expires), I might have to go for it. (But I also have Razr Envy- I wish I didn't need a keyboard-equipped, Web-enabled, e-mail-fetching brick like the Treo, and I wish I could carry a thin, light, cool cell with a bright screen. I wish. But I can't)

And now comes the increasingly rapid iPod model procession. I finally broke down not too long ago and bought a 30 GB iPod Photo, and then came the Nano, which I don't need- it isn't even practical, since I'd fill up even the largest one immediately and I need the larger capacity- but I really want, and now comes this, the iPod Video.

I don't need it. It's full of drawbacks, like a tiny screen, heavy weight, and lousy battery life. I already have an iPod for audio, and the only time I'll need video is on Southwest Airlines, which doesn't have TV or movies and which I don't fly very often. But I want it. I want to carry TV show episodes in my pocket. I want the option of whipping an iPod out and firing up TV shows on it, even if the first shows being sold for it- "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives"- are shows I've watched never and rarely, respectively. I just want it.

But the 42" plasma HDTV comes first.



Umpire blew it. Ball didn't hit the dirt. Ripoff.

(And as in every single one of these cases, the team that got ripped off still should have closed the deal and couldn't. I wonder whether Scoscia's return trips to the field to argue some more didn't throw Escobar off just enough to let Ozuna get that massive jump to steal second, and then to groove one to Crede, who nearly hit it out. Sometimes, knowing that you won't win the argument, maybe it's best to shut up, get back to the game, and get down to business.)

(But the Angels still got ripped off.)


October 14, 2005


I fell asleep.

The Santa Ana winds were full-force yesterday, and they brought with them a thick layer of airborne crap from the desert, valleys, and basin. We don't normally have bad air- we live at the coast, blocked by a mountain from the brown layer hovering over L.A. and usually considerably cooler than inland. Yesterday was one of those days where the overll effect was like living in an unclean furnace, and it set my sinuses ablaze. The headache built through the afternoon, and at dinner I got queasy and faint. We made it back home, I got into bed, and I was out for the rest of the night.

So no blog, no answering phone calls, no answering e-mail, no work done, nothing. Sorry. I'm trying to get back on schedule now. You'll forgive me, right?


October 15, 2005


A woman in an SUV driving in front of me sits at the stop sign and won't go. There's no cross traffic, but she won't go. I hit the horn, she looks up, moves a few inches forward, then stops and looks down. I can't see what she's doing, there's still no cross traffic, I horn her again, she inches up, then goes. I go, too, and pass her. She's chatting animatedly on the phone.

I go running on my regular daily route. On Saturdays, the trail is crowded with people wearing "TEAM in Training" shirts (for a leukemia fudraiser) and belts with little plastic bottles on them, the kind people who aren't really runners buy because the man at the store tells them they'll need to keep hydrated. As they pass, I say hello and smile, something I always do when running. Regular runners always return the greeting. Not so the TEAM runners. They nearly run me over and say nothing, making no indication that they are aware I exist. I chalk this up to them being intent and focused, except that I notice they happily greet each other as they pass in opposite directions. And when I passed one of the many refreshment stations they set up (Power Bars, sports drinks, energy gels), I noticed that the woman in charge of the stand was clapping encouragement to a couple in TEAM t-shirts, then turned, looked at me, stopped clapping, and scowled as I said hello.

We're at a local Japanese restaurant. As we eat, a woman with two teenaged sons walks in. One son is on his cell phone, and as the family is seated across from us, the son is conducting his conversation on the phone. And he's loud. Very loud. He's arranging to meet a friend later, and he's loud enough for the entire restaurant to hear. When I look to see if the mother's doing anything about this, perhaps shushing the kid or telling him to take it outside, she's beaming, smiling with absolute pride at her precious moron child. He finishes the call, literally throws the phone at his brother, and stalks off to the bathroom. Mom kept smiling.

Are people ruder these days? I don't know if they're ruder, but they sure are rude.


