Thursday, December 29, 2011

Third Place Is Really First in Iowa

My first executive order: Chastity belts for all women and gays.
Now it's Rick Santorum's turn in the spotlight and he's not even first in the Iowa polls. He's freaking third, but the news media has exhuasted its Ron Paul newsletter stuff, so they need a new story. It's really funny. Just a few weeks ago the big news was Gingrich emerging on top, then these Iowa Republican jerks starting remembering--"Oh yeah, didn't he get kicked out of the speakership and fined something like $300K for ethics violations? Oh, yeah, he's kinda crazy, isn't he? He believes in electromagnetism and arresting judges? What, he's not even on the ballot in Virginia? Can this goofball really be President? Sure he'll give Obama hell in a debate, but most moderate people will run screaming from him. OOOPS, guess I'll switch to somebody I have't even looked at yet."

At which point they took a gander at Ron Paul. Here's a nice grandfatherly type, they must have thought to themselves after shucking some corn, he wants less government and no foriegn wars, that's fine by me. What they don't realize is he wants to do away with Social Security and Medicare as well as half the federal government. Real Ayn Rand stuff. Then the newsletters with the bigoted vitriol resurfaced and he walked away from CNN's Gloria Borger. Now I don't see him running on a third ticket, but you never know.

Those that withdrew from Gingrich probably went to Rick "Man-on-Dog Sex" Santorum. He's now giving the interviews to the Today Show and Morning Joe as if he were a serious candidate. On Chris Matthews' Hard Ball, a reporter indicated he's not really serious about wanting to be President, he just wants to move whoever gets the nomination to the right--and he's partially succeeded. In order to get evangelicals off their asses, every Repub candidate has basically said no woman should ever have an abortion under any circumstances. They're all pretty gung-ho against gay marriage, too. But that has produced some interesting confrontations with gay Iowans challenging these homophobes. A guy even dressed up as a gay robot to crash a Michele Bachmann event and a lesbian's little boy rendered her speechless when he told her his mom didn't need to be fixed.

What's especially interesting is that all these crazies had had their turn as the front runner--even whack job Herman Cain--except Huntsman who is the one sane professional in the bunch. With less than a week to go before the Iowa Caucases, it doesn't look like he'll ever get in double digits. Mittens will probably win, but I hope Paul beats him. Santorum will be third and this will convince him to hang on for the next few states. Perry is pretty much finished even though he is suing to get on the Virginia ballot, having made the same dumb mistake Newt did. Perry still has lots of money to spend, but his poor performance in the debates destroyed his chances. Bachmann and Huntsman are toast, the Wicked Witch of Minnesota is too stubborn to quit yet, but Huntsman will probably drop out.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fire Bugs

Elroy Jetson on his way to the Little Dipper Elementary School
When I was little there was an episode of The Jetsons which stuck in my head. A naugthy classmate of Elroy Jetson was watching a rerun of the Flintstones on a TV wristwatch while the robot teacher--Miss Brainmocker--wasn't looking. My TV-obssessed little self was fascinated with the possibility of having a tiny TV set you could carry around. This was in the days when most sets were in black and white and enormous. I remember being excited at going to an aunt's house for dinner and getting to watch Lost in Space in color on her gigantic console.

Anyway, the new tablet e-readers such as Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are the closest I'll probably ever get to a miniature TV I can sneak into English class. My partner Jerry got me a Fire for Christmas two days ago--I opted for the Fire over the Nook because he already got me a regular Kindle for my birthday earlier this year and I already have an Amazon account.

Since Christmas Sunday, I have been playing with it, covering the glass screen with my fingerprints, and have discovered the pros and cons. The pros are the convenience and breadth of options. I turned it on out of the box on Christmas morning and after registering it all the books from my regular Kindle were transfered to the new Fire. You can download and stream thousands of movies, videos, and music as well as comics, but you have to pay a $79 annual membership fee to Amazon Prime. There are plenty of free videos, but you can only stream them while you are near a Wi-Fi hot spot. I did download a paid video--Episode 9 of Season Two of Nurse Jackie for $2--and theoretically I should have been able to watch it while offline. I was not able to do so--Bug no. 1. I did watch it once I was back in Wi-Fi Land. I want this to get straightened out so I can watch TV while on a train or the subway just as I have fantasized about.

I experimented with apps, buying a game called Doodle Jump for $1--sort of fun but the second time I played it wouldn't open. Bug #2. It's okay now, I got it to work and I scored over 5000 points.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with it and so far I have newly downloaded Willa Cather's My Antonia (free), a Doctor Who comic book on the Comics app (free), that Nurse Jackie ($2), Doodle Jump ($1), the current New Republic ($3), and an episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle (free). Next is getting into the Netflix app so I can stream ever more stuff for free (There ware lots of shows and movies on Netflix for which my NF membership pays which are not free on the Fire. Examples include 30 Rock and the animated Star Trek.)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Urban Encounter 2: Christmas Edition

I saw them again, the couple panhandling on the subway. It was last week. It took my lunch hour to do some last minute Christmas shopping and had to take the subway to Bed Bath and Beyond. I could have walked, but I thought the train would be quicker. Very crowded. I'm standing by the door and I see the guy with the accordion. I think "Where's his girlfriend with the baby?" Ah, there she is at the other end of the car. "Please to excuse disturbing you," he announces in a Russian accent and then starts playing. I got off at 23rd Street and so did they. If this were a New Yorker short story, I'd follow them, but it's not, so I continue on my way. I do think, who are they and why are they begging? Musicians from a Slavic country who can't find work and need to support a baby?

Later I wander back to work through the holiday market on Union Square with all these little booths selling cute little gifts for Secret Santas and gift grab-bags. I need to buy something for a grab-bag friends are having on Christmas Day. Suddenly standing next to me is Brad Pitt. Or someone who looks exactly like him. I can't be the movie star, but the resemblance is so strong I almost say "You know you are a dead ringer for Brad Pitt; you must get that all the time." And then he'd say "I am Brad Pitt. How about an autograph or a French kiss?" Something similar did happen to me once. I was in a bicycle shop buying a lock and this guy standing next to me at the register resembled the actor who played the smart-alecky teen on the Dell Computer commercials. I remarked on the resemblance and he said "I am that guy." But it didn't go much further.

I leave Brad Pitt and go to the Barnes and Noble to buy a present for my friend Diane who is staying over for a few days before the holidays. At first I think of going with the safe choice of a gift certificate, but then I remember a book called Lost Bookmarks I thought she would like. It's a collection of letters, postcards, and other miscellania a used book dealer found in volumes he's acquired over the years. Fascinating little bits and pieces of people's lives like invitations to a Halloween party in 1913, a postcard from a relative informing about a son's illness ("The doctor has been by every day"), doodles and sketches drawn on advertisments, etc. I find it on the fourth floor and buy it. It makes me think about the scraps we leave behind. In the digital age, what will future biographers and anthropoligists rely on to get an accurate picture of how we lived? Tweets, blogs like this, Facebook status updates? What happens to a Facebook account when the person dies? Does it just stay there in cloudy cyber space waiting for someone to randomly google it?

When I walk into a used bookstore, I look at the old magazines like Life and the New Yorker, they give you an idea of the day-to-day of people's lives. When print disappears how will the people of the future find us?

Friday, December 23, 2011

It's a Pleasure and Call Me Madam

Add Sonja Henie to the list of cultish movie stars to watch for a campy laugh--a list which causes my partner to run screaming from the room. The others include Esther Williams and Carmen Miranda. If I want to watch a movie with any of these stars, he throws a fit. Henie is new to the list because recently my friend Lyida gave my two used DVDs a friend of hers who was cleaning out her house gave away. Lydia thought I might like them. They were Call Me Madam with Ethel Merman and Donald O'Connor and It's a Pleasure with Miss Henie.

I remember seeing Call Me Madam on the Channel 3 Sunday afternoon movie in black and white when I was a little boy in Philadelphia and loving it (this should have warned my parents). After that, my sister and I went around the house singing "You're Just in Love" (which we thought was called "You Don't Need Analysing"). We loved the counterpoint between Merm and Donald O'Connor. I watched it again recently and it really doesn't hold up. But it is one of the few films in which Merman repeated a Broadway triumph, so it has historical significance. In the film, Merman is a Washington hostess appointment ambassador to a tiny European country lead by suave George Sanders. Naturally, she falls in love with him. O'Connor goes along as press attache and falls in love with Vera-Ellen, the country's crown princess engaged to Helmut Dantine, a duke. Of course, Vera dumps the Duke so she can marry Donald. This subplot was pretty interesting because it showed the romantic values of the 1950s. Donald is a good dancer, but skinny and not particularly sexy, an all-American average guy. Vera drops Helmut, one dashing, hunky and hot stud with a title. She obviously chose Donald so they perform dance numbers and have a wholesome relationship. If she had gone with Helmut the sex would have been sizzling, but no dancing for the musical portion of the film.

