Monday, January 26, 2015

DRIFTING THROUGH THE NEWS

New York's Blizzard of 1888: I think that fellow
would have a good laugh seeing the panic
we're currently experiencing.
Don't worry about me facing the blizzard of historic proportions. Over the weekend, I made sure to stock up on all the important supplies (booze) to help get through the week.

Too, I'd like to thank everyone not living in the Northeast for putting up with the resulting wall-to-wall news reports. As you've learned by now, it doesn't matter what's happening in the rest of the country -- when New York is in the eye of any disaster, whether it's terrorism or snow in winter, the rest of you can pound sand. Remember, the network and cable news shows are located in New York. This is about them, so you're just going to have to suck it up for the next 36 hours.




I shouldn't be cynical; there's plenty of other important news they've been covering. Like speculating if a certain celebrity whose name rhymes with "chump" will really, really run for president, as he's threatened to do every four years since 1988. Then they're going to look into rumors that Ted Cruz is actually Green Acres star Pat Buttram.

And when they get through with that, they'll return to the saga of a deflated football. This is a sports league that used to put up with players (and their girlfriends) getting beaten unconscious on a regular basis, so I'm glad something crucial as this caught their eye. Boko Haram wiping out entire villages?  Later, pal -- what does Bill Belichick have to say today?

The current state of television journalism, then: snow jobs, blowhards, and deflated balls. Reporters will no doubt bring the same gravitas to their coverage of the next presidential election. Am I right?

                                ******************************************************
 

 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

BREAKING NEWS: SAUDI ARABIA EDITION

In a nationally televised speech, Saudi Arabia's new king, Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, promised to continue the policies of his late half-brother King Abdullah.

These policies include supporting terrorists on the QT, stoning adulterers to death, treating women like 9th-class citizens, punishing free-thinkers with 1000 lashes, getting away with murder through oil sales to Western countries, playing the United States government like a plucked lute, and, most important, rubbing black shoe polish on his facial hair. 

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015

THE FAMILY WAY

In a world where hate seems to be the ruling force, it's nice to know that there's still such a thing as old-fashioned love, as this headline affirmed last week:



I know what you're thinking: Thank God they didn't rush into this! Still, even before things started getting serious, they knew this wasn't "just one of those things":


The teenager said her father reached out to her on Facebook when she was in high school and soon after, she went to stay with him for a week. 
After the week together, the 18-year-old said they had sex and then started dating.

Maybe I'm just an old galoot, but in my day, we used to start dating, then have sex. And even then, that took at least... well, a week.

This romance started when the girl was 16 and Pops was around 36, long after he left her mother (before the girl was even born). Their age difference would probably infuriate progressives more than the incest angle, which they'd consider a "choice."

But if you find this whole thing revolting, well, you're clearly in the minority:

"Everyone on my mom’s side of the family sees us as father and daughter," she told the magazine. "Those who know that he’s my dad, and that we are engaged, include my father’s parents (they can see we are happy together and they can’t wait for us to have babies — they treat us just like any other couple), the woman we live with, and my best friend."

See? Not just the grandparents, but the woman these two lovebirds shack up with are down with the family nuptials. If only more marriages started out on such a positive note! (The magazine to which the quote refers is New York, which brought us a similar hard-hitting investigative piece, "What It's Like to Date a Horse."  And, lest you think otherwise, it isn't an interview with Mrs. Secretariat. I'm not sure when New York became the Appalachian version of Penthouse Forum, but I'm glad it was long after our subscription expired.)

I have a very strong feeling that, faster than you can say "I now pronounce you Dad and Wife," some cable network will be tracking down the happy couple with the idea of a new reality series. TLC has probably signed them already, being the home of such classy fare as My Five Wives, My 600-lb Life and Hoarding: Buried Alive. TLC officially stands for The Learning Channel, but appears to have morphed into Tacky Loathsome Creepy. Just the kind of stuff advertisers go for. (Looks like Kay's Jewelers is going to have to alter its jingle to "Every kiss begins with kin.")

And if you're wondering what kind of low-rent, backwoods, hominy grits kind of place would bless this kind of union, be forewarned: 
 
After the wedding, the woman says they plan to move to New Jersey where adult incest is legal.

You might find this piece of news shocking. But look on the bright side -- it's just one more reason to avoid New Jersey.

                                                 *************************

Saturday, January 17, 2015

MOVIE OF THE DAY: BELOW THE DEADLINE (1946)

Blessed with direction by the legendary William "One-Take" Beaudine; actors whose neighbors probably never even heard of; and a title that makes no sense whatsoever, Below the Deadline is more interesting than it has any right to be.

On the surface, it's just another B-criminal picture about one gambling king, Joe Hilton, mooching in on the territory of another, Oney Kessel. What gives Below the Deadline an interesting twist, though, is that Joe is a World War II vet who happily inherited the underworld job after the murder of his brother Jeffrey.

