May 2010 Archives


The trick, on Memorial Day, is to not let the holiday trappings obscure the meaning of the day. The sense of loss is balanced by the sense of gratitude to generations of people far more valiant and brave than I, preserving my right to be a fairly useless wiseass for pay. And that shouldn't be overwhelmed by the smell of burgers and hot dogs on the grill, the warmth of the sun, the tell-tale ad banners flying overhead on their way around the Peninsula after buzzing Hermosa and Redondo.

But those are nice, too. I worked all day, but the burgers and the sun were here, and Summer, the non-calendar, psychological version, has arrived. Here, it's not that the beach stuff is finally open for the season and the weather has turned; it's been the same for a while, and the bars and restaurants by the beach don't close for the Winter, anyway. If someone doesn't say it's Summer, you wouldn't necessarily notice.

There IS, however, a change in seasons here, not as radical as that in the Old Country (the mid-Atlantic to you) but still noticeable. I didn't break out the shorts as daily formal wear until a few weeks ago. The NBA and NHL are in the final round, which definitely says "Summer" nowadays. The whole region is blotched with Laker purple and gold. If we had ice cream trucks, they'd be here now.

Again, though, that's not the real reason we -- well, YOU -- had the day off today. Today is a day for those of us who enjoy freedom in America to say one word to the people who gave their lives for us:


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It's a vacation day. What are you doing online?

Here's Lloyd Thaxton in 1966 lipsyncing "Getaway" by Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames on an exercise bike:

You're welcome.

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There were a lot of appropriate possibilities for commemorating the day. Watching the Lakers-Suns would have worked; he loved basketball, and he loved calling me to talk about every big game, sometimes calling while the game was in progress to watch it with me, him sitting in Florida, me in California. Or I could have watched the Phillies-Marlins, which would have been especially appropriate, since I used to take him to Marlins games and, being a Phillies fan, I would have been overjoyed to witness Roy Halliday's perfect game.

But in the end, I chose the hamburger.

My father, Harold Simon, passed away six years ago today. The last day I saw him, he was in a hospice, and he asked me to bring him a hamburger. I went out and got him the best burger I could find in Boca Raton, a nice, big, sloppy third-pounder with the works. He took a bite, and, in tears, spit it out. He could not swallow, could not eat, knew he was about to die, and wanted one last taste of the meal he loved the most. At the time, it was heartwrenching. Today, I can look back and think about how grateful I am that he had one last chance to savor his favorite food.

So, yeah, I would have liked to see the perfect game, and would have liked to watch the basketball game. But I know that the best way to salute my father today was the burger, a big, sloppy third-pounder with the works. So we went to The Counter in El Segundo, a place I would have wanted to take Dad if he were here. He'd have loved it. I wish he was with us today. But, in a way, I suppose he was.

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One observation after a long Friday:

It appears to be mandatory that all conversations on cell phones in public places like, for example, the Costco parking lot must begin with "Hello... Oh, nothing. You?" I swear, I've heard that too many times for it to be a coincidence.

Also, the HTC Touch Pro sucks. Have I mentioned that lately? Because it does. (Chris, I got your voice mail message several hours late. My phone occasionally doesn't ring or vibrate. I hate my phone)

That's all the excitement I can muster, with the possible exception of the Phillies finally scoring runs tonight, and winning. It's about time.

More tomorrow, on a sad anniversary.


No time tonight, so here's Alvin Gentry puking on national TV:

Mmm. Just as tasty coming up as it was going down. And they had to show the replay?

Of COURSE they did. Nobody wanted to miss that.

If Ron Artest hadn't ended the game with an epic putback at the buzzer, the coach hurling into a trash can is all anyone would be talking about.

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After a season of shows of which I saw not a single minute, some guy beat some woman to become "American Idol" tonight.

He won by singing some song and some other song, which voters preferred to the songs sung by the woman. There were moments in which both were criticized by the judges, especially the one who's leaving to start the American version of some other show, and praise, too. The host teased the outcome in several marginally clever ways, there were tribute sequences to various people, and, at the end, the winner sang his song while tears flowed.

See? You didn't miss a thing. Neither did I, for that matter.

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It is an indication of what my daily schedule has become when an extended stay in a waiting room this afternoon became a welcome respite. I was able to read a substantial portion of a book I've been waiting to read ever since I took it out of the library three weeks ago -- I borrowed it, then renewed it because I never got to read any of it in the initial term. I've had no time to read for pleasure. The hour or so I spent in a sterile waiting room was like a vacation.