It's a Pleasure is just plain awful, but I was glad to watch it because Henie is part of my family mythology. My mother, who grew up in Maine, always tells the story of going to see a Sonja Henie movie matinee with her big brother, my Uncle Edwin. They loved it so much, they sat through a second showing. Halfway through, the manager made an announcement, calling both their names and that they should report to the lobby immediately. There was my grandmother, furious that they had not come home on time. They were in big trouble, but my mother remembers loving the ice-skating Henie did.

This week is Christmas vacation and my friend Diane and I watched It's a Pleasure while playing Scrabble, which helped us tolerate the film. I was never really familiar with Henie's oeuvre, except a satire Carol Burnett did on her variety show. Henie was an Olympic figure skater but a terrible actress. It's a Pleasure was not the film my mother saw (it was made in 1955 and my mother was grown up and married by then), but it's in color and features a dreadful plot and simplistic dialgoue ("You sure roast a wicked weinie," says one character at a hot-dog party). The acting is bad all the way round. "I'm leaving Buzz, meet me at the station at five," announces the bitchy wife of the manager of the ice show as if she were ordering coffee. When she's not in skates, Henie is a frozen doll, no emotion registers.

The highlight was the big finale in which Henie and her troupe skate to Tico Tico while wearing South American outfits and elaborate headdresses and holding exotic parrots. It's one of those bizarre Hollywood numbers you have to see to believe--Brazil on ice!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dreams and Work of Art finale

I've been having the weirdest dreams lately. Two nights ago I dreamt I was on the set of a TV-movie version of Henry V, filmed in modern dress in a suburban neighborhood. It starred Jerry Lewis and Len Cariou. Cariou was probably in it because I saw him in the audience at BAM recently, but Jerry Lewis' presence is a complete mystery. Later in the same dream I flew to Los Angeles and tried to pay my hotel bill, but couldn't find the front desk. That's a common occurence, looking for a place and having to do something very important there, but never finding it.

In an earlier dream, I found myself at a garage sale. The usual crap is on offer. I'm standing next to a fat kid who is spray painting his skateboard. I look down to find I have paint all over my pants. I turn to the kid and next to him is an old woman in a bathrobe and slippers. I assume she is his grandmother and I say, "Look what your kid did to my pants!" The crone just shruggs her shoulders and says "Sorry." I say, "Well give me $20 for new pants, then."

The old bag then faints, I grab her to keep her from falling. "That's so much money," she says in a weak voice. "We're having this sale because we're bankrupt. Can't you soften your heart?"

"It's not a big deal," I say angrily and then I wake up.

The spray paint part may be because earlier that night I watched Work of Art and the contestants spray painted hostess China Chow's dress to determine their order in a challenge. I watched the finale last night, BTW, and liked all three final shows--unlike last season. The final three artists of Season 2 were all strong. I thought Sara's pieces were the most interesting and didn't agree with the judges' decision to eliminate her first. I liked that China said "You're not the winner" as opposed to "You lost, pack your palette and go!" It worked out okay that Kymia won because Young, who came in second, had already won about $60,000 in previous challenges.

Sara's work was challenging and bizarre. Her use of materials and the performance aspect were really involving. Interestingly, both Young and Kymia dealt with the death of a parent.

Tonight is the season finale of Project Accessory. Then I will have nothing to live for until Project Runway All-Stars starts the first week of January.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Urban Encounter

On the subway yesterday, there was a couple panhandling. It was Saturday, mid-afternoon and the car was crowded with Christmas shoppers carrying large bags. It was cold and everyone was wearing coats and scarves. The panhandling husband was playing a small accordian and the wife had a baby in one of those papoose-like things in front of her body. I'm assuming they were married, but they might not have been. They got to the end of the car near where I was seated. The train stopped and the door opened. The man with the accordian stepped onto the platform and presumably into the next car. The woman with the baby hesitated. It seemed she was waiting for someone to donate because it look as if a young man sitting down in front of her was reaching into his pocket to take out his wallet. The transaction apparently took too long because after a few seconds, the woman left the train. The couple were decently apparelled and didn't appear destitute or threadbare.

Another woman, somewhat older and better dressed along with an adoloscent girl, about 13, got on and stood near the pole by me. I guessed they were mother and daughter. I could hear the mother talking about visiting someone in the hospital.

I'm noticing more people begging these days. There's also been an uptick in crime in our neighborhood, all signs of people at the bottom of the economic food chain slipping lower.

Newt, Activist Judges, and a Bewitching Endorsement

Well, that didn't take long. Newt Gingrich has just opened his big fat mouth, inserted his big fat foot, and slipped from front-runner status for the GOP nomination. This morming on CBS's Face the Nation, Newtie stated he would arrest "activist judges" who "legislate from the bench." This is after he proposed abolishing the dangerous Ninth Circuit Court because they made judgements which were "out of step with the American people" during th last GOP debate. Gingrich is still ahead in many polls, but this little peek-a-boo at his dictatorial delusions should sober enough Republican primary voters to take a second look at Romney or even the grandfatherly Ron Paul, who's been reading "Atlas Shrugged" too much.

It should be fascinating to see what happens next. For a while, it really looked as if Newtie had peaked at exactly the right time, and solidified his position as the non-Romney of choice. He could still maintain that hold among archconservatives, but establishment figures are rushing in to endorse Mittens. They don't want Newt because they can't control him, not that he would turn into a brown-shirted Mussolini. The powers that be are fine with dictators as long as they conceal their outrages and convince the Great Unwashed that everything is fine and dandy and they can go back to playing Wii and watching Nascar races.

Christine O'Donnell on her way to a Romney rally
They've even dragged Christine O'Donnell out of mothballs to endorse Romney. She is a hoot, during her disastrous CNN interview where she said she loved that Mittens was consistant "since he changed his mind," I envisioned her as Samantha on Bewitched. (Get the witchcraft reference?) I also thought of Mittens as her husband Darren Stevens running for office and them fighting about her using her powers to help the campaign. "Now, Sam, don't you go casting a spell on the voters. That wouldn't be fair." "Oh, sweetheart, I would never do that....But mother might cast one in favor of the opponent. She just needs some eye of Newt." Ok, I stole that last bit from Stephen Colbert.

It's kinda ironic that Newt is using school prayer as the issue on the activist judges thing when the right-wing crowd is also employing the boogey man of Sharia Law to scare voters. According to them, the government should force kids to pray to a Christian God, even if they are atheists, but not to pray to a Muslim God. BTW, boo to Loew's for pulling their advertising from All-American Muslim. I just ordered a garage door from them and it's too late for me to boycott. Next time I need a smoke detector I'll definitely go to Home Depot.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Romney Bets the House

Rick, I'll bet you $500 Newt's next wife will be a brunette
I never thought I would be defending Mitt Romney but this crap about the $10,000 bet is ridiculous. At the 10,000th Republican debate on ABC, Mittens accused Super-Christian Man (Rick Perry in his secret identity) of getting some facts wrong about the Romney position on the individual mandate and bet Perry $10,000 that he was wrong. This was obviously a joke and he didn't literally mean he would bet that absurd amount of money on a trivial difference of opinion. (Haven't you used the expression, "I'll bet you a million dollars" when it was over something you were absurdly sure about?) But someone, I don't know who did it first, has twisted this throwaway line into an indictment of Romney as an out-of-touch one-percenter who has that kind of money to throw away. Rivals were quick to point out $10,000 is three months salary for the average Iowan and commercials were run painting the former governor as elitist. Like the rest of the GOP is soooo in touch with the average working stiff--so much so that they don't wanna cut payroll taxes. Yes, I do believe Romney IS an out-of-touch rich guy who has no idea what it means to struggle to make ends meet, but crucifying him for an innocent turn of phrase is going too far.

Tonight on the Last Word, Lawrence O'Donnell pounded away on this point for an entire segment and then went below the belt by pointing out Mormons are supposed to be against gambling. I thought that was unfair and beneath O'Donnell whom I usually agree with. It shows the slightest little thing can be picked up and magnified a thousand times.

Also Newt bitch-slapped Mittens by saying the reason the former Mass. governor was never a career politician was because he lost elections too much. Mittens should have shot back, "At least I wasn't dethroned from the Speakership for ethics violations, fat boy!"

Romney is awkward and insincere and it looks like Newtie has him on the run, but I think Mittens is being unfairly treated on this bet thing. Don't get used to it, though, Mittens. I still think you're a big jerk.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Amazing Race 19--Episode 11 and 12--Love, Luck and Lollipops

No snowboarders here. Yay!
Episode 11 of Amazing Race 19 left me delirously happy because Andy and Tommy, the perfect, six-time winning snowboarders, were eliminated! I have nothing against them, they were perfectly nice and un-nasty so I didn't hate them like I did Rob and Amber, they were just so damned lucky and athletic that it was becoming monotonous. There's no tension or excitement when the same team wins every week, even when it's only because the team ahead of them screwed up (which happened once or twice). So the fact that they did not make the final three was exhilirating. That meant it could be anyone's game and it was.