October 16, 2005


The New York fans were all over A-Rod after the Division Series, frying him and blaming him for losing to the Angels. The tabloids were blasting him, the WFAN callers were ready to run him out of town, and you couldn't go very long in the city without someone making a denigrating reference to the well-paid superstar.

Right now, Vladimir Guerrero should be very, very happy he plays in Anaheim.

The Angel bats fell silent in about the fourth inning of Game 2 against the White Sox, and when a guy like Guerrero, easily one of the most feared hitters of his time, can't buy a hit or even get good wood on anything heaved in his direction, whatever heat gets heaped on him by the local media and fans is well-deserved. Except that they won't. Sure, T.J. Simers will make jokes about him in the Times (when he's not taking shots at his preferred target Garret Anderson, who at least drove in a run tonight), but that's about it. We don't have tabloids here, the sports radio stations (three in L.A., another pair in San Diego) aren't like WFAN or WIP or WEEI and will forget about the Angels in a day or two (maybe less- on Monday, the USC escape from South Bend will probably be of greater interest to the L.A. stations, and the San Diego stations will be celebrating the Chargers' drubbing of Oakland), and the Register will probably be finished with the post-mortem by Wednesday at the latest. And there won't be a "BAD VLAD" headline in sight, or "ESCOBAR-F," or "CAB-WHERE-A?"

L.A. sports is like Little League. You lose, you go to the Cold Stone Creamery and everyone gets a Like It scoop (one mix-in, kids) and then goes home. In New York, it's like if you didn't get the ice cream but Daddy got his belt out instead. I'd rather play in L.A., but, all things being equal, I'd rather win.


October 17, 2005


Charles Rocket died over a week ago, apparently slashing his own throat. He was 56 and it had been a long time since I'd seen him in anything, so like everyone else I looked him up in IMDB and, sure enough, some guest shots here, some destined-for-video-if-they're-lucky movies there, but nothing major for a long time. The obits call him a "comedian," but he appears to have been mostly a comic actor, not a stand-up, and I was never all that impressed with his work.

He was known for one thing. You know what that was.

He never really recovered- he did some small roles and guest shots on some major TV shows and movies, but he never really broke past his legacy. Whatever he did, you thought "hey, isn't that the guy who dropped the f-bomb on 'Saturday Night Live'?" And that he was.

His life was irrevocably altered for the worse for one word.

He said one word.

One mistake.

And he wasn't the last to do it, but the outrage for his transgression- at a time when nobody was actually watching "Saturday Night Live"- was exceedingly harsh. Norm MacDonald didn't take as much abuse, but maybe people expected it of him. Charles Rocket, well, maybe he wasn't talented or likeable enough, or maybe he picked lousy scripts, or maybe he just didn't have it, but when it comes down to it, he got derailed because of one word, a word everyone says, a word everyone understands, a word that's offensive primarily because we say it is.

That's f'ed.


October 18, 2005


Didja see Pujols' homer last night? Really something, that was. Great moment in baseball history. Amazing. You'll never forget it.

I, on the other hand, didn't see it. I was working, and a friend called just after it happened to tell me all about it; otherwise, I might have gone to bed without knowing what happened. And this is not the first time I've missed a big event because I was doing something else at the time. Kirk Gibson's legendary World Series homer? Missed it. Fall of the Berlin Wall? Saw it after the fact. I think I saw Neil Armstrong on the moon, but I don't remember it at all, so I might as well have missed it.

The list grows every year: I didn't watch when they revealed who shot J.R., I didn't see Christian Laettner's last-second shot, I wasn't in front of the TV when Nixon resigned. I was watching on a little portable TV when the Challenger launched (while I was sitting in an Albany convention hall waiting to be sworn into the New York bar, of all places), but switched it off, thinking "aah, just another shuttle launch, big deal"- it wasn't until after the ceremony and halfway to Poughkeepsie that I realized something might have happened.