And then it was back to work.

I suppose that's what life is like for a lot of us. The constant connection -- computer, cell phone, bluetooth, meetings -- plus family and social and practical obligations means we don't get a lot of time for ourselves. I know it's common to use the bathroom for that, since it's the one place you KNOW you won't be bothered, but that's not comfortable and I can't hog the place forever. But there's no other place to hide, no other time to carve out of the schedule. This evening, I couldn't even step away from the computer for dinner while my instant messaging kept beeping with more conversation. It doesn't end.

The waiting room, then, was bliss. The rest of being there wasn't exactly joyful, but sitting there getting some time to read and tune out the noise was indeed like a vacation. I need more of that.

Think they'll let me sit in the waiting room if I don't have an appointment?


What can one do when there's no time for frivolous blog posts?

How about celebrating tonight's Flyers victory with this?:

Yes, that's Gene Hart narrating a segment about the 1975 Stanley Cup champions. Yes, the fog game's in there. So are Clarke and Kelly and Parent and Clement and... ah, yes, good times.

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What better way to waste Saturday than with the obscure predecessor of a somewhat less obscure yet equally inconsequential TV news theme?

Son't answer that.

Everyone who has ever lived in Philadelphia knows this:

It's the Action News theme, "Move Closer To Your World," which has been on the air every night since 1972. Channel 6, WPVI-TV, has been dominant in local news for practically the entire time, and it tends to keep its anchors and reporters around, well, forever. Jim Gardner's been the lead anchor since 1976. It's an institution. And it was used elsewhere:

KFSN-TV Fresno:

WTVD Raleigh-Durham:

WKBW-TV Buffalo:

You get the idea.

But this theme, written by Al Ham and very tightly identified with the Philadelphia station, wasn't the first Action News theme. This was:

That's not Philadelphia. It's St. Paul, but that music was the original "Action News Theme" from WPVI -- actually, WFIL-TV at the time -- in 1970. Note the opening with the shot of a woman slowly making her way across her room. What in hell was THAT supposed to be?

The same theme pops up in Binghamton:

And you didn't need to know any of that. But If I'm fated to waste brain cells on it, I might as well force you to do the same.

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It started, as all great successes do, with a simple, practically accidental thing. I was looking through the news for Talk Topics stories when I found this:

Woman Accused Of Smashing Guitar On Aunt's Head

Forget the actual story. It was clearly about one thing and one thing only.


So I posted it. And then, in writing a column, I realized that I could easily Kabong the people about whom I was writing. Never someone to look a gift horse in the mouth, I threw that into the column. It's here. And I got a LOT of reaction, because who doesn't love Quick Draw McGraw?

It's amazing how an offhand comment about an obscure but strangely beloved cartoon character can generate more reaction than pretty much anything else. And now I'm empowered. From here on out, every column will include a reference to a cartoon character. Let's see, next week... Lippy the Lion or Odie Cologne?


From CBS Radio News' Twitter feed:

I don't know what the rest of it is, but I'd click to find out. Pubic health is American's number one issue.


Am I gonna do this again?


We had to run some errands tonight, and as a result I had to push All Access work later, and now it's too late to piece together a coherent thought. (Prolonged exposure to big box stores will do that to you) Tomorrow's column day, but I'll try to add something of value here.

For once.


Had to go to an appointment, so I'm running late, so...



In the e-mail box today:

Believe it or not, your 25-year law school reunion is now upon us.

Oh, I believe it, all right. I feel every one of those 25 years in every joint of my body. You don't have to remind me.

This is a milestone worth celebrating,

No, it isn't. Really, it's the anniversary of building up a lot of debt.

a great time to make a trip back to campus and reconnect with friends.

I remain in touch with most of the friends I had in law school. There are a couple more I wouldn't mind seeing, but they know where I am and how to get in touch. The Internet, it's an amazing thing. I don't need to haul across the country for that.

We will host this year's Milestone Reunion Celebration at the Law School on Saturday, October 16, 2010.

Actually, I'm otherwise occupied. Really. I do have a business obligation that day. But if I didn't, you can be sure I wouldn't be at a law school reunion.

XXXXXXX are leading your class reunion committee and are actively seeking additional members to join them.