In a time when post-war movies portrayed vets as world-class heroes who, at worst, had a little trouble adjusting to civilian life, Below the Deadline must have been unique. From the moment we meet Joe, we know he's trouble. Having lost his soul somewhere on the Philippines' battlefields, he's returned with a redwood-sized chip on his shoulder and an itch for violence. One of those vets who hates civilians, Joe has no empathy for anybody's death outside a war zone.


"So your hat's still on, eh? Well,
take that!"
Joe's first move in taking over Jeffrey's business is beating the hell out of one his yeggs, Nichols, just to show him who's boss. The fight scene is strangely absorbing, being sloppy, violent and surprisingly lengthy. And it's always fun to watch a fight where neither guy's fedora is knocked off until almost the very last moment -- hats must have been tighter in those days. Joe's Jewish bookkeeper Pinky looks on approvingly, telling the others, "That's m' boy!", a catchphrase repeated throughout the movie. (Character actor John Harmon plays Pinky with an a naturalness that turns up in old B-movies from time to time. He's so good, so real that it's almost discombobulating -- how the hell did he get in this picture?)


Apparently her high school
graduation picture.
Still, even the hardboiled Joe needs a jane, and it's Lynn Turner, one of his croupiers. Discovering that she's underage, Joe fires her before getting serious with the wooing. Lynn is supposed to be 19, but doesn't look like any girl my daughter goes to college with. (The actress, Ramsay Ames, was in reality 26.) Lynn somehow sees some good in Joe, but failing to straighten him out, breaks it off. C'mon, lady, let the guy be himself -- a semi-psychopathic criminal with a violent streak!

Nor can Joe be reformed by his former CO, Sam Austin, who tries convincing him into going in on a private air transportation business. But something good finally takes hold, when Joe donates some serious scratch to an anti-gambling
Lynn is impressed at Joe's ability to
 get shot in the stomach and still not bleed.
mayoral candidate named Vail, a vet who lost his leg in Okinawa. Joe's rival Oney takes this personally, leading to a climatic shootout at Sam's office. (Guys, can't you take this outside? I'm trying to run an airline here!) Oney goes to the slammer, while Joe leaves the craps tables behind, taking a job with Sam and reuniting with Lynn. How he managed to avoid prison time for his illegal activities is left unexplained.


William Beaudine, in a rare
moment not yelling, "Cut! Print!"
Below the Deadline features all the hallmarks of a Monogram movie. Actors casting multiple shadows on the walls; grimy sets; a 65-minute running time; men's suit with mile-wide lapels, and women's hairdos that no stylist outside a movie studio would be able to replicate now. Special mention must be made to the aforementioned William Beaudine, who directed close to 1,000 movies and TV shows, from 1915 to 1968. (Now you know how he earned the nickname "One-Take".)

I'm no fan of remakes, but Below the Deadline is just waiting for an update: An Iraq war vet comes home to take over his brother's drug ring and wipe out his rival once and for all. His on-the-level girlfriend wants him to go straight. His army buddy tries to get him to join him in a software business. Climactic shootout in the giant offices of the software company. Comedy relief from the Jewish bookkeeper. 

There, Hollywood, I've given it to you. Just change the title. 

                                                       *********************

Friday, January 16, 2015

BREAKING NEWS: ACADEMY AWARDS EDITION

Movie fans are unhappy with this year's Academy Award nominations, the first since 1998 not to feature any minorities in the major categories. Many complain that show business, despite its claims to the contrary, gives preference to whites males.

In response, Academy Award spokesman Brad Lanes told reporters, "We deny anything of the sort. In fact, starting next year we're going to have a new category: Best Server at the Post-Academy Awards Party. Good luck to all the winners!"

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

FAITHLESS

Just days after a mass murder over cartoons, representatives of the world's major religions probably helped to convert a few million more people to atheism.

Randy Weber's wife restrains
him from using the computer.
In the USA, Randy Weber, a Republican Congressman and self-described "family man and Christian," pulled the ol' "outrageous statement/insincere apology" routine beloved by politicians and celebrities everywhere. (If his name sounds familiar, it's because he was the guy who shouted "You lie!" during Obama's 2009 State of the Union address.) Earlier this week, Weber, like many others, took to his Twitter account when President Obama skipped the unity rally in Paris:
Now that first line is pretty funny -- if you leave out the rest of the message, delete "Adolph," insert "was" between "it" and "more" -- and, oh yeah, IF YOU'RE NOT AN ELECTED OFFICIAL WITH ACCESS TO THE INTERNET. One of those Texas troglodytes who probably thought, Well, hey, I thought only people who voted for me could read my Twitter whoozis, the honorable Congressman was compelled to issue a press statement (rather than directly state it to the press):

“I need to first apologize to all those offended by my tweet. It was not my intention to trivialize the Holocaust nor to compare the President to Adolf Hitler." 

