Monday, March 30, 2015

WORLD NEWS ROUND-UP: 3/30/15

The New York Daily News is reporting an Italian woman has told police that movie producer Harvey Weinstein groped her breasts and private parts.

Weinstein denied the charges, claiming that his chin accidentally bumped into her.


Republican Governor Mike Pence claims that Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act law was not written just to allow businesses to discriminate against gays. 

"In fact," Pence told reporters, "businesses are encouraged to discriminate against the Jews, rag-heads and coloreds, too."


Former airline captain Tom Bunn wrote an essay for Time magazine urging flyers not to lose faith in pilots.

"Otherwise," he said, "they'll get pissed off and crash the plane into a mountain."  


A man in St. Paul, MN, is accused of using his pizza restaurant as a front to move massive amounts of marijuana.

Police became suspicious after noticing slices were being sold by the kilo.


During a debate on a gun bill and concealed weapons permits, Arizona Republican Senator Sylvia Allen -- who has stated that the earth is only 6,000 years old -- suggested it might be better if she and her colleagues debated the idea of making church attendance mandatory instead.

Lawmakers in neighboring states suggested that psychiatric treatment be made mandatory for Arizona voters.



WebMD reports that fecal transplants, using stool from a donor, have been successful at treating a serious gut infection.

The first patient is now considered the only person more full of shit than Donald Trump.

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

Friday, March 27, 2015

BREAKING NEWS: HILLARY CLINTON EDITION, 3/27/15

The New York Times is reporting that Hillary Rodham Clinton is ready to embark on a "listening tour" to prepare for her expected presidential run.

The people she'll be listening to are Thomas K. Montag (CEO, Merrill Lynch), Lloyd Blankfein (CEO, Goldman Sachs), and James Dimon (CEO, JPMorgan Chase)


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

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

LIFE ON THE SLOW SCREEN

Forget about Sgt. Pepper. The Beatles revolutionized culture when they recorded "Slow Down." Only it took over 50 years for the Travel Channel to catch up:



Twelve hours of reality in real time. Don't we all experience this every day of our lives? Do we need to see it on TV to prove that it's real? Hell, 20 minutes of C-SPAN makes me reach for the psiloscybin. Now you want me to watch a 12-hour goddamn road-trip?

My wife, daughter and I once drove to Niagara Falls, which took something like eight hours. Two years ago, we drove seven hours to Syracuse so our daughter could visit its beautiful, impressively-overpriced university. In neither case did the thought occur to me, Boy, this sure would make for some great television! In fact, I think both trips would have the same effect on TV audiences as it did on my wife and daughter, which was put them to sleep.

"I can't miss a minute!"
Like reality TV, slow TV originated in Europe. In 2013, almost a quarter of Norway's population tuned in to watch a 12-hour program devoted to knitting: four hours of discussion, followed by eight hours of doing.

Let me repeat that: twelve straight television hours of knitting. Wasn't the Nazi invasion enough torture for Norwegians? Or did they collectively think, Gee, how can we become even more boring than we already are?

Just how boring is Norway? Opening a can of fish is cause for fear, as the BBC reported last year:


If slow television catches on in the US the way other imports like Big Brother and Survivor have, I'm going to start a local station -- WHOA-TV -- devoted to it. Because even though tourists come to New York for its hustle & bustle, we who live here know that's just a myth. You want slow TV? This would be a selection of a typical broadcasting day:
  • Commuting on the George Washington Bridge at rush hour.
  • Finding a parking space within 20 blocks of your home.
  • Trying to get the bartender's attention on a Saturday night.
  • Waiting for the cable guy to arrive.
  • Standing in line at the post office. 
  • Going though the TSA checkpoint at Kennedy Airport.
  • Watching me toss and turn in the middle of the night as I analyze what a pig's dinner I've made of my life.
Thanks to our European friends, that old cliche about watching paint dry will soon be known as watching Norwegian wood -- and you'll play Comcast for the privilege.

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

Monday, March 23, 2015

A PHARMACEUTICAL COMMERCIAL

Soft yet dramatic music on the soundtrack. C.U. of WOMAN looking at the camera.

WOMAN: It happened so suddenly. I had gone from being interested in the world, to becoming listless and bored.

INT. LIVING ROOM -- The same WOMAN is on the couch, watching TV with a mixture of depression and dread.

