Thursday, July 31, 2008

I did it. Blogged every day this month. 31 flavors, baby.

Oh yeah, I should probably put up some content today, something of substance.

Fine. The more I read about the latest space exploration discoveries, the more I'm convinced there's no life out there, despite what NASA says. Yes, alien life forms are alive and unwell... at Comic-Con in San Diego -- I've seen 'em -- but not Mars.

I say this because it just seems like the eggheads are trying so hard to reach that happy nerd-fantasy conclusion -- to be like Captain Kirk with some green three-bosomed nymphomaniac morphing Martian chick -- no matter what they evidence they get.

"Oh, we will find intelligent life on Mars."

"Maybe not intelligent life, but more like people who watch 'America's Got Talent'."

"Well, okay, this data could indicate there was once an environment that contained the elements that could support, under the right circumstances -- such as an asteroid hitting just the Sea of Tranquility on a balmy Thursday and bringing with it carbon-based Sea Monkeys -- a few molecules that resemble -- well, not an entire organism, but if you squint, it mighta kinda looked like a virus... or a manatee."

I know, I know. I'm being way too cynical again. Everyone hopes to find signs of life out there, but when the so-called revelation leads to more money and time devoted to this fact-finding mission, it sets off my bullshit detector.

Remember the search in Iraq for weapons of mass destruction?

"We definitely found WMDs."

"Did I say WMDs? I meant BVDs. But it was the underwear worn by people working on chemical weapons. OMG. I swear I'm not on LSD."

"There's indications that someone might have, at one point, thought about possibly becoming interested in looking into considering something remotely involved with -- wait, what were we talking about?"

I dunno, maybe there's no connection between these two things, and I'm stretching a point for this blog post.

Whattaya want? July was a long month.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I'm surprised this doesn't happen more often:

If you work in most large offices, you usually have to dial 9 to get an outside line.

And of course, if you have call an outside area code, or often even the same area code you're in, you have to dial 1 first.

And many large area codes have a 1 as the middle digit (e.g., LA: 310 or 213, NY: 212 or 718, SF Bay: 415 or 510, Chicago: 312, Boston: 617, etc.).

So if you're in the habit of dialing 9 to start a call, even if you're not at work, and then quickly hit 1, and the area code, but in your haste, leave off the first digit of the area code... well, the remaining numbers are superfluous, whether or not you realized it. You just dialed 911.

At that point, you may want to take a moment to explain to the emergency operator your mistake. Don't hang up.

'Cause they may interpret that as an attempt to call for help that got thwarted, say by the bad guys, and police will come to your door, and not entirely believe you that nothing's wrong. Hopefully, you won't have anything illegal or embarrassing at home when you open the door and show them around just to reassure them. Still, you'll have to explain your dialing mistake.

But don't feel bad. I'm sure this happens all the time, even if the cops shake their head and say it's just you.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Three things that fortunately didn't happen in today's 5.8 earthquake:

1. All our new dishes and glasses didn't fall and shatter. Otherwise, so much for our wedding gifts.

2. I was using the bathroom but didn't go out like Elvis.

3. My fiancée didn't go nuts.

Okay, well, two outta three ain't bad.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Moo Shu Haiku
5 Japanese poems about 1 Chinese meal

Sickness recipe:
Greasy chicken, peanuts and
MSG, of course.

Recipe rewrite:
Free local delivery,
One fateful phone call.

The Red Hot Chili
Peppers can rock in concert
And in my stomach

Kung pao. Wow. And how.
Too much chow. No more, I vow.
But I say that now.

The fortune cookie
Promises wealth and success.
I just want Bromo.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Why did I come back from Comic-Con early? So I could spend one full day in our apartment by myself without Adelphia, who's off in NY for her bridal shower.

Woke well-rested 'cause I had the entire bed and no one else's alarm going off.

Read the papers without anyone bugging me for a section or jabbering on about corny how-they-met stories in the Sunday Styles.

Took all the time I wanted during my run on the beach since I didn't have to get back and go with Adelphia somewhere and barely be able to walk 'cause I just ran.

Now, I'm about to eat Chinese food, which she never lets me order -- the Weight Watchers Points value may go up astronomically, and ruin me anatomically, but the dishes are delicious gastronomically.

And I'll watch some stupid movie, without my fiancee telling me how stupid the movie is.

It's gonna be great.

Man, I miss her.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Just got back from Comic-Con and boy are my cyber-genetic mutated zombie-chewed digitally-altered vampire-ninja arms tired.

In the short time I was there, I saw:

Sara Silverman, having lunch with several other TV comedians, before putting on a wig and sunglasses to leave incognito? Or as some kind of weird performance art?

Carlton Cuse & Damon Lindelof, the exec. producers of "Lost", standing around a Dharma Initiative booth, acting all smug like they're actually gonna wrap this whole thing up logically in 40 something more episodes... We'll see, guys...

Simon Pegg, aka Shaun of the Dead aka the new Star Trek's Scotty, introducing his old British TV show, "Spaced". It was funny, but the poor sound system and British humor was bloody hard to comprehend sometimes.

Judd Apatow and his wife Leslie Mann, on the streets of San Diego, twice, and despite the fact that my fiancee and I have said hi to them on the streets of Burbank, I didn't greet them again as if we were old friends from Long Island.

Gabriel Macht, star of upcoming The Spirit, who I actually met through family friends last week at Morty's funeral, is an extremely nice guy, and ran into at the same restaurant at which Sara Silverman was chowing down and dressing up.

A few filmmaker/comic book writer/artists friends, promoting their new comix, and equally as overwhelmed by all the other artists there selling theirs.

Hundreds of costumed crazies, most of them dressed like the Joker. Expect a million of 'em come Halloween.

JustJenn, who had her own booth 'cause she's crafty, gets around, crafty and always down. And she was selling some very neat stuff, but most importantly, proving that there are some cool people among all these geeks.

And did I mention the lucky geek? Just before I left, I got to interview Carmen Electra and Kim Kardashian. Who knew the dweeboramic Comic-Con could be so babealicous & asstastic?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Adelphia is leaving me today.