Let me see... comparing Obama to Hitler is not comparing Obama to Hitler. Thanks for clearing that up, Randy. Now maybe you can explain your classic tweet sent just before Obama's 2014 State of the Union address:

Man, that "joke" doesn't even reach the level of stupid-minus-seven. Weber, in case you were wondering, was elected by almost 54% of the vote, meaning over half the voters in his district are drooling, medically-diagnosed imbeciles. To the people of Texas' 14th Congressional District, I implore you: Stop having children, and stick to the livestock instead.

From the Southwest, let's turn to the Middle East. As with the rest of the world's newspapers, Israel's Orthodox The Announcer put a photo of the French unity rally on its front page. Well, kind of. Its editors, like others in the business, decided that the women needed some airbrushing. Like, from right out of the picture:

Didn't Highlights magazine have a feature like this?

I think the only thing that the Announcer is announcing here is that the hardcore wings of major religions are proudly homophobic, yet can't bear allowing women in positions of power -- or even mingling with them. Or, in this case, even photos of other, non-Orthodox Jewish men mingling with them. Look guys, next time you're in New York, you should get your cowboy freak on at the Flaming Saddles Saloon on 9th Avenue -- and don't forget your chaps! (Heh heh.)

But it was yesterday's London Guardian that forced me to check the calendar and make sure this wasn't the year 644:

The tragic result of a Frosty fatwa.
This "Dear Abdullah" advice columnist explained that since creating an image of a human being was sinful under Sunni Islam, kids would be better served creating a snow figure "which does not have a soul, including trees, ships, fruits, buildings and so on." And what child hasn't jumped and down at the thought of building a snow felafel? 

Wait, now that we're on the subject -- we've gotten something like one inch of snow in New York so far this winter. But they've gotten enough in Saudi Frickin' Arabia to consider building snowmen? Frankly, I'm offended.

Kids, you want to build a snow figure without a soul? Make it look like someone who says snowmen are blasphemous. And then build a snow-woman next to it. Don't worry -- sounds like those guys don't think women have souls, either. But it'll drive them nuts anyway.

And as for Randy Weber -- how long before you're riding the range at Flaming Saddles, you ol' conservative family man, you? Yee-haw!

                                                     *************************
 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

BREAKING NEWS: UNITY RALLY EDITION

President Barack Obama faced questions from reporters regarding his decision not to attend the French unity rally honoring the 17 citizens killed by Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists.

"First of all, our agent at Perillo Tours advised us that this really isn't the best time of year to visit France," Mr. Obama explained. "Pretty chilly, as you could see from all those pictures of the rally. But more to the point, it's my belief that changing your way of your life after such an event means that the terrorists have won. Heck, I don't even like to use the word 'terrorist.' If there are weeds in your yard, just keep repeating, 'I see flowers, I see flowers!' It really works!"

"That's why," he added, "I watched the playoff game -- nothing more American than that. And then there were the Golden Globes. Did you see that? Weren't Tina [Fey] and Amy [Poehler] amazing? Although, personally, I think Birdman was robbed. And you should have seen Michelle when she caught me eyeing Jennifer Lopez. Talk about terrorist activities!"


When asked if it still might have been a good idea if Vice-President Joe Biden had stood in for him in Paris, Mr. Obama replied, "Are you kidding? After his antics with that 13 year-old girl at the Senate swearing-in, I personally put him on the no-fly list."

                                     ****************************************



Thursday, January 8, 2015

BREAKING NEWS: CHARLIE HEBDO EDITION

In its editorial decrying the killings of almost a dozen staffers of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, the New York Times today stated, "It is absurd to suggest that the way to avoid terrorist attacks is to let the terrorists dictate standards in a democracy."


But when asked why the Times refused to republish any of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons lampooning Islam or the Prophet Muhammad, while in the past printing a photo of Andres Serrano's Piss Christ, the Times' publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. replied, "Well, there's offensive, and then there's offensive. And, y'know, we don't want to offend the easily offended. I mean, you see what happens when they get offended. Yikes."

Challenged by a reporter to defend the Times' hypocrisy, Sulzberger puffed out his chest. "You call it hypocrisy. At the Times, we call it an editorial decision."

Asked if "cowardice" would be a better word, Sulzberger replied, "You say that like there's something wrong with it." He was then joined by dozens of Times' staffers holding signs reading, "I AM ARTHUR."

                                               
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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

WHAT'S MY FACE?

10 days? Who has time for that?
There was a time in movies and TV when nothing was more worthy of ridicule than a woman's beauty routine. Actresses seemed to be contractually obliged to appear at least once with their faces smeared with cold cream while wearing a terrycloth robe. 