My friend Diane disagrees. We had a debate over this topic just before we saw a Beckett play at BAM, the perfect setting for a discussion of a reality TV show. She felt it was not right that the best team, as she put it, would not make it to the last episode through a quirk of luck. As you may recall, the three other teams all made it to the pit stop in Panama City within seconds of each other because their cab drivers communicated with each other. Andy and Tommy had the misfortune of getting to the previous destination early and not having a taxi driver in league with the others. Well, they won several trips and a Mustang a piece, so they shouldn't complain. It just goes to show, luck plays a huge part in the Amazing Race.

The finale was exciting because once the last three got to Atlanta, it could have been any one of them who won the million dollars. Ironically, Marcus and Amani had the advantage since they are Atlanteans, but choked when they got to the flight simulator challenge. It came down to Ernie and Cindy and Jeremy and Sandy and it was pretty clear the latter lost too much time when they went to a furniture store rather than Margaret Mitchell's house. The producers tried to add suspense with that GSP recalculating bit, but it was clear who the winners were as soon as they were near the final pit stop.

This season I didn't dislike anyone and there were no embarassing rivalries like the one where the lesbians and the former beauty queen bitched at each other at the finish line.

In related TAR news, they advertised seasons 3 and 4 on DVD from Amazon during the show. I got all excited because I've been waiting 8 years for more seasons on DVD. CBS released seasons 1 and 7 years ago and failed to follow up. This always frustrated me because you can find DVDs of just about anything from Saved by the Bell to Bewitched to The Beverly Hillbillies. I went to the Amazon website and it turns out these new DVDs are cheap burned-to discs sets which Amazon will create on a per-order basis with no extras or special features.

Damn! I may order them anyway because I no longer have Season 2 on VHS (That's how long ago it was, before DVD burning and Facebook and blogging.) I think I may have only a few episodes left. I seem to remember still having the segments when they were in Australia and the blonde girl estranged from her asshole ex-husband joking with the gay Latin guy about being limp-wristed and he says "Shut up, bitch." I didn't start getting the season on DVDs myself until midway through the one with the hippies. (I still have most of seasons 5 through whatever that one was on VHS, which can break or wear out easily.)

Season 3 was a good one with Flo and Zak and the gay and straight brothers. Season 4 had Chip and Reichen, which started Reichen on his journey to fame whoredom ending sadly on the A-list. The straight couple who came in second to them popped up on a ped-egg commercial. Remember that?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cain Stays Mainly Off the Iowa Plane

Just like I predicted Herman Cain has dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination, or "suspended his campaign" which means he can still raise money to pay off his debts. Now the big question is who will he endorse--and I'll bet it's whoever agrees to give him money to balance his books. It would be a riot if that endorsement went to Michelle Bachmann, just one of the many jokes in this stupid-ass primary. Regardless of who Cain favors, his votes will probably mostly go to Gingrich, the new un-Romney.

It's become increasingly clear a significant portion of Repub primary voters just will not support Mittens, like little children refusing to eat their spinach. They want a pure conservative no matter how much of a gasbag he is. They want some one with pure credentials to smear Obama and take him apart in the debates. They don't think Plastic Man Mitt can do that or that he shares their conservative principles--even though he is a one percenter. A Gingrich candidicacy might make these Tea Party types feel good for about two seconds, but the rest of America will react with revulsion when faced with the possibility of a Gingrich presidency.

One of my office colleagues, a conservative, believes Obama is solely responsible for the state of the wrecked economy and he will lose the election big time. According to my coworker everyone outside of New York and California hates the President's guts and he has zero chance of being re-elected. A foot stool could beat him. While I agree Obama is not the perfect prez and usually a second-term election is a referendum on the incumbent, I think most independent voters will still think he is the lesser of two evils and vote for him. When elections are close, it sometimes comes down to personalities. George W. Bush won despite his shortcomings because a lot of Americans could imagine themselves having a beer with the Texas governor rather than the stiff Al Gore or the snooty John Kerry. I'm just talking perceptions, but when faced with a choice between good-natured Obama and the nasty, Scrooge-like Gingrich (make poor, lazy school kids work as janitors and by the way, take a bath, you lousy hippies), they will go with Obama.

The Amazing Race 19--Episode 10--Waffles and Pigeons--Plus Work of Art and Project Accessory

It's a good thing I checked the listings before I went away for Thanksgiving or I would have entirely missed this week's Amazing Race. Maybe to promote ratings for a new show, CBS pre-empted The Good Wife for Person of Interest. I always DVR whatever show follows TAR in case stupid football runs over. This week, it ran over for nearly an entire hour, luckily I switched the recording to Person of Interest. As a side note, it turns out Work of Art and Project Accessory weren't on last week at all because of the holidays, so I didn't miss them after all.

I was right about Belgium and waffles as the races stayed in the Brussels area this week and waffles were involved in one challenge. The snowboarders managed to regain their incredible winning streak while praising Jesus all the while. After the bodybuilding challenge shown last week, everyone ran to a park where a Belgian jazz band played the theme from All Things Considered as the contestants stepped on the mat and were told they were still racing. From there they drove to a Ford mustang testing site from some fancy car drivin', product placement, and some free advertising for Ford. The snowboarders caught up as Ernie and Cindy got lost on the way to the next challenge which involved a choice of making waffles or rowing garbage cans on a river. It turns out the food challenge was the harder of the two and the Christian snowboarders gained even more ground.

The final challenge was following a flock of homing pigeons to a specific address in suburban Brussels and then racing to the pit stop, a giant jack thing. The old couple were eliminated and everyone heads for Panama next week. They are really slashing the budget these days, we've only being in Europe for three episodes and the total number of countries is significantly reduced. I can recall when it was a different country every episode.

As noted, I didn't miss Work of Art or Project Accessory. Lola continues to slip and feel sorry for herself. She did a nice drawing of herself as a kid driving with her dad, but those weird car parts sprayed with glitter had nothing to do with the drawing. Sara's winning piece was a clever and different take on the challenge of using the car parts and I'm glad Dusty saved his ass at the last minute with his tire-prints. The show inspires me to look at things in a different light. A few weeks ago when it rained heavily, a lot of cars in my neighborhood were covered with yellow leaves. That would have made an interesting series of photographs. But I was in a hurry and went to work.

They made sandals and hats and a third piece on Project Accessory.

Also I hear none of the usual cast will not be on the Project Runway All Stars show--not Tim, Heidi, Nina or Michael Kors. Maybe because they are gearing up for the regular series. That Tina Brown type from Marie Claire is going to be the mentor. Already, I'm less excited.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bookless Black Friday

This Thanksgiving weekend I visited my family in Philadelphia and made the mistake of driving to the King of Prussia Plaza on Black Friday. I hadn't been there in two years and it can be fun. At least it was. What a madhouse. Finding a parking spot was the biggest challenge, now they have sections of the lot blocked off for valet parkng by the big dept. stores like Neiman Marcus. Once I hiked from my spot to the main plaza, I wanted to look at the book stores. They even had a comic book store there the last time I went.

There was a mall worker at the map and he asked if he could help me. "Yes, where are the bookstores?"
"We don't have any here, sir." he said. "We burned them all down, books are Communists," he added as a joke.

"Really," I replied with surprise. "There used to be like four or five."

"Yeah, but they're all gone," he admitted dropping the humorous angle. "Sorry."

I was amazed. The Plaza is huge and one of the major shopping outlets in the country, but no bookstores. I asked about a Best Buy so I could at least look at DVDs, there was one but I would have to drive to it. There was nothing but clothes and housewares in the plaza itself. I guess it's a sign of the times, how long before you can only get your books from the Kindle or Nook. I left that godless nightmare out of Farhenheit 451 to the Barnes and Noble near my parents'. I didn't buy anything, but I liked just being there.

The next day, Jerry and I drove to Philadelphia and wandered around South Street which had several bookstores including Atomic City Comics where I bought the new I Zombie, two Supermans and a Superboy.

Before we drove to South Street, my mother told me she found a Flintstones jelly glass from when I was a kid. It had a stencil of Fred hunting while a saber-toothed tiger sneaks up behind him. I said it was probably worth $10-$20. She gave it to me. The copyright said 1964. I didn't remember the specific glass, but I recalled Fred and Wilma pushing Welch's grape jelly and juice.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Amazing Race 19--episode 9--Gratuitous Flexing, Plus Other Important TV Stuff

Phil flexes in Belgium
Happy Thanksgiving to all ten of you reading this. Or maybe it's gone up to twenty. I have much to be thankful for and I suppose I shouldn't be pissed off that my DVR did not record Work of Art last night and the fact that this seems to be the only show that Bravo does not repeat 37 times throughout the week and that the Bravo website is totally fucked so I can't watch it on my laptop--Elroy Jetson I am not, I guess. Now I will have to wait until they have a marathon. Similar fuck-ups happened last week when I tried to record Project Accessory but the high-definition version of Lifetime wasn't coming through on cable. But they repeated Accessory and I was able to catch up, on Bravo they only seem to be showing Top Chef and Real Housewives. Not as many people like Work of Art. I did enjoy Mad Fashion this week with the dog dressed up as a loaf of bread.