Fine. Go then.

Go back to New York, to stay with your sister, and yo mama.

Have your girlie bridal shower in NYC.

I'll have plenty of fun here in California. I'm not gonna sit around missing you like some lonely loser dweeb. I'm gonna hang out with other date-less wonders.

I'm going to Comic-Con.

The final frontier for fanboys. The Hottest Nerd Hootenannie. It's Mardi Geek.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Living in LA all this time, I've been to services at a cemetery on three occasions, as of today. And that doesn't include seeing late night scary movies at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, which I've done a few times, too.

rrr ccc

Yet tonight was the first time I ever checked out the Twilight Dance Series at the Santa Monica Pier. Even though they do this every Thursday night in the summer and we could ride our bikes there and even valet them for free and despite the crowd, we ran into our friend there, because we always run into her in Santa Monica by accident, so why not on purpose?


With everyone gathered on blankets and lawn chairs sharing wine and picnic foods, it was a lot like the Hwd Forever Cemetery movies, just substituting the reminders of life's inevitabilities with music and views of the Ferris Wheel.

Guess which one I plan to do more of.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Poor Adelphia.

My fiancée loves the Hollywood Bowl. She'd go with friends, or on a whim, just attend a classical outdoor performance on her own, and always have a wonderful time. It'd be even more fun to have someone special to go with. And hey, I'm someone special.

So what was the problem? Well, surprisingly, the catch wasn't that I'm not a huge fan of concerts -- I could enjoy these summer concert series, under the right circumstances.

But we can never seem to get the right set of circumstances.

Don't get me wrong, I liked the Bowl. But I didn't love it as Adelphia would have preferred. The drive over, with traffic and parking, was a pain in the ass. Okay, we'd take the shuttle. Then there was the throngs of people, especially kids, who are cute as they check out the Bugs Bunny music (Kill da Wabbit!) or John Williams light saber spectacular, but have no concept of crowd maneuvering etiquette (outta my way, punks, I gotta picnic basket weighted down with bottles of champagne here, and if you don't get outta my way, I'll find a place for the corks).

The real problem, though, was that we always went on a Saturday, which is the day I used to go visit my mom. And even on the most stress-free of family get-togethers, well, I was stressed. It was really hard for me to decompress.

So on the last concert of the season last year, I rearranged my schedule ahead of time so that I wouldn't visit Mom that day. I'd be nice and relaxed for the Bowl.

Turned out, that was the weekend I had to get my mom admitted to the hospital. She seemed like she might be okay, I kept telling myself that evening as we listened to Pink Martini do their thang, but my mind wouldn't stop swirling with anger & frustration about the stupid health care workers and worry about how they'd treat my mother.

Poor mom. And poor Adelphia for not getting her perfect romantic Hollywood Bowl experience.

So last night, when we went to the Bowl, things looked promising. We were going during the week -- it'd be much, much less crowded. I wasn't too busy that day, and cleared my schedule in the afternoon so that we could catch the shuttle with no hassle.

And as we sat under the stars, devouring a delicious picnic Adelphia prepared (okay, bought from Gelson's and Whole Foods), everything seemed wonderful. Even when my sister called, I knew it was probably her asking a wedding-related question -- all good stuff, right?

No, turns out, our cousin Morton passed away. Now, we weren't that close with Morty -- he was my father's cousin and they didn't see much of each other. In fact, the only two times I saw Morty in the last 6 years was at each of my parents' funerals. So, I was sad, but not overwhelmed with grief or anything. It wasn't gonna ruin the evening.

But, this is me we're talking about. I can't shut off my brain like a light switch, no matter how much La Ventura rosé wine from Paso Robles I consume. While the Mozart music played, I kept thinking about that wiseass Morty and how I didn't really get along with him when I first came to LA (my father told me to look him up). But later, when my parents moved west, he got together with us and told the most hysterical stories about our family. He truly admired my parents back in their Bohemian NY days. To me, directly, he was aloof and abrasive, and the vainest senior citizen I ever met, but I just can't dislike a man who helped reveal a side of my parents I would've never gotten to know, while cracking us all up in the process.

I did my best to let these thoughts go and be in the moment. Tomorrow, I'm attending Morty's funeral.

And hopefully, next month's visit to the Hollywood Bowl, my fiancée and I will finally find it frustration-free.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Conversation between my fiancee & me, returning from the Hollywood Bowl:

Adelphia: Did you enjoy that?

Michael: Sure.

A: What's wrong?

M: Nothing.

A: Oh, you never like going to the Bowl. It wasn't crowded this time.

M: I know. I liked it, really.

A: Was it the music?

M: Well, you said it would be Mozart.

A: Yeah, but I'm sorry it didn't have Tom Hulce doing his Amadeus giggle.

M: C'mon, I'm not some kind of philistine.

A: No, but you like Chopin because it's used in that episode of "Tom & Jerry" where the cat figures out a way to fly. You only know Georges Bizet's Carmen from the soundtrack to the Bad News Bears. What am I supposed to think?

M: I happen to know that Mozart composed The Marriage of Figaro. Isn't that right?

A: Yeah.

M: And wasn't Figaro the Barber of Seville?

A: I guess.

M: Well, I enjoyed the mezzo-soprano singer they had tonight, but she did everything in Italian but they never got to the big number.

A: What are you talking about?

M: Where was that song with the kid with the cowlick and the razor and strop?

A: You mean from "The Little Rascals"?

M: "I'm the Barber of Sevillllle! Figaro! Figaro! Figaro!"

A: Otay, Alfalfa.

Monday, July 21, 2008

hey wuts up w/u?

im just chillin

o sht batman is kewl

heath ledger + joker = awesum

its sad :(

crstian bale iz so hot he makes me ? my sexualty

m not gay tho Iswear

batmobile iz phat

peepl nxt to me R pissd

wot jerx

telling me not 2 txt u

just cos im in d mo-V the-8r

i like aron eckhrt 2

but really i like girlz

magie gyllenhaal = hot

almst as much az jake

i cant figer out wot just happnd in moV

cos the guy thru his junior mintz atme

mm junior mintz

now hez gttng up and

omg hez gona pour hiz soda on my nu iFone


*Caller out of service*

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A few hours ago I was in Barnes & Nobles with my fiancee, looking for light beach reading for our honeymoon, thinking about perhaps buying Chelsea Handler's book, maybe trying one of the old Chuck Palahniuks, or something I saw about the history and philosophy of comedy that turned out to seem more like slapdash fluff than the profoundly funny study that the New York Times Book Review made it out to be, but what else do you expect from the Times?