That didn't stop my wife, daughter, and I from having a family facial festival the other night. Facials, in case you've never experienced them, are quite a process, involving much washing, rinsing, plastering, scraping, moisturizing and more rinsing. If I didn't look so lovely afterwards, it would hardly seem worth it.

However, my wife no longer has an outfit
like that.


As I smeared on the facial mask, I was swept back in time. Suddenly, it was 1927, and I was Al Jolson in the Winter Garden dressing room, getting ready to sing "My Mammy" for an adoring audience who have would have lynched a real black man for being on the same stage. 

But as I gazed in the mirror, I looked not like a white Broadway actor pretending to be black, but a guy who just had a chihuahua evacuate on his face after it ate a particularly nasty burrito. Nobody ever said beauty was beautiful.

Take me to your masseuse.
Once we were suitably plastered, it was on to the next step in our passage to pulchritude.
For reasons that escape me, we spent the next the ten minutes prone with our feet up and eyes closed. Since our daughter was home for Christmas vacation, she was allowed the couch, with her feet resting on pillows atop the armrest. My wife and I were relegated to the hardwood floor with our feet on the leather chairs. If anyone had stumbled upon us at that moment, they would have taken us for a UFO cult waiting to be taken away on the mother-ship to the planet Zybisko. 

Shirley Eaton was also shinier
than me.
As the mask dried, I could feel it tightening -- no, strangling my face. While my wife got first dibs at the sink after the allotted 10 minutes, I looked at the hall mirror and studied the cakey, brown-green substance. I was, to be frank, a hideous sight, appearing to be the victim of Goldfinger -- or, in this case, Mudfinger. While a face smeared with cold cream was always good for a laugh on I Love Lucy, this would make a viewer scream in terror. 

Once it was my turn to wash this stuff off -- and not a moment too soon -- I neglected to fully close my mouth; subsequently, I felt as though I was chewing sand. "It is gritty," my wife agreed, sparking my brilliant retort, "There's a good name for a criminal: Gritty Facial." Neither she nor my daughter agreed.

What we could agree on was that our faces felt and looked a decade cleaner and younger. As for me, it was one of those rare moments where I could say, "Gee, I kinda look handsome," and mean it. But you should have seen what we had to go through to find our beautiful selves. And you could have, if they had let me post the group selfie of our mud-smeared faces. At least I'm not ashamed to admit that with beauty comes a heavy price. 

Let's do it again!

                                                             ******************

Sunday, January 4, 2015

BREAKING NEWS: AIRASIA FLIGHT 8501 EDITION

As the recovery mission for AirAsia Flight 8501 continues into its second week, Jeff Zucker has announced that he has worked out a deal with to install video cameras at the front of all Malaysian airlines "just in case."

"We at CNN are proud of our relentless coverage of missing Malaysian airplanes," Zucker told reporters. "Once they go down, you can count on our crack team of reporters regurgitating the same non-information while experts on our payroll offer up theories, guesses, and empty speculation. Going forward, however, we're going to boost our coverage by providing live coverage of the crash itself. Once we hear that any Malaysian plane is having trouble, we're going to cut right to the video feed so that viewers can experience the terror in real time. And it doesn't matter what else is happening. Whether the president's declaring war on North Korea or John Boehner's falling down drunk on the Capitol steps, those airplanes will come first. We want people to remember that CNN is the home of flight disasters."

When asked if the video would help rescue teams find the planes faster, Zucker said, "Jesus, I hope not! What else are we going to talk about?"

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

HAPPY SAME YEAR

I think we can all agree that the concept of New Year's resolutions is taurus stercore. It's much easier to keep doing what you're doing than actually change. 

In fact, there was a piece online recently about how humans are hardwired not to keep resolutions. I would have read it, but I couldn't be bothered. Just the headline was enough to reassure me that I have a good excuse for being who I am. I just can't help it!

So rather than disappoint family and friends with promises I'll never keep, I'm going to make a list of things about me that will probably never change in 2015 (and beyond). 

I resolve to continue:

Flipping off politicians I don't like.

Embarassing my daughter in front of her friends.

Envying the rich while still despising them.

Finishing my own dinner before eating off the plates of those around me.

Breaking into a sweat every time I have to drive in Manhattan.

Cursing loudly when I can't find a parking space after ten minutes.

Being shocked at what I see in the mirror.

Polishing my schadenfreude to a shiny glow.

Being inexplicably proud of getting a flu shot.

Forgetting to ask my doctor if I should get a shingles vaccination like the commercials always tell me to do.

Laying off the bacon, cheese and red meats, only to return to eating them again after my cholesterol is normal.

Childishly mocking funny accents on Al Jazeera.

Expanding the number of my revenge fantasies.