I didn't edit out the name there. The e-mail really does say XXXXXXX. I'll hazard a guess that nobody wants the job.

The committee's duties are MINIMAL but very important. First, we ask that you plan to attend the main event on Saturday evening.

See, right there, the duties are too onerous for me.

Second, we ask that you help generate enthusiasm for the reunion by reaching out to your classmates with emails and phone calls.

And that seals that. Generate enthusiasm for a night of comparing waistlines and male pattern baldness with a bunch of middle-aged guys in suits that I don't even know? Yeah, I can really build up a head of steam for that.

In short, everyone's task will be to identify and contact approximately 5 to 10 classmates and encourage them to attend the reunion. Easy, right?

Oh, sure, simple. It's a sales job, and the product sucks. I really want to cold-call a bunch of people who don't even remember who I am and try to convince them to come back to the law school to reunite with each other while I sit in a corner. That'll happen.

Law school, to me, was a means to an end, the end being an extra boost in business, preferably the media business, and the degree, and bar membership, has served its purpose. It helped move me into the corporate end of broadcasting, I did well in that, and then, when I moved to the creative end of the business, I hung up the suits and never looked back. Looking back to law school appeals to me not even a little bit. What I remember is hanging out with a couple of classmates marveling at a lot of our fellow students and imagining what they'd be like as real lawyers. Now that those people ARE lawyers, it's not quite so amusing to see what they're like.

So I won't. No reunion for me, just as it would take wild horses, a shotgun, and a horrible lapse in judgment for me to go to my high school or college reunions. Facebook's about as much of a reunion as I can handle.

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Microsoft has updated its Bing mobile app for Windows Mobile 6.x, and it offers turn-by-turn navigation, so I installed it on my HTC Touch Pro to see if it would be a good replacement for carrying around my Garmin GPS all the time. I'm still carrying too many devices -- iPod Touch, cell phone, GPS unit -- and reducing that to two or one device is my goal, probably to be attained when my Sprint contract expires in October and I switch to either an iPhone on AT&T or stick with Sprint with an Evo. But until then, it's three devices, unless....

So, the Bing app. How is it? Well, it's... okay, in theory. It's an all-purpose search app with maps, GPS navigation, and voice recognition. A few caveats are in order: first, the navigation isn't GPS-like, because it offers only an aerial view, like a moving road map. GPS units give you that bird's-eye view that makes way more sense when you're driving. Second, GPS offers something people like me who have aging eyes need: prior notice of cross-street names. I like being able to see what the next street is without fruitlessly searching for a street sign. And, finally, there's that voice recognition.

GPS units don't offer voice commands, but they should. It would be nice to bark out your destination instead of painstakingly pecking the name onto a non-standard keyboard; it prevents having to pull over to get directions, too. Bing has voice controls, and for some things, it works fine. "Starbucks," you say, and it gives you a list of Starbucks in the immediate area. "Target," you say, and it gives you a list of Starbucks in the immediate area. "Police station," you say, and it gives you a list of Starbucks in the immediate area. It likes Starbucks, but, then again, Microsoft's from Seattle, too.

In Rancho Palos Verdes, though, I didn't need Starbucks. Test number one was to see if it would get me from the Trader Joe's parking lot at Golden Cove to the post office up at the top of the hill. "Post office," I said. It thought for a minute, then told me it didn't understand. "Post office!," I repeated, with a little more emphasis. It responded with directions to the Home Depot in San Pedro. "POST OFFICE!," I said for a third time. This time, it gave me a list of post offices, the first one being a location in Peninsula Center that I'm pretty sure doesn't actually exist. The Deep Valley Drive office was second on that list, and third, and fourth. Good enough, I thought, and selected the second, which proceeded to correctly guide me to the post office. It took some work, but it DID work.

Time, then, for a second test, this time from the post office to the Ralphs on Hawthorne and Crest. "Ralphs," I said. The phone considered the request, then spat back "Searching for Alph's." Finding nothing named "Alph's," it asked if I wanted to try again. "RALPHS," I repeated. It responded that it didn't know what I was saying and I should try again. "RALPHS!" Nothing. "R. A. L. P. H. S," I said. It responded that there were no listings for "RJLPH'S." By this time, I was pulling into the Ralphs parking lot. One more try: "Arrrr. Ayyyy. Ellll. Peeee. Aitch. Essss." And it immediately displayed a map showing Ralphs... in Torrance, behind Del Amo mall. I was about 30 feet from the door to Ralphs in Rancho Palos Verdes at that moment. Round two was a failure.