WOMAN (V.O.): Day after day, always at the same time -- I felt like giving up on life.

C.U. of her TV: A grim-looking Hillary Clinton is giving a speech.

WOMAN: (V.O.): All I could think of was, "When will this all end?"

INT. DOCTOR'S OFFICE -- The WOMAN is sitting on the examination table as the DOCTOR wraps up the physical.

WOMAN: (V.O.): I described the symptoms to my doctor, who gave me the diagnosis.

C.U. of DOCTOR of the doctor looking at the camera

DOCTOR: Marsha had all the warning signs of suffering from Clinton Fatigue. Fortunately, I was able to prescribe Hillraxia.

Music becomes more upbeat. CUT TO: DOCTOR at his desk, sitting opposite WOMAN. We see him talking to her while she nods.

NARRATOR (V.O.): If you're a political junkie, you may be at increased risk of Clinton Fatigue. Only your doctor can prescribe Hillraxia. Hillraxia is not for everyone. Do not take Hillraxia when using emails, dealing with the press, or enjoying moments of self-respect. Possible side effects include paranoia, megalomania, and cynically putting up with your spouse's sexual shenanigans for the sake of political gain. If you can't afford it, you may qualify for a government subsidy to purchase Hillraxia for up to two terms.

C.U. of TV -- Hillary is now laughing and pointing at someone in her audience.

WOMAN (V.O.): Thanks to Hillraxia, I can enjoy watching the news again.


The same WOMAN is on the couch, watching TV, only now appearing really, really happy at what she sees. She turns to look at the camera.

WOMAN: Talk to your doctor, and see if Hillraxia is right for you. 

C.U. of Hillraxia bottle.

NARRATOR (CONT.): If you're ready for Hillraxia, you're ready for just about anything.

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

    

Saturday, March 21, 2015

MOVIE OF THE DAY: "IN THE WAKE OF THE BOUNTY" (1933)

Every actor has to start somewhere, but nobody's movie debut was more meager than Errol Flynn's. Having never acted before, he was hired to play Fletcher Christian in the Australian picture In the Wake of the Bounty, an odd hybrid of melodrama, documentary and travelogue. Or, as the onscreen introduction informs us, "the first of a series of great travel films to be produced by Expeditionary Films depicting strange incidents, strange places and strange people." They should have started with the studio itself.

"Aye, those Tahitian women were lovely...
or so I hear."

Throughout the first half of its 64-minute running time, In the Wake of the Bounty jerks abruptly from a pub where blind seaman Michael Byrne holds forth on his adventures aboard the HMS Bounty decades earlier, to flashbacks on the ship, and then back again. Never explained is how he returned to England after the mutiny or passed the naval physical to begin with, considering that he's, uh, blind

"Avast! Who moved my cheese,
Mr. Christian?"

Unlike later depictions of the Bounty's notorious commander, here Bligh has lost a couple of stripes, being a Lieutenant instead of Captain. He's also something an 18th-century Capt. Queeg, ordering his crew flogged for allegedly stealing his cheese. Talk about being a petty officer!



"We love unhygienic white men!"
But all that is forgotten when the crew reaches Tahiti. In the Wake of the Bounty then becomes something like a 10-minute home movie shot on location, with real-life islanders as extras. When the half-naked women aren't making like they're hanging out at the Playboy Mansion grotto, they're dancing for the Bounty sailors, throwing their hands in the air like they just don't care. The native men are content to play their drums, although I wonder how they feel about their women going gaga for these greasy Limeys who haven't seen a bar of Lifebuoy since setting off to sea. 

Then another 10 minutes are devoted to the mutiny and its aftermath -- returning to Tahiti to pick up some babes and sailing to nowhere. But the men soon realize that a floating Plato's Retreat isn't all it's cracked up to be. As blind Michael Byrne puts it, "We drank heavily and fought over the women," which sounds an awful lot like your average New York bar any night of the week. Unlike the location shots, the "native girls" on board the Bounty are fully-dressed white actresses. It's an old Western custom: naked white women bad, naked darker women OK.