Making John Boehner, Harry Reid and Jeff Zucker my favorite whipping boys.

Retreating to the world of B-movies as often as possible.

Figuring out how I got to be this way.

Looking forward to the new year where everything will finally turn around for me, only to be bitterly disappointed 12 months later.

Trying to be a better person, anyway, for the sake of my wife and daughter.

And when that doesn't work, trying again.

And again. 

And again.


                                               ****************************

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

UNNOTABLE DEATHS OF 2014

Lenny Hannigan, known as the "warm wit of Williamsburg," died at the age of 28. A lifelong student of jokes, Hannigan told Charlie Rose that he had an epiphany upon realizing that "all humor is based on someone being hurt or insulted. The joke is literally always on somebody else, even if it's the person telling the joke. Self- depreciation is just another word for low self-esteem." Vowing to become the first "cruelty-free, non-racial, post-religious comedian," Hannigan pioneered the art of jokes without punchlines. A typical Hannigan "remark," as he referred to his jokes, was "A Crayola crayon walks into a bar. The bartender says, 'Why so blue?' The crayon replies, 'Because I'm violet blue.'" Hannigan died after being struck on the head by a flying beer bottle one too many times at his gigs. 

Victoria Coulomb, 81, was unknown by name to most people, yet was responsible for one of the most iconic cultural touchstones of our time. While working in the P.R. department for Delta Airlines, Ms. Coulomb was asked to write and record a phone message for customers waiting for a live representative. In less than two minutes, she came up with the phrase, "We are expecting higher than normal call volume. Your call will be answered in the order in which it was received. Your call is very important to us; please hold." Ms. Coulomb suffered a fatal stroke while kept on hold by the emergency room.

The legendary Robert "Woody" Woodson, 77, was one of the most in-demand consultants of the business world.  Believing that "the best employees have the least personality," he decided that "conversational language" was anathema in the office space. Over the course of several years, Woodson created words and phrases that would soon become standard language on Madison Avenue and beyond. Starting with the suggestion to "think outside the box," he soon went on to coin "synergy," "crunch time," "bring to the table," "hitting our numbers," "outsource" and "at the end of the day," among hundreds of others. Woodson, however, was proudest of "downsizing," believing that it sounded like the managers were helping their companies rather than destroying their employees' lives. According to witnesses, Woodson, having a sudden heart attack, was trying to call for help but couldn't think of the right word.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

PRESENTS UNDER THE TREE

We've all been so busy buying gifts for friends and loved ones that it's easy to forget there are people who mean nothing to us that could use a little Christmas cheer, too. So in the spirit of the season -- and, more importantly, taking the easy way out of writing a real piece by listing things instead -- here are some gift suggestions for people who have way too much already.

FOR SONY MANAGEMENT: Writing paper, along with a lifetime supply of disappearing ink.

FOR SETH ROGEN & JAMES FRANCO: A script worthy of starting a nuclear attack on the USA.

 
FOR THE EDITORIAL STAFF OF ROLLING STONE: A copy of Journalism for Dummies.

FOR BILL COSBY: A plausible denial.

FOR FOX NEWS: A fashion and make-up stylist who wasn't influenced by Penthouse magazine.

FOR CNN: A solid gold mallet to beat yet another dramatic story into the ground.

FOR MSNBC: The wisdom to realize that not everybody who can sit up and chew solid food is qualified for their own talk show.

FOR HILLARY CLINTON: A reason to vote for you that doesn't include the words "Hillary," "Clinton" or "woman."

FOR THE REPUBLICAN PARTY: A presidential debate that doesn't look like the new season of American Horror Story.

FOR BARACK OBAMA: Your own smoking room in the White House, away from the ol' ball & chain. Or at least a jaunty cigarette holder. (It worked for FDR!)

FOR ISIS: Bomb vests with faulty timers that go off way too early. Bonus gift: rubber sabres.

FOR MY WIFE: The strength to remain married to me for another year. 

                                           ****************************

Friday, December 19, 2014

MEMO FROM AMY PASCAL




TO: All Sony employees
FROM: Amy Pascal, Chairman, Sony Pictures

Dear Loyal Sony Team Member:

First, let me say that by withdrawing The Interview and stuffing it in the back of the closet like a half-empty bottle of Mr. Clean, the terrorists have NOT won. Far from it. Have you seen the early reviews on Rotten Tomatoes? We received a 47% rating. Granted, it's not as bad as our Annie remake, but still. This is a win for us, and I wanted to thank everyone of you for pitching in.

Going forward, we're going to have some new rules regarding email communication. I believe that by following these simple steps, we will save ourselves a lot of embarrassment in the future.

1) Do not make any comments more racist than they have to be. One Obama-black movie joke in a single email exchange is enough . Any more than that is beating a dead horse. (And just to make clear, that does mean I endorse or condone the mistreatment of animals.)