Back to important business--this week's Amazing Race which finally had the teams travelling to a bunch of countries and taking their clothes off. There is nothing like a million dollars to get people to submit to shameless exploitation.The producers always find a way to provide some cheap thrills for the viewers by having the teams run around in bikinis and speedos.

The action began in Copenhagen with the teams having to memorize a poem and then perform it for a bizarre wax dummy-looking guy in period clothes, supposed impersonating a drama critic. I'm a drama critic and I know that's how I always dress when I attend the theatre. Everyone did a more or less adeqaute job except Tommy of the snowboarders and he actually got a little mad when Mr. Waxworks told him he wasn't emoting enough. It was good to see this team, which always sails to first place, encounter trouble.

Then they had to drive to Legoland and put together a lego puzzle while on a spinning teacup ride. The threat of vomiting was ever present--always a fun thing. Their next destination was a train station in Hamburg. Ernie and Cindy lost their tickets and there a little tension over what would happen if they were asked to produce them. Fortunately, the European rail system is a lot looser than its American equivalent and they go off scot-free. Brussells was the final object of the leg and this is where the teams had to strip down and peform a bodybuilding posing routine in front of three hunky judges (YUMMY) and an audience of frustrated Belgian housewives. (My favorite was the handsome posing coach and when Phil took his shirt off.) The justification for this particular task is that Jean Claude Van Damme is called the Muscles from Brussells, and the fact that there is nothing else to distinguish the Belgian capital. What else would they do--eat waffles? Maybe they'll do that next week.

Everybody looked decent and had nice bodies, particularly Ernie and Jeremy. The snowboarders, being athletes, were pretty hot too, but they were having trouble executing the routine perhaps due to Young Grizzly Adams' injuries. (The only contestant that would caused me to turn away from the TV screen would have been Laurence and he was eliminated last week.) The episode ended with Marcus and Amani winning  the leg, their first, and being told the next one started right now. So episode 10 will probabaly be all in Brussells and all five will probably in it, with an elimination at the end. It really could be anybody and maybe Andy and Tommy will actually not make it to the final 3. As we have seen, it's anybody's game and even bickering Jeremy and Sandy could make it to the last episode, but they won't win. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Newt's Moment in the Sun and OWS

Doesn't that headline make you think of a lizard sunbathing on top of a rock?

Newtie with wife no. 3. I think he was sleeping with her while impeaching Clinton.
Newt Gingrich is now in the anti-Mitt Romney slot among GOP candidates. Did I call that Cain would drop down sooner or later or what? (What a jerk this Cain is, I know more about Libya than him!) This is the ultimate irony--evangelical rightists who claim their most important issues are family values and anti-government Ayn Randism now seem to supporting Gingrich, a thrice-married, ultimate Washington insider. Newt, a lobbyist for anyone who will foot his jewelry bill and pay for his European cruises, is the very definition of the one-percenters. He is small and petty--he lost control of congress during his speakership because Clinton gave him a bad seat on Air Force One, that and shutting down the government. I just saw a clip of him speaking to the faithful about Occupy Wall Street wanting to tear down this country. Let's all get in the TARDIS and go back to the late 1960s (get the Doctor Who reference?) This is the right's characterization of OCW as a radical anarchistic movement bent on destroying financial institutions and inconveniencing subway riders, just as Nixon and Agnew called student protestors bums.

As Chris Matthews pointed out both the Tea Party and OWS have legitimate concerns, but the former is fueled by anger and letting social issue cloud their message, while the latter is too diffuse and lacking in a specific list of actions they want taken.
BTW, Elizabeth Hasselback needs to get a life. You could tell she has been waiting to attack Bill Maher for a joke he made a year ago! As Bill said, you're a public figure Elizabeth, if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen and go on Fox News.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Story of Mankind and Metropolis

The robot in Fritz Lang's "Metropolis"
If you follow my Facebook posts, you may recall that I used to write a mini review of every book I read and every movie I viewed. I stopped a while back because the Social Living application which allowed you to rate your books, movies, TV shows, restaruants, etc. suddenly stopped working. Everyone's virtual bookshelf and movie lists were in limbo. There was some message from Social Living saying "It's not you, it's us. We can't afford this anymore" or words to that effect. That was annoying, because rating and commenting on books and movies was so easy with that app. Doing it by blog is slightly more of a pain because if you want a nice illustration, you have to go looking for it on the web and then go to the trouble of pasting into the blog post. As Judy Tenuta would say, "I have better things to do, like stay in bed and complain." But lately, I felt the need to express my views on the meaningless crap I read and look at (I mean besides reality TV) Two people even said to me after running into them in the street and we discovered we had seen the same movie, "I look forward to reading your review on Facebook."

ANYWAY... this is a roundabout introduction to a new section on the David Desk 2. When I feel like it, I will give mini-reviews of books and movies. Maybe I'll put in an illustration, maybe I won't. That's how I roll.

So on Tues. of the week I was home sick with a cold. TCM was showing The Story of Mankind at 10AM. One of the worst movies ever made, but so bad I couldn't look away when I could have easily switched the channel to The View. The ridiculous plot imagines a celestial trial with Sir Cedric Hardwicke adjudicating the future of the human race while Vincent Price as the devil and Ronald Coleman as the spirit of Man argue both sides of the case. They go over the entire history of western civilization with grade-B stars as historical figures. Highlights include Dennis Hopper as Napoleon, Groucho Marx as Peter Minuet buying Manhattan Island, and Peter Lorre as Nero.

Later I watched the restored version of Fritz Lang's silent classic Metropolis streaming from Netflix on my TV from the computer. This featured recently found footage to the German sci-fi story featuring more views of Lang's vision of a dystopian future where the rich few play and cavort while worker toil underground to keep them in luxury. Sound familiar, 99 per centers? There were several melodramatic conventions of silent film--the hero rescuing the girl from a mad villain atop the cathedral--but it offered a weirdly fascinating vision of the 21st century as seen through a 1920s lens. So many sci-fi influences started here--the robot posing as human, the mad scientist, the massive future city (even Superman stole the name of his city from this film). There is a possible anti-Semitic flavor here with the house of Rotwang, the evil scientist decorated with what appear to be stars of David. and the nightclub full of corruption is called Yoshiwara as if to warn Germanic audiences about the evil influences of the East. But it's still an amazing picture and the missing footage takes us further into Lang's vision of a dazzling yet ambiguous future.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Amazing Race 19--Episode 8--Justified Double U-Turn in Denmark

Armani and Marcus spent too much time at the airport this week
In addition to finally visiting a new city--Copenhagen--there was a second consecutive double-U turn, two firsts for the Amazing Race this week. Ernie and Cindy wised up and used it, or Cindy did at any rate while Ernie wanted to be all hearts and flowers and not use it on anyone. Cindy cold-bloodedly bitch-slapped grandparents Bill and Cathi to the curb by using the U-turn on them. They received some grief for it, but I'm sorry, it was the right move and I'm glad they did it. I'd have done the same. I'm only sorry it wasn't Andy and Tommy who had to go back and make the rabbits run.

Let's start at the beginning and try for a thorough analysis of this week's episode, something I haven't done in ages. The teams were told they had to make their way from Malawi to Copenhagen. There was a flight that would get them to the Danish capital via Amsterdam by 8 AM but they were free to find faster accomodations. Everybody did so, except for Marcus and Armani which kinda surprised me since they have this can-do spirit. Instead they snoozed at the airport while all the other teams got to the next clue several hours ahead. If not for Jeremy and Sandy's stupidity--they couldn't find the right location for the next destination--the ex-football guy and his wife would have lost for sure.

The clue lead them all to this castle where they had to don period costumes and make-up (why the make-up?, I don't think they had foundation in the 16th century) and learn three dance steps. I must admit Young Grizzly Adams looked mighty cute in his Elizabeth togs and Ernie sported some shapely gams in those white tights. While watching their teammates, Bill revealed he and Cathi met when they were 12 and 13 (the Renaissance costumes must have brought back memories for him) while Cindy confessed she first hooked up with Ernie over shots at a bar. 19-year-old Zac had trouble with the steps and his dad explained to the camera he would have picked them up quickly because he used to be in a rock band. Huh? And what was with that tall, thin guy with the beard and codpiece who looked like Dr. Smith from Lost in Space who was the partner for the third dance? All of the male contestants looked a mite uncomfortable when he was dancing with them.