"Why did white men mate with the dark-
skinned women of Tahiti"? Take a guess, Skippy.
And there, at the 30-minute mark, In the Wake of the Bounty becomes a semi-documentary of life on Tahiti and Pictairn Islands (the location of Fletcher Christian's last stand) in 1932. On Pitcairn, we meet the real-life descendants of the Bounty's mutineers, where inbreeding had been rampant for 160 years. (We see the wedding of Alan Christian to Eva Christian, presided over by Edgar Christian. Eww.) And if you think all they do is hang around eating breadfruit all day, the narrator informs us, "There's no slackers on this little island!" -- despite the kids, we're told, having only a two-hour school day.

Not even all that cool native
jewelry can ease Fletch's pain.
But then, without warning, it's back to Bounty-full melodrama, as life after mutiny is no paradise in paradise. Fletcher Christian bemoans his fate to one of his sidekicks: "Death would be a release from the remorse that dogs my footsteps -- day and night, night and day!" Who knew people were singing Cole Porter in the 18th-century?

Swing it, baby!
And then it's back to 1932 once more, this time for the scripted climax. A Pictairn couple tries to SOS a passing ship to bring medicine for their sick baby, but the distance is too great for the message to carry. The baby dies, the mother weeps melodramatically, and the father recites a prayer at fade out. That's what you get for marrying your sister.

When In the Wake of the Bounty's intro promises that Expeditionary Films "has not spared time or money" in making the movie, it seems to mean that they didn't spare any money at all. The sets look like something out of a Thomas Edison short from 1903, while much of the acting is strictly 19th-century stage melodrama. When one of the Bounty's sailors says of Lt. Bligh, "If I could only live to see him suffer like we've been suffering," he might as well be quoting the audience's opinion of the director.

"Don't worry, ladies, you'll be swooning
over me soon enough."
But what of 24 year-old Errol Flynn in his movie debut?  He's a little gaunt -- did he have one of his bouts of malaria before shooting? He sports his real, pre-Hollywood teeth, which he wisely keeps hidden most of the time. And he's kind of awkward, often looking down at his feet while keeping his arms folded. Still, he's easily the best actor in the movie, with his smooth, familiar voice trying to make sense of the risible dialogue he's been given. ("Mutiny... piracy... Oh God, where will it all end?" Believe me, I asked the same thing.) Even if you had never heard of Errol Flynn, you'd pick him as the only one in the movie who had any chance of success.

Two years later, Flynn's first starring role in an American movie, Captain Blood, was released, launching his legendary career. That same year, M-G-M released Mutiny on the Bounty starring Clark Gable and Charles Laughton, immediately becoming a seafaring classic. But In the Wake of the Bounty, little seen outside Australia, left no wake at all.

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

Thursday, March 19, 2015

DYING FROM DURST

"Welcome to my world, friend."
I had forgotten about Robert Durst until watching The Jinx. And while I always thought the guy was guilty as a melting Fudgsicle on the 4th of July, I admit to being kind of sorry that he got the cuffs slapped on him last weekend. 

You see, I moved to New York too late to see John Lennon strolling around town, so Durst was the next best thing, celebrity-wise. But even after living here since 1981, I never crossed paths with him. In retrospect, that might be a good thing.

Durst's lawyer will probably claim that, thanks to The Jinx, his client won't be able to get a fair trial. C'mon! Anyone who could skate a murder conviction after admitting to killing someone, chopping up the body and throwing the pieces into the Texas bay is more than capable of buying justice. But just to make sure, Durst's defense team has already come up with questionnaire for the jury:

1) Did you approve the O.J. Simpson verdict?

2) Are you a strong believer in coincidence?

3) Are you able to suspend all traces of common sense?

4) Should you hold it against someone for fibbing on occasion?

5) How important is it when someone says, "I killed them all" in regard to two unsolved murders and at least one disappearance?

6) Wouldn't you say that claiming to witness your mother's suicide as a child is cause for acting out from time to time?

7) Isn't it perfectly normal for a wife to want to "get away" from time to time?

8) Do you admire Claus von B├╝low?

9) Don't you believe that a 72 year-old man who has been suspected of two murders and the disappearance of his wife for 33 years has already suffered enough? 

10) Admit it: you've wanted to kill your spouse at least once, right?



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

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

IRONY, GRANDE-SIZED

Starbucks published a full page ad in the New York Times on Sunday — a stark, black, page with a tiny caption “Shall We Overcome?” in the middle, and the words “RaceTogether” with the company logo, on the bottom right. The ad, along with a similar one on Monday in USA Today, is part of an initiative launched this week by the coffee store chain to stimulate conversation and debate about the race in America by getting employees to engage with customers about the perennially hot button subject.