We were at the bookstore only because the Batman movie was sold out so we bought tickets for it for tomorrow, because I wanna try to crash Comic-Con and all the geeks will laugh at me if I haven't seen the superhero cinematic event of the summer, and I simply can't be ridiculed by grown men dressed like She-Hulk or a Tribble.

So there we were in the aisle of recently released humor section and I saw that book Camp Camp I mentioned in an earlier post and realized that it focused more on camp dwellers from the mid- to late-'80s than the timeframe of my sleepaway stint. The styles were different but the experiences were the same. At the talent shows, kids were dressing up like Michael Jackson or Run DMC -- which is embarrassing for anyone, but especially for suburban white Jewish boys. In my day, at least the kids tried to emulate musicians of the Semitic persuasion. Namely KISS.

(By the way, I don't know why I had to provide this long drawn-out intro explaining the reason I'm reminiscing about this story. The real meat of the post starts here. And like anyone gives a crap how I arrived at this memory now? Am I hoping that The Dark Knight, Chelsea Handler or Tribbles are going to be more thought- (and comment-) provoking than my upcoming camp anecdote will by itself? But there you have it. Now, back to the story...)

I hated KISS. Did then. Do now. Despite my love of hard rock, and the small pleasure out of knowing that Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley are a couple of not-so-nice Jewish boys, I think those schmendricks' music stinks like kippered herring that sat behind the deli counter too long. Even the world's first power ballad, "Beth" -- I was skeptical of that schmaltz when I was still in my short pants.

Perhaps appropriately, the camp bully loved 'em. This particular jerk had been terrorizing me all summer. I found a few old photos and can't understand now why I was scared of this guy back then. He was only slightly bigger than me. Similarly, in the girls' bunks, the campers who were mean to my sister at camp -- I look at the group portraits, knowing how superficial these girls were and wonder where all that attitude came from. I think my sister was a much cuter kid than them. Maybe I'm biased. And maybe they were bitches.

So this bully and his friends, for the camp talent show, did a lip-sync number to a KISS song. Basically, they'd get made up with the black-and-white gimmicky face paint, strum their tennis rackets, air-guitaring to some awful ditty like "Shout it Out Loud".

I reluctantly entered the talent show, too. My sister and a couple of people who knew me in my civilian life suggested I reprise my elementary school performance of "Casey at the Bat". I wasn't sure. This was camp. It was about fun, nobody wanted to hear some artsy-fartsy poem about baseball from a hundred years ago. Maybe if I did it fast -- kinda like a Sugar Hill Gang rap song, but no, they said, just do it the classic way. Tell the story, and a friend would come out and perform as "Casey".

Weird thing, when the audience and judges voted on their favorite act... it was a tie -- Casey at the Bat and KISS.

I don't know if this says something about the balance between high-brow rhymes about the the lack of joy in Mudville and the entertainment value of four schmucks imitating four other schmucks and vomiting fake blood. As we accepted our award, which I think was gift card to the canteen -- candy to Mikey in those days was like Euros to a currency trader today -- the camp bully shrugged and said my performance wasn't too bad and I did the same to him. The next day he went back to his usual routine of catching me off guard and punching me in the stomach.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sometimes I think certain jerks in this world are trying to drive me nuts. Every now and then, though, it's the other way around. Three examples:

1. There's this guy at the poker game who's usually pretty cool, but is known for throwing angry fits when he loses a hand. Dude, it's just a game. I think he's frustrated that he can't read people's minds based on how they bet. Especially people like me. He'll often say, "I think I know what cards you have," and I try to explain -- *I* don't know what cards I have. So when he and I go up against each other, he should stop trying to figure me out -- I'm not gonna raise, check, call, whatever, like the pros. I don't know what I'm doing. Except making him crazy. "I'm baffled!" He'd say. "Fucking baffled." Heh. It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you make your opponent insane.

2. At one of my old jobs, the file room guy was a weirdo who was so aloof it was painful. I woulda felt bad for him, but his alternative to acting elusive was to be a snide asshole. He'd grumble under his breath to me about one of the women working there, and one day she annoyed me, too, so I shared my gripe with him, explaining I had to vent to someone. The rest of the day, he acted like he had one over on me. "The Venter," he called me, smugly. "Better that than the Circumventer," I told him. But as usual he had his back to me. I kept asking him why he stood there in the file room all day, with his back to everyone, hiding behind reading his newspaper. What was he afraid of? Was human contact that frightening to him? I saw other people share things with him, but he never reciprocated. Was he scared they'd be as disdainful of him as he seemed to be of others? I couldn't see his face, but from his body language, it was obvious my psychoanalysis was agonizingly dead-on accurate. Still with his back to the room, he finally said, "I'm... a... very... private... person!" I let it go, but he forgot... to... mention.... he's... a... wackjob.

3. Back when my mom was in and out of the rehab hospital, my sister and I were dealing with a health care liaison named Leonard. Leonard acted like our buddy, our go-to-guy, our right-hand man. Leonard was full of shit. All talk, no action, and more double-talk. He liked to act calm, be the voice of intractable reason, even when I was getting aggravated at the bureaucratic bullshit. But still, I wouldn't give up on getting the things I needed for my mom. So whenever necessary, I'd keep calling or go up to Burbank to visit and track down Leonard face to face. And I'd call him out on his circular reasoning... to the point that one day, he couldn't take it. His calm voice suddenly cracked into a high-pitch whine: "You know, I don't need this. I don't need you talking to me this way when I'm just trying to do what my job tells me to do and you're not letting me do what my job tells me to do and-- and-- and--" Now it was my turn to be the soothing voice, talking him off the ledge. None of this helped solve anything, but later, I called my sister and told him of the incident. How complacent Leonard lost his cool. "Wow," my sister said. "You broke his brain."