The following location was a farm where there was a choice of tasks--lead a rabbit through an obstacle course or make six bricks of butter. After completing the task, Ernie and Cindi U-turned Bill and Cathi which was perfectly OK with me. The older couple was right behind them and they didn't want to lose another prize. Bill and Cathi then U-turned Lawrence and Zack. I guess they were thinking if they U-turned Andy and Tommy, whom they had just seen seconds ago, the snowboarders could still catch up with them, but if they slowed down the father and son who were way behind, they were guaranteed not being last. Ironically, the grandparents and the snowboarders were second and third and Andy and Tommy chose not to run and usurp second place from the oldsters. I guess since there was no prize or money involved, it didn't matter.

Jeremy and Sandy almost lost because of Sandy's terrible map-reading skills. You could tell Jeremy wanted to kill her when he kept mumbling about being going in the wrong direction because she didn't tell him early enough which turn to take. She kept saying "What? What?" "Nothing...nothing." Terrible communication skills. They are definitely the next to go and I think Marcus and Armani after that. While I admire their spirit, they make too many wrong decisions, like not working to find an earlier flight.

Next week looks like a can't-miss episode with everyone stripping down and flexing their muscles. All the guys, even over-60 Bill, look pretty hot.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Amazing Race 19--Episode 7--Ernie and Cindy Wimp Out

First of all, it's Nov. 6 and there are already showing too many Christmas-related commericals during this week's episode of Amazing Race.

Secondly, if I were Ernie and Cindy I would have so U-turned Andy and Tommy's white, Christian, snowboarding asses it would have made their heads spin. As soon as I heard there was a double U-turn I was praying someone would do it to Andy and Tommy who have won nearly every leg of the race. They aren't evil or nasty like Rob and Amber (I recently saw Rob on some History Channel show about travelling the world and nearly lost my cookies) and they have been extremely lucky, benefitting from the mistakes of others. It was pointed out in this week's episode they took number one three times because other teams had goofed up. They are also both very athletic and pay attention to details. So they do deserve to be in the lead, it's just so boring having the same team win all the time.

Ernie and Cindy were ahead of Tommy and Andy because they turned in their Express Pass on Lake Malawi. When they got to the Double U Turn, they could have u-turned the snowboarders and been assured first place, but Ernie said, "I don't want to be mean spirited." I would have done it in a heart beat. It was a race to the finish mat, but Dana Carvey and Young Grizzly Adams surged ahead and won $15,000. In the previews for next week, there is another U-turn and it appears Ernie and Cindy grow a pair (or two pairs) and use it. I'm going to pray all week that it's the snowboarders you get screwed. BTW, two u-turns in a row? Is this a first, and last week had better have been the last non-elimination leg.

Also this week we learned Justin is gay--surprise!--and got a treat with a shot from the Marcus'-enormous-thigh cam. Did you see that shot in the cab with Marcus and Amani where his thigh takes up almost the entire screen? I starting rooting for those two. At first I thought they had an unfair advantage with Marcus being a professional football player. I am against all pro athletes being on the show, because I think "regular" people should win. But they had come from behind and not given up.

Next week, we finally get to Europe. I predict Jeremy and Sandy, this season's bickering couple, will be the next to go. Tommy and Andy and Ernie and Cindy will definitely be in the top three, and third place could be any one of the remaining teams. Maybe it will be Bill and Cathi, the oldest couple, because they keep their heads and tend not to quarrel.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Michigan Legislature Endorses Satanism and One More Thing About Herman Cain

The Michigan state legislature recently passed an anti-bullying law, but Republicans added provisions that if you can prove you did your bullying for religious reasons, you would not be punished. HUH? I think what happened was the Repubs received pressure from evangelicals and other nutcases that there should never, ever be any law on the books that says being gay or acting gay is OK and that no one should ever be punished for teasing or assualting someone if they firmly believe they are doing the lord's work. That's absolutely crazy. You could interpret the bible to say homosexuality is a sin, BUT doesn't the good book also say love the sinner, and let he who is without sin cast the first stone--or punch or fag joke. How could you possibly interpret the bible--or any other religious text--to say that bullying and tormenting your fellow students is OK. The only religion I can think of with such a credo is Satanism. So therefore, the Michigan state legislature is endorsing Satanism.

And one more thing about Herman Cain. His sexual harassment scandal doesn't seem to be effecting his poll numbers. That really doesn't concern me too much. We don't know exactly what he is accused of--did he just make a few inappropriate jokes or did he make unwanted advances? None of the women has come forward with specifics. What troubles me is that Cain doesn't know ANYTHING about foreign policy and his supporters don't care. He doesn't know the president of Uzbekistan or that China is a nuclear power. It was stupid of him to turn the question on the reporter and ask if he knew who the president of Uzbekistan was. The reporter would have answered--"Yes I do, and even if I didn't, that's not the point. I'm not running for President." The segment of the Republican party supporting anyone but Romney wants someone as ignorant of the world as a whole as they are. They just want someone to get them a job and lower their taxes. They like that Cain is not a politician and plain and honest and unsophisticated, just like them. That's what they liked about Sarah Palin, she was just plain folks. Cain is just plain folks and that's what they want in the White House. Foreign policy, who cares about that stuff, just get me a slick of pizza.

Amazing Race, Work of Art, and Farewell Project Runway

I'm getting tired of the Snowboarders--or as I like to call them Young Grizzly Adams and Dana Carvey--always winning the Amazing Race. (But Young Girzzly Adams looks great with shirt off. So I hope they stick around for a while.) They won AGAIN this week because the brother and sister forgot to pay their driver. It really takes the fun out of the show when the same team wins all the time. They're probably gonna win the whole thing, too. Last week was one of the few times they lost and were in the middle of the pack. I like to think this is because they disrespected a different religion while reconstructing that temple thing in Bangkok and going on and on about how Christian they are. At least the bickering sister said she respected the temple and wouldn't want anyone to mix up her church if they had put it back together in order to win a cool million on a reality show. BTW, she revealed this week she's a elementary school teacher. A teacher! With a temper like that? I'd be scared of her.

Another thing I'm not lovin' about this season is the limited number of locations. We're up to episode six and we've only been in four countries--Taiwan, Indodensia, Thailand and Malawi. And it looks like next we'll we'll be stuck in Malawi still. Plus we've already used up all the non-elimination legs. Or so it seems. There have been three of them, that's got to be a record for this early in the game. One solution would be to increase the number of contestrants, but I guess they want that uncertainty of everyone not knowing if they will go home or not.
Meanwhile on Work of Art, Sucklord went into his bad boy act defending Tewz's crappy GROW planter in front of the judges (BTW, I saw the gallery owner Bill Powers on the street nust before the new season debuted. I kept thinking where have I seen that cute guy before? Was it at the office? Then I watched the first episode and realized it was him.) I liked Jerry Saltz, the New York critic telling Sucklord he would get medieval on his ass if the artist used one more Star Wars doll in his work. I really like Sucklord's vibe--a combination of nerd and tough guy. I love the way he calls everybody bums. I like Lola too. The pictures of her as a little girl with Al Pacino (whom her mother used to date) were really cute. I wonder if they are still close and if she went backstage when he was doing Merchant of Venice on Broadway.

Last week the eliminated the deaf guy which I think was a mistake. His piece wasn't especially original--referencing Jasper Johns' flag paintings--but it was better than Dusty's trash can.

This week also saw the new Project Runway epilogue to season 9 hosted by Tim Gunn followed by the new episode of Project Accessory. What's next? Project Underwear? Project Nailfile? Project Cellphone? I'm looking forward to the next season with the all-stars.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cain Not Raising

As soon as I blog about Herman Cain being the front runner, he has to go and have a sexual harassment scandal. On that topic, I don't believe this right-wing bullshit that the whole Cain thing is the result of a vast liberal conspiracy. First of all, Politico, the website which broke the story, is moderate leaning to the right. Secondly, liberals WANT Herman Cain to do well because in a match up with Obama, the Prez wins hands down.

I had earlier written that Obama is in serious trouble, but after this bunch of clowns has finished stumbling all over themselves, I feel a little better about his prospects. Perry is also down for the count after that weird performance in New Hampshire. Did you see that speech? He claims he wasn't drunk or on drugs, but just in a good mood. Mittens is keeping his mouth shut and hopes to be the only one left standing.   

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Recap of October Surprises

Well it's almost November and I haven't written to all ten of you loyal followers since September. What can I say, legion of fans? My life has just been too busy to blog about. There were several major events at work and now there is so much reality TV to keep up with, I have barely enough time for real life, let alone commenting on it.

There is so much going on, I will just give you the highlights:
In the last post, I predicted Rick Perry would sputter out and lose his momentum (RIGHT AGAIN) but who could have guessed Herman Cain would have taken his place as the darling non-Romney of the Tea Partiers? I think it's because his tax plan has a lot of numbers in it and it's easy to remember. I said Perry would be the favorite of the right wing for a while and Mittens would still emergent as the nominee. Just substitute Cain for Perry.