Here are more things I managed to miss:

Gulf War I
Jim McGreevey's farewell speech
Every time someone dropped an f-bomb on "Saturday Night Live"
Johnny Carson's last show
Janet Jackson at halftime
Ashlee Simpson at halftime
Pretty much every halftime
The play with all the laterals and the band getting run over (1982 Cal-Stanford)

Joe Carter's home run to beat the Phillies in '93? Oh, I saw THAT. I wish I hadn't, but I didn't miss THAT. Of course not.


October 19, 2005


Ever just hit the wall and be unable to string together coherent thoughts?

That's me right now.

I'm going to go now. Back later. Thanks.


October 20, 2005


I say a variation of this every year on this date, and I hate to be repetitive, but, then again, I want to be honest and tell you what's on my mind every day, so pardon me if you've heard this one before:

On October 20, 1990, I got married. It's been 15 years to the day since then, and every day I feel even more certain that it was the smartest decision I've ever made and the best thing I've ever done.

We've been through a lot in 15 years- bliss and tragedy, several jobs and unemployment, about six or seven different homes- but there has never been a moment of doubt that life is a lot better together than it ever could have been apart. And early this morning, when I heard Fran stirring, I ran out of the office to greet her with the message that gets more joyous with every passing year:

Happy anniversary, Fran.

Sing along with this.

Click here for the lyrics in case you've forgotten.


October 21, 2005


Too much to do, brain not functioning properly, so I'm gonna go into light blog mode (as if it hasn't been light enough already) for a few days. I'll post pictures and scans and stuff for your amusement, and at some point I'll get to a State of Talk Radio thing I've been promising. So check in and see if I've gotten myself in gear.

Until then, here's a picture of Hoss Cartwright. Enjoy.


October 22, 2005


Had one of these Sirius satellite receivers in the car:

Got this to replace it today:

Now, this is more like it- lots fewer features, a one-line screen, but much, much more practical. The big PnP2 brick I've been using had a nice, big, bright, readable screen, the ability to keep favorite songs in memory to alert the listener when it comes on again, and lots of handy preset buttons. It is also so heavy that short of putting in a thick permanent metal mount that would pretty much preclude anyone from sitting in the passenger seat, it had no practical place to sit. I was using an Ultimount- made for cell phones- and it would sag and droop and eventually slip off.

The new one- the Xact Visor- is tiny, so tiny that it fits in the little empty well behind the change drawer and under the ash tray in the console, no problem, plenty of room. It has that one line, scrolling, and no memory. It can't rewind and record like some of the new ones, and it can't be used as an iPod-equivalent. All it can do is sit in the car (or, with a home kit, in the home) and play Sirius channels and music.

Which is all you need.

And it's $49.99.

And it requires practically no installation. It has an FM transmitter- any frequency- built in. You just throw the antenna in the back, run the wire up front, plug it into the receiver, plug the receiver into the cigarette lighter, that's it.

Forget the "wearables" and color screens and anything other whiz-bang receivers they've been pushing at retail. THIS is all anyone needs. If I had one like this- tiny, easy to install, no special mounting- from the beginning, I'd have been listening to more satellite radio all the while. (And if XM drops the RoadyXT price to $49.99, they'll get me as a customer, too- I do want baseball via satellite radio after all...)

Are you listening, consumer electronics manufacturers? Easy to use, small, cheap. Save the bells and whistles- give me something small that works and I'll get the credit card out.


October 23, 2005


Continuing my "week off" from heavy-duty blogging, here's Fillerama for Sunday, screen shots from a public domain commercial reel:

First, say jell-o to everyone's favorite singing sensations, the 5th Dimension! Well, hello, gang (including the fat one)!

What brings you to our homes tonight?

Oh, I see:

Here's a superstar confluence that hasn't happened before or since, with the possible exception of Bowie and Bing: why, it's Bugs and the Monkees!

It's a spot for Kool-Aid. Note the total indifference of Mike and Mickey. Peter's off somewhere doing something else, maybe checking out the Kool-Aid, I imagine.