Friday, July 18, 2008

Hollywood's a hip happening hangout... at night. But having to go there early in the morning, here's 3 observations I made:

1. The Amoeba Records/Arclight Theatre parking lot is apparently the daytime resting place for the hearse that advertises its tour of local celebrity murders and other untimely deaths. It's not everyday you see a hearse with more prominent advertisements than a NASCAR vehicle, but I forgot the name of the actual company. I figured I could Google it later. Turns out, there are several haunted hearses in Hollywood. Hunh.

2. There's no line at Pink's. Let me say that again: There's no line at Pink's. There's always a line at Pink's, no matter what time of day. Okay, I looked that up afterwards, too, and it turns out they're closed between 3AM and 9:30AM and I'm usually sleeping or passed out at that time. But when I drove past and thought they might be open and I could possibly get a delicious hot dog with everything without waiting in a line that stretched down La Brea Avenue, I got so excited -- I didn't care if it was 8AM. Hot dogs for breakfast!

3. Speaking of lines, there was also an array of girls camped out on the street outside the parking structure at Amoeba. I never understand how anyone can queue up for that long. Even a Pink's hot dog's isn't worth it. The guys at the edit bay I went to all wondered what those girls were waiting for. One thought perhaps since there were mini studios and post facilities all around (like the one we were in), it was a casting call. But we all acknowledged that they didn't seem like actresses -- young girls for sure, yet they were all normal-looking teenieboppers, not glammed out starlet wannabes. Someone suggested maybe that the part was for a specific type -- the kind who don't look like glammed out starlet wannabes. Yeah, or maybe Amoeba was selling tickets to a concert or something. A couple of hours later, the girls were still there. I had to know. I walked up to the end of the line and asked what they were waiting for. They girls all answered in unison with gleeful anticipation: "Jonas Brothers!" Ahh, of course.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I've made movie lists that may appear elsewhere on the web, like best heist flicks, best things blowin' up real good and most disgusting scenes on film. Some of these may get published on fan sites in the near future, we'll see...

Another trend I've noticed is movies that aren't bad, except for the fact that the lesson learned was pretty friggin' obvious right from the beginning. In some cases, the character's moral conclusion was stated early on in the movie, and had they followed that advice, they could've saved us an hour and a half of their soul-searching journey.

It's a difficult category to explain and off the top of my head, I could only think of three examples. Which is why I didn't try to pitch it anywhere. But when was quality a criterion of this website? Here are my 3 examples:

1. Muriel's Wedding. Everyone loved this movie and it put PJ Hogan on the map for another marriage move (My Best Friend's Wedding). For me, this flick was worth getting made to make everyone aware of super-talented Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths. But c'mon, when Collette's character finally realizes, and outright says, that she doesn't need to get married to feel good about herself I was rolling my eyes and saying "Mamma Mia!" Genius, Muriel. For that revelation, I had to sit through all those damn ABBA songs?

2. The Birdcage. I never saw Le Cage Aux Folles, so perhaps the brilliant nuances were lost on me, quelle dommage. I think I get it though -- guys + women's clothes = funny. But Robin Williams' gay protagonist tells his engaged son that he won't pretend to be straight just to impress his future uptight conservative in-laws. Then he does. Then decides he can't hide who he is. There, I just saved you a lot of Nathan Lane screaming. But he does do a pretty good Barbara Bush impression. And it's worth seeing Calista Flockhart before she got all Allie McBealish and Harrison Forded out.

3. A Few Good Men. It's hard to say how well this film holds up today, considering what we know now about Mr. Katie Holmes or Ms. Ashton Kushter. Not to mention Rob Reiner, who ended his nearly perfect run (Misery, Stand By Me, Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, The Sure Thing) of great, diverse movies. (Remember North, Ghosts of Mississippi, The Story of Us? Didn't think so.) But this hit film was flawed even then. Tom Cruise gets the chance to plead his clients out of the case with a slap on the wrist. But they don't want any dishonorable discharge because they didn't think they did anything wrong -- they wanna live by "a code". Skip to the last chapter, when they get exonerated... but still get a dishonorable discharge. Because they did do something wrong. And they realize, thanks to Mr. West Wing Aaron Sorkin's on-the-coked-up-nose dialogue: you don't need a uniform, or a code, to have honor. That's your justice system at work: stating the obvious for the obtuse. Don't tell me I'm missing the subtle nuances like some boorish boob. I'm right, even if I'm uncouth. And... wait for it... You can't handle the uncouth!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I baked more of those delicious, healthy cupcakes I made last week. Someone had commented that they needed icing, but actually, they don't. What the photo didn't convey is how moist and fluffy they were on the bottom, and magically creamy they were on top, like the cake became icing itself.

Don't worry, this blog won't turn into a recipe site. Not even for good hearty food guys can prepare on the grill. And not even if my fiancée continues to butter me up, lookin' cute and telling me, "I got you a present!" Very sweet, and while we needed a plate to serve barbecued dishes, obviously, the gift was designed to keep me grillin' & illin'.

Of course I appreciate the compliment... although I don't know who else could compete with me for Best Chef in the Whole Backyard. The place couldn't fit more than myself, my fiancée and her tomato vine. Considering Adelphia isn't exactly vying for the position, and the tomato plant died and was replaced by a lemon tree which is thriving, but nevertheless not interested in replacing propane tanks and flippin' meat with a spatula, I'm in a category all by myself.

Still, last night I made some awesome grilled chicken. I discovered that in addition to rosemary and garlic -- forget salt & pepper -- just add lemon pepper which already has the other spices, along with a little extra zing. Delicious.