2) Calling Angelina Jolie "seriously out of her mind" is archaic and insulting. The correct phrase is "delightfully eccentric."


3) When urging the studio not to cast certain African American actors any lead roles, as one of our executives did with Denzel Washington, make sure you add "I AM NOT RACIST, EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD IS" in caps and 24-point font. Remember, with few exceptions, Hollywood doesn't know the meaning of racism.

As for those whose personal and medical records were made public, I am very sorry. I had no idea that by dumping our IT department and outsourcing security to some faceless phone jockeys in India, we were somehow leaving ourselves wide open to mischief. To rectify this, I have some important news.

Starting January 2, 2015, all Sony employees will be given new names for interoffice and medical communication. These names will be taken from the characters featured in classic Columbia Pictures movies: Longfellow Deeds, Jefferson Smith, Drs. Howard, Fine & Howard, etc. These name changes will apply to your family members as well, re: medical records. To further disguise your identity, your sex will play no part in the name you receive. Sony is an equal opportunity employer (except for salary).

Each one of you will be called into Human Resources at a specific time and date. There, you will be given your new identities, which you must memorize on the spot. You will not be allowed to copy down the names. This is for your own security. 

Be assured that Sony Pictures will now concentrate on making our movies as free from real substance as possible. As we've learned, controversial subject matters do our business no good whatsoever. Therefore, I'm excited to announce a contest open to all Sony employees. We're looking for new comic book-type heroes to create tent-pole projects around -- movies made for the 12 year-old boy in all of us. So put on your thinking caps -- or should I say non-thinking caps, LOL! -- and create the next big, soulless thing! And if it's China-friendly, so much the better (hint, hint!).

Again, let me apologize for everything that's happened in the last few weeks.  I know that by pulling together and continuing to cower before anyone who threatens us -- whether it be a bloodthirsty despot or anonymous hacker -- there is every reason to believe that we will keep our jobs.

Amy Pascal

PS: Pre-production on The Interview II: ISIS Here We Come! has been canceled indefinitely.

                                           ***********************

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: BUDGET BILL EDITION

Facing attacks from their bases, John Boehner and Harry Reid made a rare joint appearance to explain their support for a provision that would dramatically increase the amount of money a single rich donor could give to national party committees each year — from $32,400 to as much as $324,000.

"What the people don't understand," Boehner said, "is that, by increasing the donation limit, we're actually helping hard-working Americans from having to dig deeper into their pockets to support their favorite candidates. The bigger the donation from the wealthy, the less we need from everybody else. That means they have more money to spend on medical bills, new shoes for Junior, and so forth. Remember, we want money from Walmart, not their cashiers."

"Not only that," said Reid enthusiastically, "but by increasing the donor limit, the more we are, in fact, soaking the rich as the left is always begging us to do. For instance, have you read any of those hacked emails from Sony? One of them details how Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg demanded $32,000 from studio executives for a Hillary Clinton fundraiser. Once the president signs this bill, Steven and Jeff will be able to shake them down for ten times the amount! If that's not soaking the rich, goddammit, I don't know what is."

                                              *************************

Monday, December 15, 2014

AN OPEN LETTER TO MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO

Dear Mayor de Blasio:

I see that you're already pulling the Progressives' first move, i.e., going back on your promise to be a man of the people. That new "privacy fence" -- the one you neglected to get a permit for -- inside the Gracie Mansion grounds guarantees the people who voted for you will never catch an unauthorized glimpse of you. Kind of like how your fellow "Progressive" President Obama keeps a tighter leash on the press than President Lincoln during the Civil War.

Perhaps being fenced in from the public has prevented you from seeing the streets of your neighborhood. For 20 straight years, from Rudy Giuliani to Mike Bloomberg, the sidewalks were as close to spotless as they could possibly be. You could almost eat off them, as some people were known to during the Koch and Dinkins years. 

But since your election, it seems like you -- or, rather, we -- can't walk 15 feet without seeing trash on the curb and, worse, dogshit in the middle of the sidewalk. This kind of thing was endemic during the bad old days of New York (1965-1990), and was just kind of accepted, like junkies on every corner and muggings in the middle of the day.

The previous two mayors proved that New York could be a clean, safe city if the people who ran the show wanted it to be. Now, I'm a registered Independent, because I truly believe that Democrat and Republican politicians are beholden to themselves first, the party second, and the people dead last -- like 45th in a choice of three. But what is it about Democratic mayors that makes them think filthy streets are just part and parcel of New York life? 


Now, I realize you have other things on your plate right now. The cops are under fire for killing unarmed black males. The resulting protests seem to be clogging the streets by the tens of thousands every other evening. However, you can do two things at once, can't you? I mean, you're a big city mayor with, I would guess, dreams of being president one day. Please, learn the art of multitasking. 