And let's wrap this one up with an offensive ethnic stereotype, shall we?

Ay, yi yi yi indeed. This spot touted a free Frito Bandito eraser. They don't give away ethnic stereotype erasers anymore. In fact, they don't give away anything anymore, except for useless online "codes" you can enter to, er, I'm not sure what those codes on sodas and wrappers really do. What were we talking about again? Ah, right, I'm "taking the week off." Aha.

Oh, one more: Desi gives Lucy the gift of emphysema:

Nothing says "I Love You" like a mouthful of nicotine.


October 24, 2005


Procrastinating from actual writing continues with today's installment of Blog Filler Theater, Selected Highlights From the 1962-63 TV Guide Fall Preview Issue. It's still interesting to look through the old Fall Previews (yeah, I know, I have no life) and see what shows hit and missed.

First up, this vaguely familiar looking chap:

This one was kind of a miss, lasting one season, but the star did OK later in a very different milieu. "Stoney Burke" not only had McGarrett, but also starred a young Bruce Dern and Warren Oates (who, as far as I can tell, was never young). It was about sullen rodeo cowboys in the modern West, and I guess it wasn't right for 1962 sensibilities.

On another page, a small picture noted the arrival of another guy to the network lineup:

The blurb about the change at the desk for "The Tonight Show" speculated whether the new host would go over well with "the ladies." Guess he did.

Some shows were obvious hits from the very start:

And some probably seemed like safe bets but weren't, like this one:

Gene Kelly, based on a hit movie, how could it go wrong? But it did. At least it gave TV audiences a taste of Darren Stephens to come.

Ridiculous and sublime in one show, the one non-hit from this season I remember watching as a kid:

The brilliant Gomez Addams! The, er, well, Marty Ingels! Actually, to my toddler sensibilities, it was hilarious. But I couldn't distinguish it too easily from "Mack and Myer For Hire," despite the latter being about 5 minutes long and not starring Gomez and Marty.

Interesting postscript to this one, a show I don't recall at all other than seeing it in listings of the time:

The star of the show was not the guy saying "don't call me Charlie!" The star was a young actor named Josh Peine, who I couldn't recall at all. Whatever happened to him? That's what Google is for- found him. And he seems to have done quite well for himself in a very different field. (And dropping out of the Hollywood scene and ending up in gorgeous New Mexico... yeah, I can understand that)

One final show, another I didn't remember, a one-season bomb:

The concept was that an American family swapped daughters with a British family in an exchange student program, with all the obvious and probably unamusing consequences thereof. The American daughter was Lynn Loring, who guested on a lot of shows in the 60's and maried Roy Thinnes (!), while the British daughter was Judy Carne, who you know from "Laugh-In." The bratty British brother was Dennis Waterman, who became much more successful as an adult in "The Sweeney" and "Minder" and a zillion other British TV appearances. I can imagine how bad this show probably was, but wouldn't it be a great idea for a reality show? I mean... um... you know, forget I ever said that. I gotta go make some phone calls.


October 25, 2005


I could comment on the Infinity "Free FM" format thing. After all, 15 years ago, I helped create the concept of "FM Talk." Surely I have an opinion on what Infinity's doing, on the chances for David Lee Roth and Adam Carolla to succeed.

Not today. I'm "off."


October 26, 2005


The problem with shopping at Costco is that you go for one thing and you end up buying something totally different, bacause they often don't have what you want but they do have something you hadn't realized you need.


Simplified: I stopped at Costco to see if they had the new Looney Tunes DVD collection, because I'd gotten Volumes 1 and 2 there, at the cheapest price. They didn't.

But they did have something else, right at the endcap, on a haphazard display of "gift and holiday books."

"The Complete Calvin and Hobbes."

List $150. Amazon price $94.50. Barnes and Noble price $90. Costco price $80.99.

Do I need it? No. Er, maybe.