Hell, bring in Bobby Flay as a contender. I think I could defend my title.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A few years ago, I became friends with this guy named Sandor. It’s pronounced “Shon-door”. He’d explain his strange name, that it’s not really that strange -- his parents are Hungarian, and Sandor is just the Magyar version of Zander, or Alexander. Basically, in Budapest he’d be “Alex”. Kinda the way John takes on new forms in other countries -- Sean, Ian, Juan, Ivan, etc…

I thought of this recently in light of Brangelina’s bizarre babes -- Knox Leon, Vivienne Marcheline, Pax, Zahara, Pile o’Shit, Klaatu, Barada, Nikto…

And when Sandor gave the origin of his name, I realized something about my own family. See, my grandfather was Hungarian, too. Well, technically he was from what’s now Slovakia, but back then it was Czechoslovakia, which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, so it was all one big slovenly Slavik mess. Anyway…

My grandfather’s name was Nandor, which seemed funny to me as a kid. But what was also funny was how everyone I knew called him Fred. Why Fred? Why not something that sounds closer to Nandor? Like Nathan or Andrew? The incongruity seemed to be along the lines of how some Asian people find that no one in the U.S. can pronounce Hritik or Toshiro or Li Xiaolóng, so they Americanize themselves as, say, “Bruce”.

How else do you explain Nandor becoming Fred? Those immigration workers at Ellis Island or wherever screwed everything up.

Except Nandor was the Hungarian version of Fernando, which is a variation on, you guessed it -- Fred. I only realized this a few years ago after meeting Sandor aka Alex. No big deal, but I can’t believe it took me that long to make the connection.

But I still say Knox Pitt is a stupid name.

Monday, July 14, 2008

When I was out running along the beach last weekend, I spotted out in the ocean -- several dolphins frolicking close to the shore. Yes, I was sure they were dolphins and not sharks. I could tell from their fin size and bottle noses and I didn't hear any score by John Williams.

It reminded me of the time I went on a whale-watching trip with my dad. Some marine biology tour hosted the expedition, and it sounded really cool -- they take you out on some big boat off Long Island and we get to pull up close to a bunch of humpbacks or gray whales or I dunno, sperms or Moby Dicks or some other blowholy thing seamen are into.

I sound a little disenchanted now, because they didn't cater at all to the tourists who paid to be on this excursion. They'd steer the front of the boat up close to the big beasties, but we were gated off to the stern -- like steerage on a cruise ship -- relegated to a rare observation and blurry Loch Ness Monster type photos.

On a more positive note, maybe we were helping to fund some kind of important oceanic research. And it meant more time for me and my dad to hang out. We had just gotten back from our arctic trip and thought we'd do more manly adventurous things together. But the ol' man usually drove me nuts with his so-called worldly wisdom, when in fact most of what he knew was from skimming his issues of National Geographic.

In fact, I had a little more experience about surviving at sea, having gone SCUBA-diving several times during family trips to the Caribbean. So when Pops said he thought lying down would ease his nausea, I had to advise him that it would have the opposite effect. The best way to get your sea legs is to sit up and stare out at the horizon. Not the whales. Nuke the whales. Stare at the horizon.

But what did his kid know, right?

I wish I had a photo of Dad about five minutes later when he had shivered his timbers. He looked about as gray as the humpbacks. I felt bad for him, but inside I whalin' with vindicated laughter.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

People often list their all-time favorite concerts, but I don't know if I can do the same. I'm not much for concerts. I recognize there's a certain energy and spontaneity to live music, but pardon my cynicism, it often means paying way too much money to stand around and listen to songs performed exactly the way you've heard them on the album, only in an over-amplified sound system. And then don't get me started on the other concert-goers.

Which makes it easier for me to list my worst -- or perhaps most frustrating -- concert experience.

It was some time in the '80s. I went to NYC's Beacon Theatre to see Leon Redbone. He's a jazz/blues artist who plays old standards without much fanfare, just his Panama hat, dark shades, mustache and soul patch, mysterious background, and tons of talent and style. Perhaps you had seen him on old Saturday Night Live episodes, or in a series of Budweiser commercials.

But Redbone was the opening act. The headliner was Steven Wright. The comedian was also big from his SNL appearances and I enjoyed his routine, but not enough to see him perform live. As expected, he did the exact same jokes that had made him famous, and considering the deadpan delivery, there was nothing new to the experience. We could practically recite his one-liners along with him. ("It's a small world, but I wouldn't want to paint it.") Maybe that's the audience participation is half the fun, but I feel that it enforced my stance on the senselessness of going to most concerts.

What really pissed me off is that these sheep who were there to see Wright had absolutely no consideration for the warm-up act. Leon Redbone was infinitely more interesting and entertaining. I could barely hear him with crowd talking so loudly and walking in and out of their seats during his performance. I wanted to kill these obnoxious inconsiderate assholes. By the time the main act hit the stage, I started developing a Steven Wright-like gag of my own:

The problem with seeing people live is that it makes want to see people dead.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


1. Put the ring onto your pinkie and give your best mafioso imitation. When no one gets that you're doing Brando, tell 'em you'll make an impression they can't confuse.

2. Touch your prospective ring to your fiancee's and say, "Wonder Twin powers activate! Form of: Someone who can afford all this!"

3. When that fails to impress, just act like Gleek the Space Monkey.

4. Mutter that the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy didn't take as long as this.

5. If that doesn't speed things up, refer to every piece of jewelry as "My precioussss!"

6. Have your impatient fiancee tell you that before you die, you'll see The #*@&!% Ring.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Michael: Hey, did you know your Mets are in third place?

Adelphia: So are your Yankees.

M: Right. But the Mets are one and half games out of first. The Yankees are six and a half games behind.

A: So my team's doing better.

M. Not exactly. Both teams have the same exact record. 49 and 44. But in the American League East, that doesn't get you as far as it does in the National League.

A: What?

M: You'll see what I mean after the All-Star game.

A: Pfft. Next thing, you'll tell me Madonna's your soulmate.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Every time I read a story about how the polar ice is melting, it depresses me.

Yes, of course, because global warming blah blah ozone layer recycle your children are the future depletion of Al Gore and all that...

But I wanna be able to do the Antarctic Ice Marathon someday.