A final test was to see if it would get me from Ralphs to my home, a short ride. I announced my street address and waited. And waited. And then it told me it was looking up "VALENTINE BRISKET," or something like that. I know Valentine was involved. I tried again. It caught the number this time, but no street. I spelled it out. Nothing. As I pulled onto my block, I tried one more time... and it figured me out. But I'm not sure that counts as a victory.

The verdict: The GPS stays. I need the larger screen, the bird's-eye mapping, the street announcements. The Bluetooth's nice, too. And while it doesn't do voice recognition, it doesn't misunderstand me, either. It may mean that I have to lug that extra brick around, but at least it won't be taking me to Alph's on Valentine Brisket.

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The Great Lawn Mower Exchange and Green Celebration happened this morning. After maneuvering my car past the Palos Verdes Marathon, in which I chose not to run because I am not insane, I pulled up to the Coliseum parking lot at about 10:30 am where the South Coast Air Quality Management District had set up and handed them my release form, signed another form, gave them a check, and watched as they took my old gas mower and stuffed a huge box with a new Black and Decker electric mower into the back seat of my car. The process took about 10 minutes, if that, and I was back on the 110 freeway and on my way home.

So, once I got to our driveway, I dragged the mower out of the back seat, and after removing it from the box and assembling it, I charged it up, then took it out for a spin on the patches of weeds we jokingly call our lawn. My first impression is that, despite getting the more powerful model, this thing doesn't cut very well. If we had a larger lawn or more of a need to trim what we have, I'd be disappointed. For our purposes, it's fine; we have a service to do the lawn, and this is really more of a backup and occasional cleanup/trimming machine. And it does that well enough. But these electrics are not even close to a match for a real, carbon-footprint-expanding, emission-spewing gas-powered mower. And the gas mowers not only cut more and better, but are self-propelled and about as heavy as the electrics.

Why, then, make the switch? For us, it was the opportunity to get rid of a mower that was far too old and overpowered for our needs. The electric will do the trick. Emissions? We don't cut the lawn enough for that to be an issue, but, sure, that, too. But I wouldn't recommend it to anyone with a REAL lawn. Hank Hill wouldn't use one, and I wouldn't blame him for that. The electric mower is somewhere between a weed whacker and a gas mower. If you have a lawn larger than the footprint of a Volvo, stick with gas.

Our lawn isn't that big, so electric will do. And we get to act like we're all green and stuff, too. Bonus.

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This was in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on February 29, 1962:

It was common -- for all I know, it's still common -- for newspapers to go to potential clients who just didn't want to spend a lot of money on regular display advertising and sell them on little subdivided mini-ads in a grouping with other similarly resistant advertisers. This section was labeled "Epicure's Corner," and it featured nine dining spots in the Sarasota area.

Needless to say, I had to look them all up and see if any were still around. (All photos are from Google Maps and are used for noncommercial commentary purposes only)

Vince's Italian-American Restaurant and Lounge doesn't show up anywhere. The number's been long since reassigned to an individual, and "US 41, between Sarasota and Bradenton" is a remarkably imprecise address. So that's one "no."

The Mecca isn't around, but the location's still a restaurant:

It's Barnacle Bill's now, and it appears to be pretty popular.

House of Chong was at Ringling and Tuttle, 2 North Tuttle, to be exact. It's gone, and in its place is Dimensional Imaging Inc.:

I struck out on Ronnick's, which got one mention in an article about a pair of piano players named, no lie, Bob and Ray; Fruitville Road's a long one, so it's hard to pinpoint where it might have been in. It might be where the McDonald's is now, but I don't know.

Jori's isn't there anymore, but the place is still most definitely a restaurant:

Euphemia Haye Restaurant and the Haye Loft, one of the top restaurants in the Longboat Key area. The best part about the page of reviews on Google is how they abbreviated one:

"The pate was creamy and flavorful with an ass" -

Mmm, pate with an ass. Just the way mom made it.

Columbia is still at St. Armand's Circle, but I knew that. Columbia is a long-popular Cuban chainlet in Tampa and Sarasota; my sister-in-law worked at the Ybor City original and we've been there a few times.