                                     --Fortune Magazine, 3/16/15

Starbucks "Leadership Team":
                                          *******************************

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A PAID POLITICAL ANNOUNCEMENT

EXT. MIDWESTERN FARMLAND - DAY: A gentle wind blows through a field of corn on a sunny day.

JEB BUSH (V.O.): The United States -- breadbasket of the world.

EXT. MANHATTAN (FROM AN OVERHEAD HELICOPTER) - EVENING:  The city is alive with activity.

HILLARY (V.O.): The United States -- land of bright lights and excitement.

EXT. ROCKY MOUNTAINS - DAY: The snow-capped peaks loom dramatically in front of blue sky.

JEB (V.O.): From the mountains...

EXT. PRAIRIE - TWILIGHT: A bison herd settles in for the evening

HILLARY (V.O.): To the prairie...

EXT. CALIFORNIA BEACH - DAY: Waves dramatically on the shore.

JEB (V.O.): To the oceans white with foam. 

INT. GOVERNMENT-STYLE OFFICE: Hillary and Jeb stand side by side.

HILLARY: America -- truly the land of opportunity.

JEB: And Hillary and I are proud to take advantage of all America offers.

HILLARY: As you know, there's an election coming up next year, and while Jeb and I haven't officially announced that we're running, well, there's no point in being coy. Right, Jeb?

JEB: Right, Hill. Now, we know many of you are working long hours, maybe working two, even three jobs to make ends meet. And you just don't have time to sit down and compare the differences between the presidential candidates.

HILLARY: So we're making it easy for you by raising the most money, so we can win the nomination of our respective parties.

JEB: Clinton and Bush -- For 20 out of the last 27 years, someone with those names has occupied the Oval Office.

HILLARY: And for a total of 24 years, Jeb and I were public servants as well, either as Governor, Senator, Secretary of State or First Lady.

JEB: Add those up, and that's 44 out of 27 years. Man, do we love serving the public!

HILLARY: Clinton and Bush -- you know the brands. It's a dangerous world, and there's no point in trying something new. 

JEB: You said it, Hillary. I might've claimed that I'm my own man, but look at the advisers I've rounded up -- the same group that served the last three Republican presidents. Stay the course, as my dad used to say.

HILLARY: And anyone who thinks I'm going to carve new trails, why, they just don't know me. Wall Street has nothing to fear, and neither does the Pentagon. There isn't a country I don't want to invade. Why, I'm John McCain with a facial!

JEB: When you get right down to it, we're pretty much the same on everything. Except abortion and gun control.

HILLARY: But don't worry. While we talk a mean game on opposite sides of those issues, we're going to let the status quo remain.

JEB: Because unlike those "renegade" candidates in our parties, we're not out to shake things up.

HILLARY: You see, Jeb and I have set up the "Clinton Or Bush In 2016" campaign fund. Every dollar you donate will be split 50/50 between us. 

JEB: Not only will this make life simpler for us, but also for those fatcats who always give to Democrats and Republicans in order to grease the wheels no matter who wins. 

HILLARY: We're looking at you, Rupert Murdoch!

JEB: So remember. In these uncertain times, there's no point in trying something new. Go with the tried and true. Remember, monarchies have worked for the Brits since the 10th century.

HILLARY: (turns to Jeb) Jeb, are you saying I could be queen? (They both chuckle.)

JEB: Clinton Or Bush 2016.

JEB & HILLARY: Because it's our turn. 

CGI image of American flag with faces of Hillary and Jeb in place of the stars.

JEB (V.O.) I'm Jeb Bush.

HILLARY (V.O.) I'm Hillary Clinton.

JEB & HILLARY (V.O.) And we approved this message.

HILLARY: (V.O.) And how! (She cackles with delight.)

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

Friday, March 13, 2015

THE WINO WARRIORS PROJECT



FADE IN: 

INT. LIVING ROOM -- C.U. of MARK WAHLBERG accompanied by generic, soft patriotic music. 

WAHLBERG: When Mark Connolly joined the Secret Service, he was eventually assigned to President Obama's detail, when he was made second-in-command. A patriot at heart, Mark considered it the proudest moment of his life.