When "Calvin and Hobbes" hit the papers in 1985, I was still drawing cartoons myself for some papers in the Philadelphia area. My reaction to the new strip went like this:

a) Reminds me of those Warner Bros. cartoons where the little Ralph kid daydreamed about being a cowboy and astronaut. There are worse things to resemble than a Warner Bros. cartoon.

b) The kid has the same hair that I used in my self-portrait cartoons- an unruly zig-zag of blond hair.

c) This is really, really good. Humiliatingly so- I knew I could not be that good. I hated that someone was that much better at it than I, and I loved it for being that good.

"Calvin and Hobbes" went into the pantheon for me, along with "Peanuts." I respected and liked "Doonesbury" in its first decade or so for being uniquely political and modern, but it didn't hold up like "Peanuts" and "C&H." I never really liked "Bloom County" on that level- very derivative of "Doonesbury" at the outset, too glib, not nearly as perceptive as advertised, and I always got the feeling that Breathed wanted to do something different (and when he did, with "Outland" and "Opus" and the children's books, it wasn't that great). In today's papers, "Get Fuzzy" and "Pearls Before Swine" are the main daily reads, and I like "Pooch Cafe," "Big Top," "Frazz," a few others, but there is no "Calvin and Hobbes." (Actually, there IS for a short while, the reruns that are appearing on comics pages to promote the book, but that will go away after the holidays) The precocious six year old with the hyperactive imagination, frazzled parents, and stuffed tiger pal was a unique creation, and reading the reruns in the L.A. Times for the past few weeks reminded me of just how good it was. I thought about buying the book, winced at the price and unbelievable heft of the thing, searched prices, thought about it some more, put the thought aside.

And then we were in Costco and they didn't have the Looney Tunes DVD, and I saw the stacks of huge brown boxes with the boy and his tiger lolling under a tree in autumn, and I stopped, looked, picked one up (with some difficulty- it's damn heavy), put it back, walked around the DVDs again, browsed the rest of the book section, came back, and did the should-I-gee-I-dunno-do-I-need-this-I-shouldn't thing. Then I noticed one was unwrapped, slid the first volume out, and paged through it.

December 7, 1986- Sunday strip. "Goldilocks and the Three Tigers," Hobbes' bedtime story that involves Goldilocks being divided up into portions and dunked in porridge.


Yeah, I had to have it. We have no kids; this is for us. And now that I hauled it home and I've been browsing the early years of the strip, the decision seems to be an easy one.

Worth every penny.


October 27, 2005


"Pearls Before Swine" takes a good, hard shot at talk radio right here.

Made me laugh.


October 28, 2005


I thought I was taking this week off from blogging.

Maybe I am.

OK, if you insist.


October 29, 2005


We have an election coming up here at the Edge of Southern California, and I don't know a huge amount about local politics in my town. I should be ashamed of that- civic pride, civic duty, all of that- but I don't have the time and there's not enough difference between the candidates to make a difference. Everyone's for fiscal responsibility and open spaces and maintaining the flavor of life in the area blah blah blah. OK, whatever.

And then there's the school board election. There are four candidates- we have to pick three. It's not a matter of picking the best candidate, it's more about picking the worst and voting for the other three. That would be difficult- they all stand for fiscal responsibility, maintaining the school district's high standards, blah blah blah- except for one thing. Let's see if you can tell the key difference:

Candidate 1: Retired college instructor, 22 year local resident, member of various educational committees.
Candidate 2: Incumbent, attorney, 27 year local resident.
Candidate 3: Business woman, 30 year local resident, PTA COuncil president.
Candidate 4: Retired teacher, 20 year local resident, spending huge amounts on campaign advertising, endorsed by teacher's union.


The union's puppet- er, candidate- is buying full-page ads in the local papers with long lists of endorsements, mostly from union folks. She bought billboards- not just the little lawn signs everyone has, but full-sized billboards on the roads out of town, which cost real money. She has people flooding the local weekly with fawning letters lauding her for being a saintly, nearly perfect human being. If you aren't paying rapt attention to the issues, you'd think she's the only candidate. And, surely, if you're in the teacher's union and you want to ensure that the good times and good money keep rolling right into your checking account, you're going to love her. If you pay taxes here, you may not.