Here's what's at the Dutch Pantry site now:

So that's gone. I think I found the Holiday Inn here:

It's not a Holiday Inn now, though. Can't tell WHAT it is, but it's a motel and it's at the right spot.

Tail o' the Pup is, as much as I can determine, gone, too. St. Armands is still a busy, popular place, but there have been changes. That's one of them.

So, Columbia's still around, a couple of places are still restaurants, and the rest are AWOL. There's more useless information to clog my brain. That is, however, what I do best.

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You know, I realized now that I didn't link to last week's column here. Every column will be -- is -- at this link. I said, this link. So, to read the columns, you simply click this link.

Last week's was about Ernie Harwell. This week's is about interviews, but it's not posted as of this writing. But it will be. Here? No, not any more. It's at this link. Because that's where it is now. It's an All Access column, and, finally, rather than just being in an e-mail, it's also at this link, where you can even comment or tweet it or e-mail it or post it to Facebook. Which you should do, At this link.

By the way, did you see the Cavaliers just roll over and play dead in the closing minute tonight at Boston? Have you ever seen a team just give up like that in a deciding playoff game? You know what probably happened? LeBron forgot to click this link. Mike Brown is probably facing unemployment; if only he'd clicked this link first.

Okay, I'll stop now. (Stop what? Stop posting this link. It isn't funny)

Oh, wait, I forgot. I'm writing stuff for the new hyperlocal edition for Rancho Palos Verdes. Where can you find it? This other link. So click this other link for a rundown on preparations for fire season in town. More me!

They closed down Civic Arena in Pittsburgh tonight, a statement that is the truth as long as one notes that a) the building has been called Mellon Arena for a few years now, and b) there are still a few events left on the schedule. But, for all intents and purposes, it's over, now that the primary tenant, the Penguins, are through, having been blown out of Game 7 of the playoff series against Montreal.

The Igloo, whatever its formal name was at any given time, was a pit, of course, a 49 year old edifice that had undergone several alterations to cram more seats into more balconies. The roof, which originally retracted for outdoor events, never worked well and remained closed for most of its history. Pittsburgh built the place without a major league franchise to call it home -- there were the minor league hockey Hornets and the ABL Rens in the early years -- before 1967, when the Penguins and the ABA's Pipers showed up. I remember basketball at the arena primarily for the court, which had weirdly stained boards, a large irregular patch darker than the rest. It looked damaged.

Anyway, the Penguins are moving to a new arena next year, and the Igloo's a goner. Here's a clipping from that first week in September 1961:

Yeah, there were other articles, but this one caught my eye. They forgot to put water fountains in the place! I remember some other buildings had the same problem -- Dodger Stadium comes to mind -- but it was a big deal in 1961. The mayor called it an "oversight" but the architects said that they were ordered to take the fountains out so that concessionaires could "sell pop." When Republicans opposed to the Mayor made it an issue, and two Council candidates showed up at the opening ceremony with free water, the Mayor relented and fountains were installed.

I wonder if there are fountains at Jerry Jones' place in Arlington. Free water wouldn't fit his image, would it?

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I had a very, very busy day -- had to get a piece written for a new website, plus the usual load and a bunch of errands -- and I'm just wiped out, so I'm going to exercise my Ken Griffey Jr./Keith Hernandez rights and go take a nap.

Regular programming will resume tomorrow. Probably. Maybe.


Working on a couple of projects, so posting here might be light for a few days.

You can handle that, right?

Some more visual evidence of Saturday's Revlon Run/Walk 2010 in Los Angeles:

As always, after parking, we headed to the grassy area opposite the Coliseum's Peristyle End to see what the booths had and for Fran to pick up her survivor's cap at the Macy's tent. That's always a big deal; she has four now, each one another little milestone. This year's was red.

These folks are always there:

I have no problem with using whatever means to get people to fight breast cancer. Tatas it is. If someone wants to start an organization that uses the terms "bazooms," I'm fine with that, too.

Radio represents!:

Yes, radio -- KLOS and KBIG -- was there with a couple of tents manned by bored, distracted-looking interns doing nothing. Meanwhile, KABC-TV, channel 7, was all over the place, not only reporting on it but with a zillion balloons and banners and their own water stop with a Jumbotron and live interviews as the mob passed. That's how you do it.