Count your blessings. If these trigger-happy cops worked under Giuliani or Bloomberg, they would have been considered the source of the problem. You, on the other hand, are a "Progressive," and therefore are perceived to have clean hands. Unlike my neighborhood sidewalks, shit doesn't stick to you. Yet.


Your neighbor,
Ol' Fish-Eye

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Friday, December 12, 2014

MOVIE OF THE DAY: "UPTOWN NEW YORK" (1932)

Uptown New York tells the well-worn of the story of a woman, Patricia Smith, in love with two men, Dr. Max Silver and gumball-machine entrepreneur Eddie Doyle. As its poster's tagline reads, A human story of a girl who was... just human! We all know what that means, don't we? Just to make it clearer, ViƱa Delmar, who wrote Uptown New York's scenario, was also the author of the novels Bad Girl, Loose Ladies and Kept Woman. No wonder she's the rare writer whose name was on the promotional materials.

With that pedigree, I was hoping for some drug use and a bastard child thrown into Uptown New York -- especially when Patricia and Max spend the night together. However, the only genuine pre-code moments could be counted on one hand:

1) Max's overtly-Jewish family. His proud father invites friends over to announce that Max has graduated from med school -- or, as he says in his sing-song Yiddish accent, "I got for you a big surprise. I'm going to make for you a speech!" That kind of overtly-ethnic portrayal, the only kind portrayed in early talkies, would soon disappear, making movies waspier than an entomologist's greenhouse.

2) Eddie meets Patricia by rescuing her from a ladies room whose door is stuck shut. (Yes, he came in through the bathroom window.) No way would this be approved once the Hays Office dropped the hammer. Nor would they go for Eddie demanding, "Whatcha in there for, anyway?" But at least it gives me a new way to annoy my wife.

3) When Patricia yells at a couple of juvenile delinquents, the older of the two gives her an angry thumbs-up, which appears to be the '30s equivalent of "Up yours!" This gesture is worth trying at your next business meeting -- they'll never know what you're really thinking.

Uptown New York gives some interesting insight on what men expected of women in 1932. When Patricia asks Eddie why he's fallen so hard for her, he replies, "You're clean and good." This was movie-speak for "virgin," something we know she isn't. And once Eddie learns that Max had been her "sweetheart" two years earlier, it almost kills their marriage. Man, if that's what's going to stop Eddie, it's a good thing he's not around today.

"Of course I love you...
up to a point."
And talk about old-fashioned. The only reason Max didn't marry Patricia was because his family paired him off with a rich man's daughter so he could start a practice in Vienna before returning two years later. Such a trade-off! (Max is played by Leon Waycoff, who would soon change his name to Leon Ames, promptly becoming another of those "Oh, that guy!" character actors for the next 60 years. Don't believe me? Go here.)

Being a release from the long-forgotten Sono Art-World Wide studio, Uptown New York's low budget is onscreen throughout. Authentic New York shots consist only of stock footage, mostly under the credits. A sloppy process shot through a diner window looks like Times Square in the middle of an earthquake. And the climax -- Eddie begging Max to perform surgery on Patricia after she's hit by a truck -- is right out of Al Jolson's abysmal Say it with Songs from 1929.

Still, the movie has a nice scrappy feel about it, thanks mainly to Jack Oakie as Eddie. On loan from Paramount, Oakie is extremely likable. His naivete concerning Patricia's sexual history, along with his pride at owning a string of gumball machines across the city, is actually kind of charming -- you root for the little guy with big dreams. And your heart breaks when he and Patricia have to spend their wedding night in a rundown hotel room next to a drunken, noisy party because it's all he can afford. Ordinary schmos just trying to get by undoubtedly identified with Oakie in a way impossible with, say, William Powell.

"Look at me when you're
talking to me!"
Oakie's performance -- all of his performances, in fact --  are that much more remarkable when you consider the after-effect of his childhood bout of scarlet fever. As Oakie's temperature rose, he could hear his eardrums pop -- and, he told a reporter, "that was the last thing I ever heard." Next time you read about an A-lister wrecking his dressing room trailer because he's been supplied with stale peanuts, just watch any Jack Oakie movie and remember: he's lip-reading his co-stars because he's deaf.


Most astonishing about Uptown New York, however, is Sono Art-World Wide's notorious pre-credit logo: a comely young woman strategically holding two spinning globes directly in front of her. The screenshot doesn't do it justice. You have to see it in action for the full effect. Supposedly dreamed up by studio investor (and one-time "king of comedy") Mack Sennett, it couldn't have been anything other than an outrageous in-joke meant to grab the audience's attention long enough for them to sit through an entire movie. 