COLLAGE OF PHOTOS OF CONNOLLY PROTECTING OBAMA AT VARIOUS FUNCTIONS

WAHLBERG: (CONT.)  But one night, when celebrating the retirement of a colleague, Connolly and a fellow agent, George Ogilvie, stepped on a landmine of stupid behavior.
   
IPHONE PHOTO OF CONNOLLY BEING QUESTIONED BY COP OUTSIDE WHITE HOUSE 

WAHLBERG: (V.O.) The two agents got pie-eyed faster than you can say "Renegade arriving." The next thing they knew, they were driving into a barrier outside the White House.

INT. BEDROOM -- MARK CONNOLLY, hungover, is trying to drink a glass of Alka-Seltzer as his WIFE looks on.

WIFE: (V.O.): It's been hard since Mark returned. He puts on a brave face, but I know his hangovers are brutal.

COLLAGE OF PHOTOS OF SECRET SERVICE AGENTS IN COMPROMISING SITUATIONS.

WAHLBERG (V.O.): Every day, Secret Service agents are getting drunk on the job -- with hookers, or alone in dingy hotel stairways, or, in Mark's case, while crashing their cars onto federal property.

INT. DEN -- CONNOLLY, dressed in a ratty bathrobe while still hungover, is trying to walk a straight line with the aid of his seven year-old DAUGHTER. 

DAUGHTER (V.O.): I help my daddy sober up before he goes to work. Because he tells me that even superheroes need to tie one on once in a while.  

CONNOLLY stumbles over the hassock and passes out. The DAUGHTER pours of a glass of water on his face, which shocks him back to consciousnesses. 

WAHLBERG (V.O.): The Wino Warrior Project is there to help Secret Service agents and their families recover from the trauma of getting hammered while guarding the leader of the free world. 

INT. BATHROOM -- CONNOLLY, unshaven and bleary-eyed, is gazing at his reflection in the mirror. 

WAHLBERG (V.O.): For $15 a month, you can help these wino warriors by providing them with the supplies they need to recover from their benders. 

CONNOLLY kneels over the toilet and throws up out of range of the camera.
  
CUT TO: A Wino Warriors rubber hot-water bottle with the logo of three drunken Secret Service agents leaning on each other to prevent themselves from stumbling over.

WAHLBERG (V.O.): And with your first contribution, we'll send you this official Wino Warriors hot-water bottle -- identical to the kind we give these agents for their "morning after."

CUT TO: WIFE in living room.  

WIFE (teary-eyed): The Wounded Warriors Project reminds us that we aren't alone. And that was the worst thing in the beginning -- being alone while Mark was throwing up all that Jack Daniels Black from the night before. 

CUT TO: WAHLBERG  

WAHLBERG: Please, make a contribution to the Wino Warriors Project today, and help a Secret Service agent get out of bed without tripping over his feet. Thank you.

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




Thursday, March 12, 2015

BREAKING NEWS: HILLARY CLINTON EDITION

In the wake of Hillary Clinton's email controversy, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate has hired the consulting firm of Booz Allen Hamilton to improve her image.

As Booz Allen spokesman Brad Lanes explained, "The problem with Hillary -- that she's utterly unlikeable -- oddly works in her favor. Because Democrats who don't like her always say, 'But I'm going to vote for her anyway,' even though they perceive her as being cynical, militaristic, and cozy with Wall Street. And Republicans, who normally loathe her, respect her for those same reasons. So it's a win-win all around. I mean, she could run over a flock of baby ducks, and Lanny Davis will go on Morning Joe and blame the guy who filled up her gas tank."

"But it doesn't end there," admitted Lanes, "because the email situation reinforces the image that Hillary is Richard Nixon with a blonde rinse. And then there's her husband, who can best be described as an AK-47 without a safety lock. You never know who he's going to  spray with his, er, ammunition. But again, that can work for us if we play it right."

When asked how, Lanes replied, "One word: dependability. Americans are living in very uncertain times. What better way to know what the lead story will be on the news on any given night than rebooting the endless Clinton psychodrama? It's like House of Cards, only it's real. I mean, Kevin Spacey's a great actor, don't get me wrong. But for sheer, unadulterated adulteration, Bill is genius. And everybody loves it when Hillary has to drop everything and run to his rescue."