This year, they moved the stage for the pre-race festivities. It used to be here:

That's the fabled "Peristyle End." I don't know the story behind the headless statues, but they were usually obscured by the stage in past years. This year, we got a clear shot at the stadium and the Olympic flame, which was lit for the event.

Here's some of the crowd:

It didn't seem like there were as many people at this year's event, but as we left at the end, having gotten our medals and bags of junk food (!) and had our "survivor's picture" taken and climbed the 638 rows to get out of the place, we had to walk out of the stadium into the midst of the race route, and there were still thousands of people streaming in. Even in an off year, that was impressive.

Meanwhile, before the race, they had, as always, some aerobics instructors attempt to loosen everyone up:

I, naturally, would have none of that.

Look, celebrities!:

That's James Denton of "Desperate Housewives" in the middle with the white t-shirt. We've met him before; he's a shareholder in the same minor league team of which a friend of ours owns a share, and he's always at stuff like this. He took pictures of the crowd on his iPhone as we walked under, and if he finds this while Googling himself, he can pick me out of the crowd by looking for the blue and red Phillies alternate cap. I was, I'm pretty sure, the only one wearing that in Los Angeles Saturday.

Also up there, that's Lilly Tartikoff yelling to the crowd, and Marg Helgenberger next to her. Julie Bowen of "Modern Family" is up there someplace, as is Carrie-Anne Inaba and Rachel Leigh Cook and some next-generation Disney person and Ellen Leyva and Michelle Tuzee of KABC-TV. No A-listers, but there are plenty worse celebrity assemblages to imagine, and their participation -- all of them seemed to have family reasons for supporting the cause -- is appreciated a lot.

The biggest celebrity of all, of course, is this guy:

He's there every year.

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Some shakycam video from today's Revlon Run/Walk 2010 in Los Angeles, featuring the incomparable Chaka Khan, sort of. Not really. Just a few seconds at the end, and you can't see her. Enjoy!

Oh, and do feel free to continue to donate here.


Every year, I do this. Every year, Mom's birthday comes up, right alongside Mother's Day, and I shed a tear and think about her and how much I miss her.

She would have been 78 today, I believe. At least, that's according to the year I THINK she was born. She was cagey about that, and the lack of available records from her native country helped her in the deception, but I'm pretty sure she'd have turned 78 today. And, like she did every year, she'd have insisted that we not make a big deal out of it. But it would have been a big deal.

Mom's missed 16 birthdays now. Her last birthday wasn't a lot of fun; she was ill and starting to slip away, although she made it to August. That's not the time I prefer to remember. I'd rather remember her smile and her love and what it was like when she was healthy and we weren't counting the years since we'd last been together.

So today, and tomorrow's cancer charity walk, and Mother's Day are for honoring her and thinking happy thoughts. I don't really believe in the idea that the departed are observing from the sky above, but in case Mom somehow has Internet access wherever she might be: Mom, we'll be doing the Revlon Run/Walk up at USC and the Coliseum on Saturday morning, and we'll be proud to have you with us.

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"Excuse me, would you like to sign a petition for Marymount Col..."

Er, no. No, I wouldn't. And it was with relief that I noted that the petition-wielders had disappeared from in front of Ralphs and Trader Joe's the other week. But it's not that I'm against the Marymount College expansion project, or that I'm for it. It's that it...

Okay, see, this is going to look bad. Simply put, what Marymount does with its campus doesn't matter a whole lot to me. I'm rarely on PV Drive East. I don't live in the adjacent neighborhoods. I don't go to the school. I don't have kids who might go to the school. I'm not one of the people who think that building dorms and athletic fields is going to doom open space on the coastline, yet I have sympathy for the neighbors, who might have to deal with more traffic and noise.

But I don't have a horse in this race. Whether it's on the ballot or not isn't really paramount to me. If it's there, sure, I'll vote, even though it's going to be strange to be deciding what happens to someone else's property and neighborhood when I don't have any connection to it. Having what is certainly a critical decision for those people being made by people in the rest of the town who won't be impacted by whatever results is a little uncomfortable.

(Kind of like non-parents like me voting on school budget issues, except that the quality of our schools DOES affect me, whether I have kids or not. School quality affects property values and what happens to our next generations. Marymount going to a four-year campus with dorms and soccer fields doesn't matter quite as much. All I need to know is whether I'm paying for it)

So, we'll probably see more flyers and brochures and DVDs about the Marymount Plan before November, and we'll probably be voting on it. Before then, here's a word of advice for the folks on either side of the issue: Tell the rest of RPV why this matters to us. We'll need to know that before we mark our ballots.