P01a p02a

Crazy, I know. But it combines my fascination with the Arctic (or its flipside), and love of running. My friends who've done marathons are up for it, too.

p4 p3

It requires a lot of time and money, neither of which I have right now. But maybe someday. And I'd need to start training. Adding mileage to my runs for sure, but I'm not daunted by the distance. It's the cold, man. Living in LA has thinned my blood to the point that if it drops below 65 degrees, you can find me gathering kindling for the fireplace.

So for now, this global warming thing doesn't seem like the worst thing in the world. But if it continues, the Antarctic Ice Marathon wouldn't be different than any other race.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The trainer at my gym asked where I'd been, which gave me mixed feelings. Guilty that I hadn't been there in week, defensive in explaining that I hadn't slacked off -- I was running regularly the whole time, proud that I covered so many miles, but also a bit flattered that my absence was noticed.

But I mentioned I couldn't allow myself to skip workouts if I wanted to look half decent on the beach during my honeymoon. And that's when the trainer introduced me to his newest client, some guy who was also getting married soon.

We briefly chatted about where each of our ceremonies would take place, and when. His is a few weeks after mine. "Time's runnin' out fast," he said.

"I know." I said. "It's kinda weird. I keep thinking, 'Me? Married?'"

Then he said, "Oh, is this your first time getting married?"

"Yeah. Why? Oh, have you been married before?"

"No. This is my first time," he said.

Then why did he ask me that? That's when I had mixed feelings again. Besides confused, of course.

I suppose it was obvious I was older than this youngsta, and maybe to this kid, I must be a veteran at nuptials. His trainer, who's 5 years my senior, has been married and divorced twice.

But it's not just this guy. When my fiancee and I met with rabbis, among the questions they'd ask would be whether or not either of us had been married before. And when we said no, each rabbi seemed genuinely surprised.

Sure, lots of people have tied the knot and untied it by the time they're our age, and I don't just mean crazy celebrities. But I can also name tons of contemporaries who are yet to take the plunge. Good-looking, personable types, too. Some want to find that special someone and haven't yet, and others don't.

Sorry, I don't mean to sound like that sappy Kurt Vonnegut commencement speech crap. When it comes to the fact that I was never married before, I guess I find it surprising that some people find it so surprising.

Maybe it's just an age thing -- am I sensitive about doing something that many people do a decade before me? It's all relative, really. I mean, take this whippersnapper at the gym. I'm happy for him that he found that special someone so soon... but it may take him years to develop the discipline to stay healthy. Say what you will, but some of us ol' folks don't need any personal trainer to get in shape for their honeymoon.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

For a while, I had it good. My fiancee decided we needed to eat healthier. My grilled steaks and pasta dishes were too heavy, so if we were going to watch what we ate, well, she would watch would we ate. She took over in the kitchen.

Thanks to her new favorite menu guru, Hungry Girl. Adelphia even went to a book signing and met Lisa Lillien, the Hungry Girl herself, and came home with her autographed copy, announcing, "I am going to make every single recipe in this book!"

And she started to do so. I was kicked out of the kitchen -- fine by me -- even if it meant lighter dishes, as long as I wasn't slaving over a hot stove...

The desserts were pretty good too. I started getting addicted to snacks like the low-calorie peanut butter chocolate bread pudding. So when I asked Adelphia to make the chocolate cherry muffins, and she said she was too tired to get the ingredients, I figured okay, I'll go pick 'em up. While I was at it, she said, I might as well grind up the high-fiber cereal for her -- I'm good at that -- oh, and could I use my strong manly arms to mix it up in a bowl for her...

You see where this is going, right?

I loved the way she said that my batch of pastries came out better than hers, that I had a knack for it.

Last night, I made some kind of cupcakes called Death by Chocolate. Adelphia tried the first one and raved about how moist and delicious they were -- buttering me up to keep me baking. But after I took a bite, I realized I wasn't just being sweet-talked.

Yeah, I still got it good.

Monday, July 07, 2008

I refuse to let those squirrels get the best of me.

Our avocado tree is old and doesn't bear much fruit anymore. And what few avocados do grow on the branches immediately get stolen by those sneaky furry-tailed rodents, Hamas and Fatah. It pisses me off because those two bickering sons of bitches don't even enjoy the avocados -- they usually gnaw away at the buds long before they get ripe. I often find green tiny premature half-chewed pieces on the ground. This causes me to go off on seemingly Zionist rants as I look upward and yell "Hell with you, Hamas! Fuck you, Fatah!"

Sometimes an avocado does fall from the tree, but it's once in a blue moon I get to get my home-grown guacamole on. But on one particular day, I looked up and saw a big fat avocado hanging from a branch on the tree. I was delirious with excitement. This lone dark green -- almost deliciously black -- fruit had made it to maturity without getting abducted.

I couldn't let this scrumptious Persea americana fall into the greedy paws of Sciurus griseus. But this Homo sapien hadn't evolved into any kind of tree-climbing species, or one tall enough to reach up that damn high.

Ahh, but I gots me some smarts. My superior brain told me to go around the side of the house to get the handyman's ladder. It was a bit cumbersome, but I managed. I placed it up against the side of the house. The avocado was still too high. No problem. I knew where there was this old plucking device, attached on a pole with a string/pulley thing to work the contraption. Granted, it was old and rusty, but it'd do the trick.

Even though I was high enough on the creaky ladder with this broken-down implement, and began to wonder if it was worth risking breaking my neck to get something I could buy for a buck -- five for four dollars -- at the supermarket.

Yes. I was on a mission, dammit. I had to outdo the squirrels.

But I still couldn't get the avocado off the branch. No matter how I reached and tried to work the tool, it felt more like a pathetic piñata party. I got down from the ladder and considered asking the landlady in the apartment adjacent/above if I could come in and use the rusty plucking device from her upstairs window...

Alas, she wasn't home.

I admitted defeat. Frustrated, I went out for a bit... but when I came back...

The avocado was on the ground. It had fallen while I was out. Looked like it finally ripened. Either that, or I musta loosened it.

I made sure to let this thing get nice and dark and soft before eating it outside, relishing each spoonful with a loud mmmmm for the whole neighborhood -- and all of nature -- to hear.