"It's got something for everybody," said Lanes. "Men envy Bill for getting away with it, and women sympathize with Hillary for having to stay married to him, because, well, who would have voted for somebody named Hillary Rodham Nothing? They need each other."

"And it's happening already," Lanes noted. "The day after Hillary says she used her private server to communicate with her husband, he comes out and says he's sent only two emails in his life, and not since he left office! They don't call him Teflon Bill for nothing," Lanes chuckled. "See, America loves the endless drama. In fact, that's how we're going to sell it: 'In your heart, you know you miss it."

But as for the younger generation? "That's going to be the challenge," admitted Lanes. "They know Hillary only for pointing to people in crowds as if she knows them and cackling with delight, and Bill as some guy who looks like their horny uncle who makes dirty jokes. But kids love reality shows. And we need to let them know that a Clinton White House would be the ultimate reality show." 

Deepening his voice like a television announcer, Lanes said dramatically, "As ISIS launches an invasion of Italy, Hillary is distracted by Bill launching an invasion of his newest intern. Which crisis will she have to handle first? Find out tonight on Keeping Up with the Clintons." Returning to his own voice, Lanes said, "I get goosebumps just thinking about it."

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

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

WORLD NEWS ROUND-UP: 3/11/15

The National Review is reporting that suspicious fires have twice destroyed Al Sharpton's key financial records, both times when he was under investigation by the IRS.

Sharpton held a hastily-arranged press conference to denounce the charges before being rushed to New York Presbyterian Hospital's Burn Center.


Hillary Clinton told reporters yesterday that, regarding her emails, she used a personal server during her tenure as Secretary of State as a matter of convenience. 

Former President Bill Clinton said that he used personal servers on Jeffrey Epstein's private island as a matter of convenience as well. "And I assure you," he chuckled, "there's nothing wrong with my hard drive!"

An Oklahoma legislative committee voted to ban the teaching of Advanced Placement U.S. history classes. Rep. Dan Fisher (R) believes it emphasizes “what is bad about America” and characterizes the United States as a “nation of oppressors and exploiters.”

Rep. Fisher said that, going forward, the World War II internment of Japanese-Americans will be referred to as "a lengthy sabbatical," the Southern poll-tax as "state revenue programs," and slavery as "unpaid internships."

A jury found “Blurred Lines” co-creators Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams copied parts of Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got To Give it Up” for their 2012 song.

Thicke denied he's ever plagiarized any of Marvin Gaye's music, and denounced juries who recently have made similar decisions, telling reporters, "Mercy mercy me, things ain't what they used to be."


Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) described himself as "disgusted" by Moed's admission, adding, "If he wanted to be financially dominated, he should do what I do and get in touch with the Koch Brothers."


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

Monday, March 9, 2015

THE TIDY LIFE

The Torah of Tidy
My wife and I have joined a cult, and we couldn't be happier. Or neater. 

Thanks to Marie Kondo, the guru who's to tidying up as David Miscavige is to blackmailing movie stars, our home is 200 pounds lighter than it was a week ago. And we're not done yet.

Ms. Kondo, in case you haven't heard, has become the face of cleaning out your house, then folding up what's left into nice little rows. But not just folding any old way. No, you've got to do it the Kondo way. And do it with love.

Now if you think that's a lot of hooey, well let me tell you I was once like you, friend. My folding was more like rolling, one t-shirt atop another. Socks balled up into one another. Underwear -- well, let's not go there. Very few people have ever wanted to, anyway, especially women.

Just remember to pay Ms. Kondo a royalty
every time you fold a tablecloth like she does.
But this isn't just about clothes. Books unread and CDs barely listened to had become a tsunami of paper and digital information pushing me out of my own home. And for why?

The diagnosis was clear. We were suffering from decor constipation.

But then appeared Marie Kondo, gliding in on a swan with perfectly smooth feathers numbering the same amount on each wing. And her advice was simple: Hold each item in your hands -- does it bring you joy? If not -- THROW IT THE HELL OUT! Then, if foldable, fold what's left the Kondo way.

Observe my t-shirt drawer, before Kondo:


A damnable mess, if I do say so myself. I needed a Sherpa guide to get that through that refuse heap every morning. And the worst part -- I had no idea it looked like that until I first saw the photo. How pathetic is that?

Then, after the Law of Kondo took effect:


From Godforsaken hellhole to a place of peace and solitude in minutes. You could sleep in there. Look -- there's even room for my pajamas.  And you should see my wife's drawers! Wait, you know what I mean.