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Go check this entry. I'll wait.

Gary Forrester dropped me a note! He lives! And he's not the attorney or bluegrass musician. I'm happy. And I'm glad to have posted the only mention of "Freedom Wall," the song; you know, it's important for there to be a record of everything, including, um, a record, even if it was unnecessarily snarky.

I'm now determined to get a turntable hooked up to listen to it. I owe Gary that much.


Just a little squib from the Pittsburgh Press, October 22, 1969:

It's always interesting to see items about things of which we know the outcome. Making a TV series out of "The Odd Couple"? Why, if it's not Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, it's not "The Odd Couple," right?

I rarely missed the show when I was a kid. I'll still stop and watch when it happens to be on even today. The "Password" episode, to carry yesterday's theme along, was epic. So was the one with John Barbour and Felix speaking for Oscar. And the one with "Assume." And...

Yeah, great show.

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This is from October 22, 1969, and only someone as weird as I am could possibly find this interesting:

A couple of things: First, the game shows. This was, in my admittedly old-fart opinion, the Golden Age of game shows. I've been thinking about that almost every night. No, wait, there's a reason.

See, we -- I'm roping my wife into this -- like to wind down with mindless TV every evening, and for a while, that's meant the very old game shows that GSN airs late at night, recorded by the DVR. "What's My Line?" was a great one for that; you could close your eyes, listen to the game, and miss nothing. They ran the old CBS shows from the 50's and 60's for a long time, and it was great. You had erudite panelists -- Dorothy Kilgallen, Arlene Francis, Bennett Cerf -- and an erudite host, John Charles Daly, and you had a parade of weird jobs to guess and celebrities both remembered and forgotten. It was not at all stimulating on a sensory level -- no loud sound effects, no lights, no flashy set, just smart people asking smart questions in what was, in effect, a parlor game on TV.

But then they dropped "What's My Line?" and switched to "Password." And, again, it was a smart game with which one could play along. After running through the daytime version, GSN switched to airing the old nighttime CBS version, in black-and-white, and it was perfect for our intended use. Once again, the visuals were unnecessary (although hairstyles were amusing); the celebrities ran the gamut from James Mason and Jimmy Stewart to Allen and Rossi. The game was simple and smart, and Allen Ludden surprisingly sarcastic and judgmental (meaning just right for the job). And, again, the run came to an end a few weeks ago and it was gone.

So, now, they're running the "Pyramid" shows with Dick Clark from the 1980's. It's... not quite as smart, and not quite as fun. It'll do, but seeing Jamie Farr and Heidi Bohay (!) struggling to describe "Things In An Office" isn't the same as watching Douglas Fairbanks Jr. trying to get a secretary from Flushing to say the password. It's still, however, better than what reality TV has become, and a great deal better than those new GSN game shows.

Which brings us back to the ad. "Beat the Clock," in its syndicated late-60's-early-70's version, was just stupid, "Truth or Consequences" without Bob Barker's malice, "People Are Funny" without Art Linkletter's leer. But "To Tell the Truth" was fun enough, and "What's My Line?", even this syndicated version, was always worth watching. I loved those shows when I was a kid. I still do. And if GSN showed nothing but classic old panel game shows, I'd watch it almost as much as I watch MLB Network.

Oh, yes, the TV station involved in this ad still exists, with the same call letters of WPGH-TV, now as the longtime Fox affiliate in Pittsburgh. But the lineage isn't continuous. At the time of this ad, the station was owned by U.S Communications, the company that owned WPHL-TV in Philadelphia, which had the same stop-sign logo (only with 17 instead of 53) and a similar lineup of shows. But while WPHL was reasonably successful despite more competition (including two other UHF independents), WPGH struggled. The first channel 53 in Pittsburgh was WKJF-TV in 1953, and it went off the air in 1954. It returned in 1969 as WPGH, but by 1971 it was off the air again, out of money despite limited competition (3 VHF network affiliates and PBS, no other indies). After a couple of years in the dark, the station came back on in 1974 and stayed on. And that's more than you needed to know about that.