The next night, I was sitting by my window, and I heard a noise. I thought I recognized that sound -- the thud of an avocado falling. Like I said, it didn't happen often, but hey, maybe this summer was a good season for this crop. And for me.

I went outside by the patio, searching in the dark, unable to figure out where this avocado was, if it existed at all. Then my foot lightly tapped something. I looked down, and there was that distinct dark oblong object -- another avocado. I was even more excited.

Haha, Hamas, Fatah, I thought. Too late again.

I brought the avocado inside and got a better look. There were marks in the skin and flesh of the fruit -- marks made by gnawing buck teeth... attached to a spiteful little furry-tailed bastard.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Boom-boom-chick... boom-boom-chick... I'm here in Venice, my name ain't Dennis, I don't play tennis, I ain't no menace but you can suck my pennis...

I hope our bikes are safe. If they get stolen, at least I'd have a new blog post. And for a title: Tales from the Kryptonite.

What's with all the guys in the pork pie hats these days?

What should I blog about today?

Man, fingerprints are kinda psychedelic if you stare at them long enough...

Why are they called pork pie hats?

What was the answer to that acrostic clue in the Times about Edna Ferber?

Hey, isn't that Lori Petty across the street?

Wait a minute. "Tales from the Kryptonite"? Jeez, that sounds like some awful children's book Nicolas Cage would write for his kid -- what'd he name him? Kal-El? I'm naming my kid after Superman's nemesis: Make Mine Mxyzptlk.

How long do I have to wait for Adelphia to browse through another overpriced clothing store here on Abbot Kinney?

Do people think I'm store security standing out here? Or just some loitering loser who isn't hip enough to hang here. After all, where's my pork pie hat?

A Peculiar Treasure! That was the Edna Ferber book!

I'm hungry.

Who was Abbot Kinney? I think I read he was from New Jersey. So why did they name a street after him here? Maybe Hackensack was some dude from Malibu...

Why are omelets so popular? Wouldn't people prefer the ingredients mixed into the eggs rather than just cocooned inside the fluffy egg exterior? Is it that omelets are easier to say than frittatas? I dunno, I could go for a bodacious set of frittatas...

Adelphia may be slow but she sure is cute.

Boom-boom-chick... Boom-boom-chick... My girl is browsy, I'm getting drowsy... My raps are lousy...

I oughta get a new watch. I don't even know what these little dials do... except look kinda cool.

Maybe I oughta think of a blog post while I'm waiting out here.

Man, I could go for some pork pie...

Saturday, July 05, 2008

I write a lot about running, and I probably will continue to do so.

Also, I've previously talked about how my iPod has helped with my exercise routine, and I'll talk about that some more, too. Mostly because what I listen to keeps evolving.

Sometimes it's podcasts, but they have to be really compelling to take my mind off the miles ahead. Now that the Lost podcasts are on hiatus like the show itself, I try short fiction podcasts, old time horror and classic tales radio broadcasts, various stuff from NPR, and of course, This American Life, which is almost always brilliant.

With music, I need to constantly update my run playlist. So I'm always on the lookout for an eclectic cardio-friendly mix. This includes heavy metal (rediscovered the High 'N' Dry album by Def Leppard), funk ("Outa-Space" by Billy Preston), classic rock ("Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen), Electronic ("Gimme That" by something called The Resource featuring Jimmy Napes), Pop ("Shut Up and Drive" by Rihanna, and "Wherever Whenever" by Shakira. Ahh, Shakira...), and even some classical (Beethoven, Chopin, and Rossinni's Overture to The Barber of Seville).

And there are other genres too. Like Irish folk-rock-punk-whatever. Been listening to the Pogues for the first time since before senior year of college but after the lead singer Shane MacGowan left due to his alcoholism -- man, you really gotta be a lush to be too fucked up to perform Irish drinking songs. Still, I love that shit. Although it's not as nice to look at, so here's Shakira:

Also, the Dropkick Murphys. I know, you hip people probably knew all about these guys long ago. And no, I didn't get into these guys because their song "Shipping Up to Boston" was used in The Departed soundtrack. It was when they used the same tune in the Simpsons' parody, "The DeBarted". As Bart tried to get one over on Principal Skinner to this hard rockin' tune, I thought, man, that's a good track. Downloaded it and it got heavy rotation in my Nano over many miles out by the beach.

Needing something different, but just like that, I listened to more of their songs -- at least for the 30 seconds that iTunes allows you to hear. I thought, hey, these guys are kinda like Rancid (which I also overplayed way back when) and The Clash (overplayed back in the '80s), but new, at least to me. So I took a chance on a track that ranked high on their popularity bar chart. Something called "Tessie".

What I didn't realize, as I ran down the boardwalk -- it's a tribute to the $@&%* Red Sox winning the 2004 World Series! Arrghhh! I nearly tripped and cracked my head open on the concrete, bleeding to death into my Yankees hat.

Friday, July 04, 2008

One Fourth of July, when I was a kid, I remember I was at sleepaway camp. I've been reminiscing about camp a lot lately, possibly because of this book, which I must own. Nearly every Jewish kid from the East Coast suburbs went away to camp in the summer. Yes, kinda like in Meatballs.

Also, I found a website from my old camp. It featured photos of some of the counselors I admired. Looking at them now, I have no idea why.

We also had a lot of British counselors. They talked funny. We used to try to imitate their weird accents, and they'd say, "Oh, you want to know what you Yanks sound like?" And then in their most nasally New York twang: "Aww c'mon you guys... You guyzzz.... c'mawnnn, stop bein' so obnoxious!"

So on the day we celebrate our independence from the English imperialist bastards, they snuck into the office with the PA system, early in the morning. Woke up the whole camp with a bunch of British drinking songs, Monty Python sketches, and I don't remember what else. The theme to the Benny Hill Show?

Some people were annoyed, but I had to admit I thought it was all pretty funny. I always wondered what the Limeys did on July 4th.

But perhaps that's not a fair assessment. After all, Adelphia and I went to today's Second Annual Santa Monica July 4th Parade. We've been to every one so far.