Meanwhile, Candidate 1 was offered the union's endorsement- bad- but turned it down- good. And I don't know a lot about Candidates 1, 2, and 3. But I do pay taxes here, and while I'm not against all public school spending- I'll even be voting in favor of a property tax levy that'll raise my taxes but will pay for needed physical repairs to the local schools and qualify the district for matching funds- I don't trust anyone in the union's pocket.

OK, that's settled. Next: the California propositions.


October 30, 2005


Okay, I promised to go over the California ballot propositions and here they are:

Prop. 73: Waiting Period and Parental Notification For Abortions For Minors: Oh, geez, do we have to go through this now? If I were a parent, I'd want to know if my daughter was having ANY medical procedure, much less this one. But I'm not a parent, so it's hard to get too worked up over this one. Can I skip it? Yes? Good.

Prop. 74: Increases time before tenure for teachers from 2 to 5 years: Yes. My dad was a teacher and principal, and he used to explain to me the importance of tenure to protect teachers from political pressure and other stuff that all sounded like, well, we want to be protected from the scrutiny everyone else gets on every other job. Why teachers should be insulated from that, I have no idea. Let them find out how everyone else lives. I'd vote yes to eliminate tenure, but at least this is a good start. Nobody should be guaranteed a job for life- not that they should be unfairly fired, but the rest of us aren't guaranteed anything.

Prop. 75: This is the one that stops unions from taking part of the union dues for political use without the member's assent. I understand the idea behind the union putting money into campaigns for candidates they perceive as pro-labor, but I'm sympathetic to those who want to opt out, because I've seen unions that are run primarily for the leadership's benefit, and I'd hate to have part of my paycheck be funneled to candidates I didn't want to support because the union heads are taking care of someone who took care of them. Guess that's a "yes."

Prop. 76: Limit on school spending. Governor can cut some budget appropriations unilaterally. Qualified yes- school spending in some districts is out of control, and isn't ever reaching the classroom. It gets eaten up by administration and buried in questionable programs. Time to put a stop to that.

Prop. 77: Redistricting. Incumbents hate this, because the current gerrymandered districts mean perpetuation of party rule in some areas- they'll always be safe Democratic or Republican seats. Let 'em squirm. And the ads being run by the anti forces show elderly white judges as the evil enemy that will decide on the districts, as if judges aren't qualified to do it. It's a yes.

Prop. 78: Prescription drug program for low and moderate income residents. Rebates and stuff.
Prop. 79: Prescription drug program for low and moderate income residents. Rebates and stuff.
Apparently, there are differences between these two, but I'll b e damned if I can figure them out yet. I still have to look at these. Make 'em undecided until then.

Prop. 80: Electricity re-regulation. Regulates industry and rates, restricts your ability to switch providers. We can switch providers? To whom? My current choices are Southern California Edison and... er, that's it. Right now, we pay astronomical rates for shaky service. With re-regulation, we'll pay astronomical rates for shaky service. Flip a coin.

The election's November 8. I can't wait.



At Fran's urging, I tried a piece of red velvet cake tonight.

I'm pretty sure my internal organs are now an unnatural shade of crimson.

Next time, I stick to chocolate. You can never go wrong with chocolate.