An even bigger surprise was the outcome of Project Runway. (I haven't been able to write about any of my usual reality favorites, but I have been watching). I should have seen it coming when the judges let Anya stay past the final four and show at Fashion Week when she should have been eliminated. They hated two of her three final looks, for cripes' sake. She did do a good job, but her collection was very one-note. At least Miss Bitch Josh didn't win--what was up with those electric green shorts and that 1960s psychedelic print? Ugh. Viktor should have won. His collection was the most polished, imaginative and diverse, yet unified. But they wanted to give it to Anya from the begining.

Immediately after Project Runway, I watched the new show Project Accessory or as I like to call it Let's Milk This Format Dry of Every Drop of Profit. It followed Runway very closely right down to the logo, the mentoring, and the final fashion show. And it's interesting to see how rings, bags, necklaces, etc. can alter and spuce up a look. It was pretty clear the eliminated one would be either the rocker chick who looks like a young Elizabeth Ashley or the mature African-American woman who did the eleborate chandelier necklace and the Queen Hipolyta girdle. Both had the most airtime but I had a feeling they kept the rocker chick because of her outgoing personality. I'll keep watching.

Work of Art recently started its second season and is worth watching just to hear everyone say Sucklord. The Amazing Race is nearly halfway through and I'm not excited about any of the contestants. I will try to write more about them in the weeks ahead.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Republicans Gathering Strength for 2012

Obama is in real trouble. I have serious doubts he'll be able to get re-elected. The voters in the middle who have no political convictions and don't pay attention to politics are seeing him as a weakling who kowtows to the right and isn't getting the economy moving or creating jobs. They don't care that the Republicans only want to make the rich richer.

Right now Rick Perry, the Neanderthal governor of Texas--who doesn't even acknowledge the existence of Neanderthals because he doesn't believe in evolution--is looking attractive to the middle. "Oh, we like him," they say when they are looking away from American Idol or NASCAR, "He'll get us a job at Walmart or the 7-11. I don't like what he says about Social Security, but at least he doesn't back down or change his stand on things like that flip-flopper Romney or that wishy-washy Obama. I want a strong president who will keep me in line." Never mind that if Perry gets elected, everyone will be forced to buy a handgun, no one will ever be able to get a legal abortion, gays will be locked up, and Social Security and Medicare will disappear. These are only slight exaggerations.

Here's an interesting revelation that came out of that Tea Party debate. When Michelle Bachman suggested the only reason Perry made an executive order that all schoolgirls get a vaccination to prevent cervical cancer it was because the pharmaceutical company Merck had given him a contribution. He replied that he raised several million dollars and Merck had only given him $5,000 and he was insulted by her idea that he could be bought for such a piddling amount. It's very telling that he said he insulted not because of the suggestion that he could be bribed, but over the size of the bribe. The implication being he can be bought, but for a helluva lot more than 5K. It's been revealed Merck actually contributed $30,000 and also gave to the Republican Governors Association of which Perry is in charge.

Sidenote on Bachmann: Instead of shutting up when she had a good point, the Wicked Witch of Minnesota shot herself in the foot by making wild and unfounded claims that the vaccine was dangerous. In subsequent interviews, she repeated an anecdotal story about a grieving mother whose daughter had contracted mental retardation because of the shot. The medical community says there is no evidence of such a side effect. This shows Bachmann will make any irresponsible statement to advance her bid for power.

Another horrible incident during these Republican debates was the "death" scream moment when Tea Party enthuisasts supported leaving uninsured Americans to die rather than have the government pay for their treatment. Moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul about a hypothetical case of a healthy young man with a good job who decided not to have any insurance because he just doesn't want to pay the a few hundred dollars a month in premiums. Blitzer asked what if this guy goes into a coma, should he just be left to die? People in the audience cried "YEAH!" Paul did not actually say he should perish, but that the church and charities should deal with such cases as happened when he was practising medicine. What fantasty world does this Ron Paul live in? Does he think every community is like "It's a Wonderful Life" where the town rallies round poor Jimmy Stewart when he's down on his luck? Paul Krugman rightly said in his NY Times column (too lazy to put in the link, look it up yourself) that such cases of being uninsured through stupidity or fecklessness are not really relevant. Far more common are instances where people can't afford insurance though they have jobs (like the low-paying ones Rick Perry is so proud of in Texas) or were turned down for a pre-existing condition (which supposedly will be illegal thanks to the hated Obamacare). If that were the question, those Tea Partiers still would have cried "YEAH!" to letting the uninsured drop dead on the streets.

Krugman points out this chilling lack of compassion shows there is no basic agreement between left and right that government should provide minimal support of those who are experiencing bad luck or trouble. If you lose your job, if you can't afford insurance, if you're not a go-getter, tough shit according to the new Right. Forget welfare, no more unemployment, social security, medicare, or anything for you.

Here's what I think is going to happen. Perry will continue to surge and he might take a few primaries, but he will sputter out and look like an extremist and therefore unable to win in the general election. He could beat Obama, but it's not a sure thing. I think cooler heads will prevail and Romney will be seen as reasonable and attractive to independents. Hey, they'll say, he's not some evangelical who doesn't believe in science. He'll create jobs cause he's been in business. Never mind that Massachusetts was near the bottom in job growth when he was governor. Forget that when he took over a company, they fired everyone. Romney will get the nomination and it will be close, the odds are he will beat Obama. Then we'll have this blow-dried, phony, plastic, CEO president. I can't really blame those middle-people who are leaning towards the right. They don't see Obama as standing up and fighting hard enough and they are right.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Alaska Vacation Part Six--Seattle and Victoria

I'm glad I didn't panic and cancel my ferry ride to Seattle. Everything worked out and I had a nice time. The city is very much like San Francisco, lots of hills. I thought it would be an easy walk from the port to my hotel, but it was a cardio workout of a climb. I had a reservation at an inexpensive hotel next to a hospital, so my view was of sick people, lying in their beds. I took a bus tour which gave me an overview--the only thing I knew about it was that TV show from the 1960s called Here Come the Brides and the theme song---"The bluest skies you ever seen in Seattle/Like a beautiful child/Growing up free and wild." And I would run around and act like a savage and say, "I'm the beautiful child in Seattle." Anyway, it's a nice, charming city where everyone drinks coffee all the time. I saw the original Starbucks and the famous space needle--immortalized in the famous issue of Adventure where the Legion of Super-Heroes visits an anti-gravity restaurant on Jupiter, which is modeled on the space needle. (This was the one where Superboy, Ultra Boy, Chameleon Boy and new Legionnaires Chemical King and Timber Wolf disguise themselves as super-outlaws to infiltrate a school of villains.) Next to the space needle is a museum specializing in science fiction and rock music. They had an exhibits on Battlestar Galactica and Avatar as well as the futuristic car Harrison Ford drove in Blade Runner. (pictured)

Then I had a great seafood dinner on the wharf, walked through the Market Square and went back to the hospital-hotel. Then next morning I got up early to take the ferry back to Victoria where I would have about 90 minutes before I had to get on the bus to Nanaimo where Jerry was having his conference. I had rushed through Victoria at the other end in order make the ferry to Seattle, so now it was nice to have some time there. It had a pretty harbor and some quaint shops.

I got back to the hotel in Nanaimo and watched some episodes of Horders and decided to clean up once I got home. The next day was our last on vacation before flying home. We wandered around Nanaimo which was having a car show and I bought some old sci-fi novels at a used book store. Will Kindle eliminate those stores? I still love getting old books for a dollar and reading cheesey s-f.

Rather than taking a ferry all the way back to Tswassen and then a long cab ride to the airport in Vancouver, we took a tiny float plane and stayed in an airport hotel since we had to get up quite early for our flight. That was fun. (pictured) But the trip from Vancouver was a pain. We were supposed to take a small plane to Seattle and transfer to NY. But our plane had a mechanical problem and we had to get a new one which meant missing our connection. We had several problem booking a new flight and worred we'd have to stay in Seattle, but it worked out and I watched Design Star on the TV in the set in front of me while drinking wine from tiny bottles.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Trivia Team Names

Last week I went to a trivia night at a bar called Bar None on Third Ave. I had met the hostess on the Alaska cruise because she was writing down the questions during the trivia games on the ship. When she told me this was one of her jobs, I said, "That's what I should do for a living."
Anyway, I went to the trivia night she hosted alone. Everyone from work was busy. I went just to see what it would be like and it was fun. I teamed up with strangers. The most fun is coming up with goofy team names. This week I chose the name Justice Legion of Doom, combining the Justice League of America and their worst enemies, the Legion of Doom. I didn't help me win, but at least I wasn't dead last.

In the interim, I have thought of a few other nifty team names:
The New Cyber Mutants
The MacMahon and Tate Secretarial Pool
The World Wide Wicket Secretarial Pool
The Superman Emergency Squad
The Three Husbands of Scarlett O'Hara
Spacely Sprockets
Jet Screamer and the Blast-Offs
Frankenstein Junior and the Impossibles

50 points if you identify all the references.