But back in the day, we both had gone to sleepaway camp. She had British counselors, too, but wasn't woken up July 4th by some cockneyed hackneyed public announcements. So these two Jews didn't have the same experiences on America's birthday back then, even if now we both check out the local parade. But everyone's different. Some members of the tribe sing "Star and Stripes Forever" to the tune of "Hava Negila".

IMG_2179 IMG_2177

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Got no job.
Got no money.
But I gotta
Find it all funny
'Cause I'm gettin' married
And goin' on my honey-

Singin' g'bye an'
Gonna fly in
To Kauai in
"The Hawaiian
I ain'
Worryin' or Cryin'
Bout No Silver Spoon
Just Hope There's no Monsoon
When We're Off on Our Honeymoon

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Had a job interview today. Eh, whatever. The human resources lady obviously needed resources 'cause she definitely lacked humanity.

I'm waiting to hear from a better-but-still-corporate gig.

And then there's the interview I had last week that I didn't get. Boo friggin' hoo.

Big impersonal building. Ditzy office manager. As she'd stammer, she kept complaining of brain freezes, like she can normally describe the job articulately.

Judging from the stack of papers practically obscuring my view across her desk, I imagine these brain freezes came often enough to classify her head as an arctic region.

But amidst the clutter, there was a jar of jellybeans on her desk. Ooh, jelly beans.

At first I told myself not to stare at the sweets. Make eye contact with Ms. Frostbitten Cerebrum, not the delicious jar of candy.

But as the old lady babbled, I couldn't help but drop hints.

"Yes, I understand that you don't have any of the latest software packages, but who needs them when all you need is a good jar of jelly beans..."

She smiled but didn't follow my train of thought are those red ones strawberry? and continued or raspberry? to ramble on maybe they're cherry about the boring gig. If I came on board, I'd spend all my time trying to create some order in this chaotic hell-hole. In other words, I didn't want this job.

But you know what I did want. Gimme some sugar, woman!

She said, "Do you need your parking validated?"

"I need jelly beans" I said.

I didn't care about etiquette. I'd pay for parking, but I wanted something from this stupid interview. She told me to help myself. I dug in and grabbed a big handful.

Mmm, jelly beans... The red ones were cinnamon.

Best interview ever.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Okay, last month had so few posts, barely making up for the previous month, which had no posts, like two months prior to that. So I'll try to be like the month between the post-less months, in which I wrote every day of the month. Can't promise I'll be as prolific, but I'll try to be more coherent than this paragraph.

I finally sold my old laptop computer. Since I had gotten my new Macbook, I had advertised the old Dell on Craigslist a couple of times, but only got a few responses. Maybe it was the timing, or the fact that prices on new computers have come down, or the economy. And then, of course, the few people who do express interest are often flakes, whack jobs or ballbreakers.

And sometimes they're heart-breakers. I'm talking sad sacks, poor souls. People you can't help but feel sorry for. Which isn't a good way to enter into a business transaction.

This kid Corey contacted me about my computer. His e-mail msg sounded like a Craigslist scam artist ("I have the money right now, I can come and get the computer"), but when I talked to him, he seemed on the up-and-up... I pegged his accent from way down south.

And fresh off the bus. Literally. The kid said he'd be by my place soon, but when I asked where he was coming from (expecting the answer to be Tuscaloosa, Alabama), he said Long Beach. Long Beach?! That's an hour away. It's no problem, he said, there's a train that gets to Santa Monica from there, right?

Uh, I wasn't savvy to the public transportation in this city, but I think the trains arrive in Union Station, which is downtown. Which is another hour away from Santa Monica. Especially if you have to take a bus like this guy did.

Poor Corey. When he first asked about my laptop, I agreed to knock $50 off the price if he came to get it today, but I didn't realize he'd be going on an epic journey to do so.

The kid kept calling with updates as to where he was, mispronouncing all the street names in his southern twang, and I couldn't take it anymore. I had to go out anyway, so I told him where to get off the bus; I'd drive out in his direction and meet halfway at a Starbucks.

He was a tall, young, decent-looking guy, wearing pretty stylish clothes. I was surprised he didn't stand out in Southern California at all. Until he spoke, that is. And I'm not talking about the accent.

Corey was from Georgia, had been in town for 8 days to pursue acting and comedy, but settled in Long Beach and already had his laptop stolen. Now he was amazed at how spread out this city was. And that not every coffee shop in LA offered free wifi like they did in his small town. When went to ask the baristas about getting internet access, he got up to join me, leaving the laptop unattended. Some people never learn.

Keeping one eye on the computer and the other on Corey, I asked if he wanted a drink, as long as we were at the counter.

"Nah, no thanks," he said. "They cost, like, five dollars here."

Well, not quite. I just meant coffee, not bourbon or anything.

I offered again, he gave me an aw-shucks-how-can-I-refuse look, and struggled to place an order. "Can I get, like, a peppermint thing? What? A latte? No, just a little peppermint. No, not the tea. What's a frappucino? Uh, yeah, I want a coffee, I guess. Oh, you can put a shot of peppermint? Yeah, I think that sounds good. I dunno..."

Corey seemed savvy enough with the computer -- pulling up the software, asking about the operating system, and checking the internet speed. When everything seemed okay he pulled out his cash and paid the agreed-upon amount.

He was surprised I was willing to sell it all to him for that price -- the computer, the wifi card (yes, it was that old that it didn't have built-in wireless), the software and the leather computer case. But I had planned on selling it all for that much, and listed it for more so that I could come down on the amount.

Still, I felt like I was taking advantage of him. Not because anything's wrong with the computer I sold him -- everything works fine. But now the poor schlub had to schlep that stuff back home on the bus.

I had decided halfway through meeting him that despite my morbid fascination with this starry-eyed hayseed, I shouldn't ask any more about his story or I'd wind up giving him the computer. And money for a new car.

Who knows, maybe Corey'll get street-smart, bang out some killer material on his new used laptop and be the next Jeff Foxworthy or a better-looking Larry the Cable Guy. Or hell, maybe even someone funny.

I hope so. 'Cause I can't help but worry that this town's gonna eat him alive.

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