October 31, 2005


In which I return to the recurring theme of how fleeting fame can be:

The arrival of the new Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 3- yes, I'm an adult with no kids and I still buy cartoon DVDs- was a welcome note in a busy day, especially because one of the DVDs collects those cartoons with all the bad Hollywood caricatures. You know the ones if you, like I did, grew up on the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies diet of TV watching. I think I learned a lot about the celebrities of my grandfather's day from those cartoons, but today they're kinda sad, because if you show a kid any of them, they won't have much of an idea what's going on. A good example is this one:

"The Coo Coo Nut Grove" was a plotless 1936 Friz Freleng cartoon with a series of lame gags, some of which played on the celebrities (and the audience's familiarity with them) and some which came out of nowhere. Adding to the confusion, some were drawn as animals and birds, some as humans. Here, the non-human (inhuman?) depictions of bandleader Ben Bernie and gossipista Walter Winchell:

Bernie was the guy best known for interjecting a mournful "yowsah, yowsah" in his stage patter, a tic later appearing in the dance marathon episode of "Happy Days," spoken by a very non-Ben-Bernie-like Richie Cunningham. Bernie's completely forgotten now, while Winchell at least was the subject of that HBO movie a few years ago with Stanley Tucci ("The Untouchables" doesn't play on TV enough to count anymore). But this guy was once the most feared man in America. Now, his name evokes almost no reaction.

This guy wasn't even a big star in 1936:

He was a contract player named Hugh Herbert, nicknamed "Woo Woo" for his trademark catchphrase. A version of him was seen in a lot of Warners cartoons, as was this individual:

Edna May Oliver. Played lots of spinster and crazy aunt roles, and had that face, easily cariacatured. Also parodied in a lot of cartoons of the era. She was an Oscar nominee for "Drums Along the Mohawk" in 1939 but died three years later. Now, other than the cartoons, there's practically no trace of her.

Same for this guy:

Ned Sparks, famous in the 30s as the guy who never smiled and had a distinctively crabby voice. Warners and Disney both used Ned Sparks voice parodies in many cartoons. Unknown today.

In 1936, these kids were a household word:

The Dionne Quintuplets. The first surviving identical quints. Their lives were made into a sideshow with tragic results- it wasn't happy. The story's easy to find, but most people will draw a blank on them.

Think anyone other than the cinema buffs knows who the Great Profile was?

Oh, there are some people who remain familiar to more than the movie-obsessed, like these:

W.C. Fields is easy. The horse- real nice, those Boys From Termite Terrace were- is supposed to be Katherine Hepburn. You'll recognize these icons:

And this sorta freaky image:

A Harpo bird, in a running gag, chases a woman with a big hat and her face away from the camera, which turns out to be Groucho in drag for no apparent reason other than maybe the animators and writers had a thing for moustachioed comedians in women's clothing.

This dance card is half-famous today:

Mae West, who still has some fame several years after her passing. She's dancing with a turtle who's supposed to be George Arliss- the monocle's the tipoff. He has a star on the Walk of Fame, but I imagine most tourists dodging the beggars and prostitutes on Hollywood Boulevard have no idea he was a big star, an Oscar winner for his celebrated portrayal of Benjamin Disraeli.

"Gone With the Wind" keeps this guy familiar:

But the cartoon ends with a sequence that seems very odd indeed if you don't know that this person...

... was a very famous singer, Helen Morgan, the original torch singer who would make tough guys weep as she sang about being done wrong and twisted her trademark napkin. She was in the midst of a brief comeback in 1936, a triumphant appearance in the movie version of "Show Boat." But she was a drinker, and she died a few years later, her liver shot to hell. She was famous enough in 1957 to warrant a big biopic, "The Helen Morgan Story." She's not famous enough now for anyone to remember her. But remembering her explains why forgotten movie tough guy Wallace Beery:

... and less-forgotten tough guys Edward G. Robinson and George Raft...

... are crying here. And they cry so much that everyone in the Coo Coo Nut Grove floats away on a sea of tears, leading to...

The cartoon, frankly, is awful- not funny, bad caricatures, bad voices, no plot. But it should be required viewing to the ego cases of today, the actors and musicians and rappers and athletes. Hey, Paris Hilton, ever heard of Ned Sparks or Wallace Beery or George Arliss? No? Good. Enjoy fame while you still can.Someday, you'll be completely irrelevant.

Oh, wait, you already are.


About October 2005

This page contains all entries posted to PMSimon.com in October 2005. They are listed from oldest to newest.

September 2005 is the previous archive.

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