Elvis has left the building.
From slaves to salvage to believers in order -- our Kondo co-op clean-up baffles science, confounds the experts, yet is true! And lest you think this is merely the hobby of a middle-aged couple jumping on the latest fad, even our daughter, home from college last week, got into the act. And her room is still a mess. But a tidy mess. 

It took me two trips to the local Goodwill to get rid of all our unwanted crap, including 50 -- count 'em -- 50 CDs. And most of those were mine. That's about 500 bucks worth of music that we could sell on ebay for 50 cents each now. Next year's tax deduction will be a better deal.

Go ahead, go to your closet, your bookshelf, wherever you keep stuff. Go there right now. Take out an item, touch it -- hold it to your heart if you'd like -- and ask yourself: Does this bring me joy? You'll be shocked at how much you wind up tossing to the curb.

But a friendly warning to all you husbands: you might not want your wife to look at you and ask herself the same question.

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

Friday, February 27, 2015

SALT OF THE EARTH

My neighborhood, unaware of the horror
that was about to unfold.
The prosaic, predictable Upper East Side lifestyle to which I'm happily accustomed was briefly shattered yesterday afternoon when high-pitched, unintelligible screaming broke the usual silence outside my building. 

Figuring it was one of the local school kids letting off steam, I ignored it for about two minutes before deciding it was time to give my typically courageous response: Lowering the shade, opening the window a few inches, and bellowing "HEY, SHUT UP OUT THERE!" before quickly ducking out of sight. Just call me Upper East Side Sniper.

As I got to the window, it became clear this wasn't just some kid showing off to his friends. This was the yelling of a woman who sounded mighty angry, and not because she disagreed with her husband about whether the dress was gold and white or blue and black. (For the record, I go with gold and white.)


And there she was: a woman in the building across the street pounding on the window of her first-floor apartment. Pounding so hard, in fact, that the window bulged out every time she hit it, as if made of plexiglass. I still couldn't understand what she was yelling, but it was loud enough to transmit through a closed window. 

I neglected to say that she also appeared to be at least partly unclothed. What the hell, lady, where do you think you are, the Reeperbahn? This is the Upper East Side. We only walk around naked with the shades open because we don't think anyone across the street is looking.

Passers-by, in their typical New York fashion, took little notice of the drama, giving it no more thought than they would a siren down the block. I was thinking that this might be a good time to call 911, when she suddenly stopped and backed away, out of sight. OK, show's over, bub, nothing more to see here.

Suddenly, when what to my wandering eyes did appear was the woman, around 30 years of age, opening the window and carefully hoisting herself out. She was naked, alright, ambling up the block toward York Avenue in the 27-degree air, pausing from time to time as she glimpsed into the parked cars, inquiring, "Mom? Mom?"

As I watched this freak show unfold before me, one obvious thought came to me: Y'know, if this chick wasn't crazy, she'd be pretty hot.

Not even the jaded Manhattanites could ignore it anymore. One older woman took out her cellphone to call 911 instead of doing what anyone else would have done: shoot a video and post it online. 

As the naked woman traipsed out of sight, two words entered my head: bath salts. And not because I was feeling all achy. Take a gander at these real headlines:

 
                 ‘Bath salts’ suspected in nationwide naked crime wave

 Miami's 'Naked Zombie' Proves Need to Ban Bath Salts, Experts Say

Crazed naked man high on bath salts threatens to eat police officers

 Woman High On Bath Salts Strips Naked In A Park For The Second Time


The gateway drug.
Anybody else starting to notice a pattern? 

These people weren't all naked because they were getting ready to step into the tub and thought, I've got these bath salts here. Hey, let's see what would happen if I snorted them. According to a DEA spokesman, ingesting bath salts causes the body temperature to spike dramatically. Other side effects include violent behavior and unnatural strength. (Don't give NFL players any ideas.)   

As for la femme nue, she was carted away in an ambulance a moment later. By the time I finished putting on my shoes and coat to go out, another ambulance and three squad cars were double-parked outside my building. They were still there when I returned about 45 minutes later. I guess those guys really wanted to find another naked woman.

You'd think this adventure would've been worthy of a paragraph or two in the local tabloids this morning, but you'd be wrong. If only I'd had the presence of mind to take a video with our iPad! It probably would have been good for a C-note or two from the local Fox affiliate's 5:00 news.