Alaska Vacation Part Five--Vancouver and Beyond

As Hurricane Irene slowly leaves NY, I finally have a moment to finish the wrap-up of the Alaska vacation. After our cruise ended in Vancouver, Jerry and I got in a cab and realized we had made the mistake of booking a hotel near the ferry to Vancouver Island where his conference would be held in two days. The ferry was a $70 cab ride away from downtown Vancouer where we wanted to hang out before the conference. We hadn't realized it was so far away. We cancelled the reservation at the ferry hotel--the woman at the desk was nice enough not to charge us for it even though it was less than 24 hours before check-in time--took a bus and a train back to central Vancouver, checked in at our new hotel, and walked over Vancouver. Very nice city with a big seaport where float planes fly in and out. We had dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant--there is a very big Asian population and saw Captain America at a movie theatre not far from our hotel. (Picture: me in Vancouver)

The next day, we got back to the ferry in the afternoon and took it Nanaimo on Vancouver Island where Jerry's conference was to be held. The plan was for me to get the ferry from Victoria to Seattle and stay over night in the Rainy City while Jerry attended his conference. Just as we didn't realize the long distance between Vancouver and the ferry, I didn't take into account the long distance between Nanaimo and Victoria--a two-hour bus ride and there were only four a day. The first one arrived at the harbor in Victoria just 20 minute before my ferry left for Seattle. Plus would I make it back in the other direction the next day?

After panicing like a baby, I decided to just run from the bus station to the ferry terminal. I had a map of Victoria and figured there were only a few block apart. I just made it and was the last person on the ferry. The ride was nice. Isat next to a Canadian couple who were going to see a Seattle Mariners' baseball game and drank three rounds of vodka and grapefruit juice--and it was only 11 in the morning.

I'm really glad I didn't chicken out because I was able to get on the right ferry the next day in order to make the bus back to Nanaimo. More in Seattle (space needle pictured above) in the next blog.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Alaskan Vacation Part Four--Ports of Call

AT SEA, BRITISH COLUMBIA--This is the last full day of the cruise and we are headed towards Vancouver to disembark. Plus the internet is very slow and everyone is complaining. Since the last post we've had three ports of call--Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan--plus a show in the Universe Lounge with Adrian Zmed. Yes the hot young partner of William Shatner on TJ Hooker is now headlining cruise ships. The best parts of the show were the clips from when he was young and muscular. But let's concentrate on the positive. Skagway was this little tiny town, with a quaint little shops. We saw salmon swimming upstream and learned that the last shot of the Civil War was fired in Alaska. A Confederate navy captain was charged by Robert E. Lee to sink Union whalers to hurt the Yankee economy. They had sunk several and when they boarded a British vessel in June 1865, they read a newspaper that Lee had surrounded two months earlier.

Later in the afternoon we took a train ride on the Yukon Railway which took us up to the Canadian border. Everyone else went back to the ship afterwards, but I wandered around. Almost all the shops had closed at 3PM and I hadn't had any lunch, so I had to settle for Rice Kripsie treat at the local Starbucks. Skagway also had the world's only Sarah Palin store--as the lady cashier proudly pointed out. Sister Sarah grew up in Skagway and her dad taught high school as did the owner of the store. There were numerous T-shirts, books, bumper stickers, and memorabilia, all pro-Palin. Outside there a door with a poster of Barack Obama on it and a big sign reading Barack Obama Store CLOSED. I wisely refrained from making any comments to the lady. Obama is disappointing me and the current economic chaos is partially his fault in the sense that he is the Prez and even if the Tea Party started it and they are mainly at fault, he is the parent chaperoning this kids' party. If the furniture gets broken, he's the one who has to pay for it.

That night, or was it the next one, I've lost track, we saw the Adrian Zmed show which consisted of musical medleys from Broadway, the 1950s (cause he was in Grease, you see), Vegas, and clips from his career including Bachelor Party, Dance Fever and that episode of the Love Boat where he guess-starred and was trapped in a state room with 20 women with bad 1980s hair. The dancers and singers were quite good. They did most of the work especailly during a number which borrowed heavily from Bob Fosse's "Sing! Sing! Sing!"

In Juneau, we took a bus for $16 RT to the Mendenhall glacier (the Princess excursion would have been $45) where they also have walkways over wild areas and you can see bear fishing for salmon in the river. We saw plenty of salmon, and only two bears. They were too fast for me to snap a picture. The glacier was enormous and awe-inspiring, pictures don't really do it justice. We passed the new WalMart on the way and the driver joked that civilization had come to Juneau. Once back in Juneau, Mom, Dad, and my brother Jonathan wanted to go back to the ship and Jerry wanted lunch. I was indecisive, but after dithering for a bit I said I wanted to take the tram up to the mountain before time ran out--we only had until 3:30PM to get back to the ship. I'm glad I did because the view was lovely and they had an injured bald eagle in captivity. It was a magnificent bird and I got some great pix which I will share with you once I get back home and download all the pix. This internet is freaking expensive. I think this was the night we saw Adrian, previously we saw the comedian and the ventriloquist both of whom were only so-so.

Yesterday was Ketchikan, the town I liked best of the three. We strolled around the dock and the main points of interest where the many totem poles and Creek Street, a street on a wharf acorss the creek where the bordellos used to be. They were not allowed within the town limits. During prohibition they were also speakeasies so that where the men got their booze and sex. In the afternnon I went zip-lining--Jerry didn't want to--which was pretty scary but once I got into it, it was great fun. We were up 90 feet in the Alaskan rain forest on platforms the size of endtables. In between, we had to walk on a rope bridge like the kkind Jonny Quest had a run across when the villains were chasing him and Haji. I was in a group of six with a mom and her three kids and a lady by herself. Both said their husbands were terrified of heights. We did see a bear and an eagle from the trees plus three reindeer whom they had in a pen. It was a lovely drive along the coast from the zip-line place to the town. The woman cab driver told us about all the bears they got up in people's houses and how even if you're careful with your garbage, they still get in it.

The food has been excellent with delicious desserts and exceptional appetizers. Last night we watched Limitless with Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro (It was boradcast on the outdoor deck on a giant screen, but it was too cold). Also I saw another of the production shows with a Motown theme--only two African-Americans were in the cast. Tomorrow we land in Vancouver.   

Friday, August 5, 2011

Alaskan Vacation Part Three

GLACIER BAY--I'm paying 75 freaking cents a minute for Internet on this cruise ship, so I will be brief. It's Friday and the second full day on our cruise in Alaska. Afetr the last post, we travelled from McKinley National Park to Denali National Park by bus. It was raining heavily in the morning and I was depressed because of the weather, but it cleared up and we had a lovely day in the park, seeing a bunch of caribous. The lodge was like a train station with hundreds of Princess Cruise passengers coming and going. The next day--Wed.--we boarded a scenic train to return to Anchorage for the sea portion of the trip. The ride was ten hours! But enjoyable. We passed through Wassilla again and were informed it was the Duct Tape Capital of the world. They have a Duct Tape dance where everyone dresses in duct tape. Why does this not surprise me?

We boarded the ship in a pouring rain, had dinner at the endless buffet and I saw the welcome show with a ventriloquist who was OK, but not great. Thursday was a relaxing day, but still rainy and cloudy. We played trivia with fellow passengers and lost! Damn! I have been thinking about winning a trivia tournament since my last cruise. I soaked in the hot tub, relaxed and read. We were supposed to see a glacier, but it was too foggy. After dinner we went to the Lounge for another trivia game, but they had advertised it as 50s and 60s trivia--I thought it would be politics, TV, popular cuture, news, etc.; it turned out to be 50s and 60s rock and roll trivia. I should have complained about the false advertising. Of course we lost again. I knew the names of the songs, but not the singers.

Today we sailed through Glacier Bay and saw plenty of glaciers including a huge one called Margery--the same name as my mother. When huge chunks of ice fall off glaciers, it's called calving. I saw Margery calve three times. The sound of all that ice hitting the water was like an explosion. Also sighted were an eagle and sea lion lazing on an ice floe--not together, separate ice floes. On the way out of the bay, we saw several whales. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Alaskan Vacation Part Two Plus Outrage Over the Debt Deal

TRAPPERS CREEK, ALASKA--Reporting to you from the Main Lodge at the Princess Mt. McKinley Lodge in Trappers Creek, Alaska. The Internet is free, so I thought I would take advantage of it. Jerry, my brother Jonathan, and I went river rafting this morning in a pouring rain. We put on layers and layers of raingear including rain pants, boots, hats, and a fleece jacket--it got pretty cold on the river. We saw seven eagles, including one in flight. We mentioned we had passed Wassila yesterday on the bus ride in and our rowing guide said "Don't talk about her. She Who Must Not Be Named" as if Sarah Plain were Volemort, Harry Potter's evil nemesis. When we passed  Wassila on the way from Anchorage, I think we saw the little coffee stand that Kathy Griffin and her staff stopped at on her visit during My Life on the D-List.