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I continue, as the curse goes, to live in interesting times. Today, another one of my Facebook friends passed away; that makes, I believe, four in the space of just a few months. That's four too many, but, man, I'm feeling like I'm carrying something. It's too weird. It could also be a function of a) getting older, and b) having a wide age range of friends, but this one was out of left field, and so was one of the others.

Today's passing was of Steve Nicholl, who once beat me out of a job -- we were finalists for the PD job at WIOD Miami, he got it, and I never even got a call from the General Manager to tell me I didn't get it. Everything worked out in the end, though, since I was in Los Angeles a year and a half later. And Steve was always a good guy to me, so I was glad for him. He was 63 when he died; he was at KLIF in Dallas for the last few years, and in Portland and West Palm before that.

So another bummer gets added to the list for 2010. If everything goes in cycles, we're all due for one hell of a good time soon. In the meantime, rest in peace, Steve.

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The planned obsolescence of cell phones is, I suppose, more tolerable when you aren't paying $250 or more for the equipment, on top of two year commitments to expensive plans. I bought my current phone, an HTC Touch Pro, on the day of release less than two years ago, and it never really worked right from day one; it overheats to the point of boiling the coating off the back cover, it randomly calls people without human intervention (not butt dialing, but just turning itself on and calling while sitting on a counter), it has battery life that ranges from poor to one-call-and-you're-done, and the resistive touchscreen sometimes just won't recognize any touch, finger or stylus.

Other than that, it's fine.

The Touch Pro was replaced by the Touch Pro2 shortly after the initial release, and now we're into the Android phones and waiting for the next iPhone. So I'd like to replace it. But my contract with Sprint isn't up until October, and my full 2-year new handset discount isn't until October, either. I've had Sprint for a long time for two reasons, one being that it was the only consistent signal in my neighborhood and the other being that the plan I have, grandfathered, is cheaper than I'll get from anyone else, including Sprint if I upgrade. That's one thing to consider.

But Sprint's not happy with people like me who have old plans, so they've stipulated that their better handsets -- all the Android phones, for example -- require one of the present "Everything Plans." That'll cost me at least $30 more than I presently pay. And in the last year, the GSM carriers, AT&T and T-Mobile, have finally built out my area and have, from what I can tell, solid 3G service all over the Peninsula. Verizon has improved, too. So it's not a matter of sticking with Sprint because nobody else serves the area. It's about the cost of the plans and the best handset for the job.

I have six months. Right now -- and six months is an eternity -- it's between the iPhone on AT&T (or whatever carriers they add), the Evo on Sprint, or the Incredible on Verizon. I'm certain this will change before October. Or I might end up holding onto my Pocket Hand Warmer for a little while longer, because, well, money isn't growing on trees. Suggestions are encouraged, especially from folks in Southern California who have AT&T, T-Mo, and Verizon and who can pinpoint the dead spots and 3G holes. I've had enough of this almost-brick, October seems like an eternity, but, really, I need a new phone. Please.

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On another extremely busy day with lots of running around, I can only leave you with this brief clip, posted by some kind soul on YouTube the other day:

"Dialing for Dollars"! The ultimate lame local game show thing! This is the one I remember best, channel 6 in Philadelphia's version, with Bob McLean and Connie Roussin Spann, and Larry Ferrari at the organ for that especially cheesy flair. McLean ended up going to Canada, and the late, great Jim O'Brien took over. The game was pretty much calling people at home, picked at random from a cut-up phone book, and asking for a designated number and the amount of the jackpot- the count and the amount. You know it, you win it. Not much for excitement. They'd also do stuff with the audience like games and talk segments. They don't make shows like that anymore. Nobody would watch it.

The name's more remembered than the game. That's probably because it appears in the lyrics of Janis Joplin's "Mercedes-Benz." (Remember? "Oh Lord, won't you buy me a color TV? 'Dialing for Dollars' is trying to find me") It's no relation to "Bowling for Dollars," as far as I know. Or "Candlepins for Cash." Have we talked about that yet? We should, we should....

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March 2012

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    Perry Michael Simon. Talk radio guy. Editor of the News-Talk-Sports section at Editor and writer at Chris Hardwick's Former Program Director, Operations Manager, host, and general nuisance at KLSX/Los Angeles, Y-107/Los Angeles, New Jersey 101.5. Freelance writer on media, sports, pop culture, based somewhere in the Los Angeles area. Contact him here. Copyright 2003-2012 Perry Michael Simon. Yeah.

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