But the worst part? The crazy naked woman put on her show after the little brats from the private girls school on our block were dismissed for the day. That's an education they never would've forgotten.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

BREAKING NEWS: HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES EDITION

Health and Human Services' Office of Refuge Resettlement (ORR) has confirmed  that abortions must be made available by federally funded caregivers of illegal alien unaccompanied minors. 

Asked to comment on the idea of free abortions for illegal aliens, Republican spokesman Joe Mendi said, "I'll have to get back to you on this."

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

MOVIE OF THE DAY: "WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?" (1945)

You'd think a movie with a script by Morrie Ryskind (A Night at the Opera) and a score by Ira Gershwin and Kurt Weill (no credits needed), would be long-considered a classic. But the answer to the musical's title, Where Do We Go From Here?, is "down the memory hole."

It's certainly an unusual concept for a musical, being the story of Bill Morgan, a 4-F scrap dealer who wants to impress the soldier-crazy slut Sally Smith, while blind to the affections of the good-girl Lucilla Powell. An inept genie in a magic lamp tries to grant Morgan his wish to join the army, but succeeds only in sending him back and forth through time -- the American Revolution, Christopher Columbus' voyage to the New World, and 16th-century New Amsterdam -- while encountering Sally and Lucilla's ancestors along the way.

Fred MacMurray tries unsuccessfully
to look down June Haver's dress.
Alternately refined and juvenile, lively and tedious, Where Do We Go From Here? feels like a Broadway show that 20th Century-Fox decided would make a swell Technicolor movie instead. Gregory Ratoff's directing style consists of long, unedited takes without the panache of, say, Alfred Hitchcock or even Laurel & Hardy. While it works for the astonishing USO production number "Morale," it tends that much more to make the movie resemble a filmed play.

Not that Where Do We Go From Here? is without charm. Fred MacMurray, the man least likely to sing Kurt Weill, does a nice job with the dreamy "All at Once" and "If Love Remains" -- two numbers that are probably Cafe Carlyle staples even today. "The Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria" (guess which scene), on the other hand, is a 10-minute mini-opera that impresses for its sheer audaciousness. 

But the score's overall sophistication is so far out of step from other '40s movie musicals and its own silly script that Where Do We Go From Here? probably bewildered its original audience. Sometimes bizarre is good. Other times it's just... bizarre.


Anthony Quinn and Fred MacMurray get cozy
while ignoring the hot squaw on the rug.
Along with MacMurray, the cast is something of a ragtag bunch. Joan Leslie and June Haver are beautiful but bland second-tier leading ladies. Mexican-born Anthony Quinn is a fast-talking 15th-century Indian chief who threatens to scalp Morgan, before selling him the island of Manhattan -- which already has Times Square street signs. (If you love relentless anachronistic humor, Where Do We Go From Here? is for you.) 

Gene Sheldon goes back
in time so he can refuse to
make this movie.
Stage actor Gene Sheldon speaks more dialogue as the idiot genie than he probably did in the rest of his career. If you're old enough, you may remember Sheldon on TV as either Zorro's mute sidekick, or guesting on variety shows playing banjo while making funny faces. Actually, you probably don't, but I do.

Where Do We Go From Here? has some trappings of an A-picture but with a B-movie running time of 74 minutes. (A sequence featuring Roy Rogers and Gabby Hayes, presumably set in the Old West, was excised before its release.) Too, its May 1945 release date -- rather late for a flag-waving, World War II-themed picture -- suggests that it had been sitting on the shelf for at least a year. Like Fred MacMurray's character, Where Do We Go From Here? was probably never in quite the right time or place.

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Anyone interested in watching the lengthy "Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria" production number can go here.

The demo for a deleted song, combining tongue-twisting lyrics and insulting Native American humor, can be heard here performed by Gershwin & Weill.
 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

BREAKING NEWS: ISIS EDITION 2/24/15

In a recent series of online videos and messages, ISIS has threatened to invade Rome and throw gay men off the Leaning Tower of Pisa; shown footage of seven year-olds training for battle; and published a manual for ISIS brides demonstrating how to raise children and prepare meals for their husbands.

When asked for a comment, Republican party spokesman Joe Mendi said, "We applaud their commitment to family values."

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