What can I say? It worked for me.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: CIA REPORT EDITION

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday issued a sweeping indictment of the Central Intelligence Agency’s program to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks, drawing on millions of internal C.I.A. documents to illuminate practices that it said were more brutal — and far less effective — than the agency acknowledged either to Bush administration officials or to the public.

When asked why tactics including sexual humiliation were part of the program, CIA spokesman Brad Lanes replied, "Hey, it worked for Bill Cosby."

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Monday, December 8, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: ROYALS EDITION

Prince William and Kate Middleton arrived in New York last night for a three-day tour. While William is meeting with President Obama in Washington today, Kate will be visiting an elementary school in East Harlem. 

Kate's spokesman says the Duchess is looking forward to taking part in traditional American customs at the school, including baking chocolate chip cookies, creating Christmas decorations from cardboard, and shooting an unarmed black teenager.

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Saturday, December 6, 2014

MOVIE OF THE DAY: "DECOY" (1946)

Decoy is a good name for a movie that looks like a typical film noir, only to feature a plot twist alien to the genre; stars a couple of unknowns who look like two other, famous actors; and features a third actor playing completely against type.

After Frank Olins is given the hot seat for an unspecified crime -- selling loose cigarettes? -- his two-timing girlfriend Margot Shelby seduces the noble Dr. Lloyd Craig into injecting him with the life-reviving drug Methylene Blue (which I hereby trademark as a new color for Uniqlo). 

It's all for love -- that is, the love she has for the 400-grand Olin's got socked away in the woods. Once Olin hands over a map leading to the money, he's plugged by Jim Vincent, his overpriced mouthpiece who's also Margot's third lover. How does this dame keep these guys straight?

Now in over his stethoscope, Dr. Craig is forced at gunpoint to drive Margot and Jim to the buried loot. Before the night is over, Margot has fatally run over Jim, found the money, and shot Dr. Craig to death. Or so she thinks.

Mirror mirror on the wall,
who's the damnedest of them all?
Filled with little moments that separate it from other low budget crime pictures, Decoy opens with the ghostly Dr. Craig washing his hands in a bathroom right out of the Beggars Banquet album cover. Gazing at his reflection in a broken mirror, he seems shocked to be alive. After silently hitching his way to San Francisco, he plugs Margot but good before expiring. The oddly-named cop Joe Portugal drops by a moment later to hear Margot's deathbed -- make that death couch -- confession. It's a testament to her strength that she can inaugurate a 65-minute flashback after being shot in the chest. Ambulance? What ambulance?

Margot's nastiness comes wrapped in silk, thanks to her generous boyfriend Frank Olins. But considering that she's got two other guys punching the clock in her bedroom, Olins, the toughest of the bunch, is probably the biggest sap of the three. Imagine being electrocuted, then brought back to life an hour later, only to be shot by your sweetie's lover before your body's barely warm again. Hardly seems worth the trip.

He's not the only one
playing with fire.
You can't help feel sorry for him -- after all, he's played by Robert Armstrong, who brought King Kong to New York 13 years earlier. His stunned, disbelieving reaction to just lighting a match after being brought back to life is almost pitiful. "I'm alive!" he shouts, arousing memories of Frankenstein, "I'm alive!" Not for long, bub, not for long.

Or maybe Grodin is a lot older than we realize.
And for all this meshugga, Dr. Craig gave up his altruistic career as a slum doctor. As with Frank Olins, you feel bad for the doc, a good guy suckered by a pretty face, a sweet line of lies, and a body to revive the dead for. Herbert Rudley, who plays Dr. Craig, juices up the sympathy by being a near-double for Charles Grodin, the ultimate hangdog actor.


A fur hat for a cold mind.
Unlike other tough dames of this genre, Margot is a sophisticated, smooth-talking Brit. That's due to "Miss Jean Gillie," as she's billed in the credits, being a sophisticated, smooth-talking Brit herself.  And by the looks of her, I'd wager she was being groomed as the next Joan Fontaine. (Aspiring actresses: if you want that kind of special billing in the credits, marry the movie's producer, as Miss Gillie did.)

A kiss to build a laugh on.
One more welcome twist is the great character actor Sheldon Leonard on the right side of the law for a change, as Det. Joe Portugal. Sneering as if his paycheck depended on it, he's all too familiar with Margot's type: the trollop with a heart of ice. Yet not even a misanthrope like Joe can resist her allure. Going in for a kiss requested by the dying Margot, he's unexpectedly spurned by the most contemptuous laugh ever captured on celluloid.

Supposedly a "lost" film until recently, Decoy is a welcome surprise to noir fans who thought they had seen them all. There was more than a little thought put into all aspects of its production, from the bizarre script to the atmospheric cinematography, and is the kind of Monogram production that rightfully drove the French cinema buffs into throes of extase. This Decoy, without doubt, is the real thing.

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