After the raft ride, we had lunch in the town of Takleena--I think I'm mispelling it, but the postcard with right spelling on it is back in my room--which was the inspiration from the town of Cicely in Northern Exposure. A tiny little village with lots of cool shops and adventure tourism. We were at the Roadhouse and had a pasty which is sort like Mrs. Lovett's meat pies from Sweeney Todd. Food here is interesting. Last night, I had reindeer lasagna.

When we got back to our rooms, my parents in their room acorss the hall were watching CNN just after the House had passed the compromise bill, or as I like to call it, The President's Cave-In. I am OK with looking at Medicare and Social Security and doing some reform, but I am pretty upset that there is no revenue increases for rich people, not even closing of ridiculous loopholes. The only possibility is this stupid Committee of 12,  but with half of it Republican, nothing is going to happen as far taxes goes. Let's face it, the Tea Party won and I figured out why: they had nothing to lose. They basically said, "Go ahead, don't raise the debt ceiling. Let the country default. Nothing is going to happen." And some of them, like Michelle "Bat S**t Crazy" and this Walsh guy from Illinois who owes over $100,000 in child support, actually believe it. The President could have said, "Give me a bill with some tax increases for rich people or I veto it and if you don't by Aug. 2, I raise it myself invoking the 14th amendment." But the other side genuinely was willing to go over the cliff and take the whole world's economy with them. Now the Senate will have to pass it tomorrow or we default, so you'll get all the Repubs--the women from Maine and Scott Brown are safe to vote for it--and some Dems. 

But I am having a great time, it's wonderful to get away from the heat of NYC for the coolness of Alaska. Tomorrow we go on to the Denali Lodge.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Alaskan Vacation Part One

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA--Just a quick post to let you know I am in Ancorage, Alaska in the lobby of the Ramada Inn. Flew in yesterday from NYC. We're waiting to take a bus to the airport and meet the bus for the land portion of our tour which will end in a cruise in a few days. Thursday night before leaving was a double header of reality bliss--Expedition Impossible and the premiere of Project Runway. (I realize I got it wrong in the previous posts; it's Expedition not Operation Impossible). On Runway, I liked Victor and Becky's outfits best. They wound up in the middle. The guy with cancer, the Trinidadian beauty queen, and the old guy who looks like Jon Voight were on top while the whiny bald guy, the fabulous African-American designer with the do-rag and the girl with the little-girl pajamas were on the bottom. (Expedition Impossible was exciting when erik the blind guy jumped off the cliff.) On the plane to Anchorage, I spent $8 on Direct TV because Runway was on. But then we got over water and reception was down, so I had to settle for reruns of Parks and Recreation, The Middle, 30 Rock, and The Big Bang Theory.

BTW, Jerry forgot his passport, so now I can hold that over his head for a while. The camcorder we brought broke down and we took a cab to Walmart to buy a cheap new one. Can you believe it? I've now been to the Anchorage Walmart.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Debt-Ceiling Shell Game

I just don't believe that the average American worker earning $20,000 a year at the Price Chopper thinks it's right that her Social Security and Medicare benefits should be cut and millionaires should not get a tax increase or corporations should be allowed to keep their tax loopholes for corporate jets. Yet this is what the Tea Party and Eric Cantor who have us buy. At least, that is the picture Fox and the Koch Brothers are trying to sell us. Don't these people--the Price Chopper and Walmart workers see that they are being sold a bill of goods? The aim of the Republican Party is now and always has been to let the rich keep as much of their money as possible without having to contribute to the common good? Now it's all being disguised over concern for the deficit and not wishing to burden our grandchild with debts to the Chinese.

I only hope Joe and Jane Public see through this obvious sham to the truth--they are being asked to sacrifise their affordable co-payments and milk money so fat cats can continue to fly to Bermuda for sales conferences without paying for it. Their whole agenda is to strip away all the progress America has made in the last century to return to Gilded Age of the 1890s when Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, etc. could eat oysters and take grand tours without worrying about pesky things like labor unions or minimum wages.

Michele Bachmann and the crazy House Repubs are actually willing to let the debt ceiling deadline pass without extending it and risking a financial meltdown that will make 2008 look like a day at the beach.

I'm glad Obama is standing up to these nutbags--FINALLY!--and telling Cantor to start acting like a grownup. Obama has been willing to compromise--too much I think--but Cantor and his minion whill not give a freaking inch on revenues--the new buzz word for taxes. Isn't it clear they are only doing to to suck up to their corporate overlords. They say it's to allow big business the opportunity to create new jobs, but even though many corporations are reporting record profits, they aren't hiring new people. The reason is the big execs discovered once they laid off everyone off in 2008, they could get one person to do the work of three and be great they had a job at all. So why should the bosses hire anyone when they can save on benefits and wages and get a smaller staff to work like dogs for less money?

Some are saying McConnell's sneaky plan to have Obama be responsible for raising the debt ceiling is giving in, but it's actually a cynical move to allow the Repubs to say to their base "See, we never voted to raise the debt ceiling and we never voted to raise taxes--on ANYBODY--it's all Obama's fault your kids can't go to college. Now hand us the keys to the kingdom in 2012 so we can gut the government, get rid of all those programs that don't benefit anyone but a bunch of lazy loafers who aren't white, and we can start living life the right way--like at the end of Atlas Shrugged." I only pray they won't fall for it at the Price Chopper.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Della and Michele

In my last blog I talked about this conservative, anti-gay commentator on Huffington Post who calls herself Della Street after the secretary on the old Perry Mason TV show. A friend emailed that ironically, Raymond Burr, the actor who played Mason was secretly gay and that a recurring role was played by another closet case, the son of Hedda Hopper, the infamous gossip columnist and notorious homophobe. Maybe I should comment on Della's next posting that her ficitional boss was played by a gay man. I bet she'd change her secret identity right quick after that little revelation.

Speaking of conservative nutbags, Michele Bachmann has risen in fame thanks to her performance at a Republican candidates debate and her strong showing in the Iowa straw poll-second behind Mittens Romney, or as we like to call him, Guy Smiley. She's getting lots of attention and making lots of gaffes as a result. You probably heard about her saying John Wayne came from her home town of Waterloo, Iowa, and that she has his super-patriotic blood flowing through her all-American veins. Turns out Wayne's parents were from Waterloo, but the Duke was born in another Iowa town beginning with a W. Meanwhile, the only John Wayne who lived in Bachmann's home burg is serial killer John Wayne Gacy (pictured), who probably was named for the Duke. (Gacy was born in Chicago but moved with his parents to Waterloo when he was a child.) Evidently, Wayne's birth was a local legend no one on Bachmann's staff bothered to check. (I leafed through a Wayne bio at the Strand to get the right info.) But aside from the error, what crap is this broad selling? An illusion of an America that never existed. Wayne was a movie star acting in fantasies about the old west and World War II. In real life, Wayne never went to war like his contemporaries Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, and Clark Gable. Also in real life, her home town produced a murderer rather than a hero.

Bachmann is in the business of selling an image of America to those Tea Party people who want to believe we lived in a world of white picket fences and white, straight, Christian people, and want to live there again. No gays, no Muslims, no abortions, just Archie and Betty sipping malteds at Pop's Chock'lit Shoppe. She extends this illusion all the way back to the 18th century with her bogus history lessons about the Founding Fathers working tiredlessly to end slavery. George Stephanolous--that's a foreign sounding name, she probably thought to herself during the interview--grilled her on point. She responded John Quincy Adams (pictured) worked against slavery and though he was a boy, he worked as his father's secretary and was part of the revolutionary era. WHAT? First of all John Quincy did not work as his dad's secretary until John Adams went to France as minister to join Ben Franklin to get funds to support America's struggle against Great Britain. Young Johnny was at home with Abigail when John Adams was working on getting the Declaration of Independenance ratified. When the father and son were in Paris they were not working on ending slavery.

Many years later, JQ Adams became the sixth president and then a Congressman in the 1830s and 40s. That's when he worked against slavery, despite the strong opposition of Southerners. You couldn't even mention slavery in Congress for several terms. Adams did suceed in passing a law to abolish the slave trade in the District of Columbia, but he died many years before the Civil War.

George did point out JQ Adams was NOT a founding father. He should have pressed her and said, "Adams is a bit of a strecth, what other founding father worked tirelessly to end slavery?" But he moved on to other topics. The point is Bachmann is faciliatating this alternate-reality version of American history where the revolutionary generation is seen as god-like beings incapable of supporting an evil like slavery.

She also has a lesbian stepsister and despite this has campaigned against gay marriage. Her husband runs a mental health clinic which advocates and practices gay-conversion therapy. Again, this is supporting an illusion--that homosexuality is an illness which can be cured.