Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boxing Day

"I coulda been a contender..."
"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee."

"He hit me wit' his t'underbolt!"

"Yo, Adrienne!"

OK, all you residents of the UK, you Canadians, Australians, etc., who celebrate that mighty strange (to Americans) holiday called Boxing Day. No one on this side of the pond knows what the hell Boxing Day is, or what you do on Boxing Day. If we google "Boxing Day" we get a bunch of information that further confuses us. So guess what...this is what us Yanks think of when we think of Boxing Day...guys getting the crap punched out of them!

These cartoons courtesy of Mad comics and the greatest cartoonist of all time, Jack Davis.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Right before Christmas, circa 1969, a boy showed up at our doorstep. He said, "My mother and I carve these little Santas out of soap to sell and earn some money." They were a dollar apiece. For some reason his story touched me, and I bought one. It's one of the very few things we haul out every year that we have had for our whole married life.

It's crude, and it can't get wet…I wouldn't advise trying to use it in the bathtub…but it's one of those things I've treasured for a long time. It's survived when most other things I've bought for Christmas haven't. I take it out every year and wonder what happened to that little boy and his mom.

Anyway, I hope all of you got what you wanted on Christmas morning. I hope things turned out well for him, too.

Monday, December 24, 2007

"We're all just boobs for you, Santa!"

I looked up boob jobs on the Internet. Well, I didn't google "boob jobs," but "breast augmentation." I found out the average price for making a woman's boobs bigger is about $3,000, so here's $30,000 in boob jobs.For some reason, and maybe it's just me, but you put a Santa hat--and little else--on a woman, and she's instantly sexy. Maybe it's because you know she's got a present for you.So Merry Christmas, everybody. Have a great day, and I hope you get everything, heh-heh, you asked Santa for.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Star

Christmas is getting close. I can tell it in the looks of people I see; they all look like they're under stress, like they haven't bought enough. That includes my wife, who is very organized, but leaves some things until the last minute. Me? I'm about as ready as I'm going to be, which is that I'm probably not ready, but I've done the next best thing: I've given up.

Switching gears in an abrupt transition: One of the things I like about the front and back covers of this 1950 issue of Blue Book, which I found in a used bookstore a couple of years ago, is the complete lack of the commercial aspect of Christmas. There's no religious aspect, either. Not only that, except for the word "Christmas" in the lower right corner of the front cover, you wouldn't know this scene represented Christmas at all. My guess is that the editor had the cover artwork, painted by an artist named Maurice Bower, and decided it would go great on a December issue. For its lack of Christmas elements, I like it as a Christmas picture.Inside there's at least one Christmas story, "Christmas Star," by John L. Normoyle. It's a Christmas miracle-style short, set in Belgium on Christmas Eve during the Battle of the Bulge. Some American soldiers are lost in the forest, and had been hit by an artillery bombardment from German guns. One boy is wounded in the face by shrapnel, but helps his sarge find his way back to their own lines by using the "Christmas star" to guide him. The last paragraph has some other soldiers talking, saying the young man had died after leading his sergeant back. The other soldier says the kid couldn't have led anyone, because his wounds had blinded him.Excuse me, but I need a hanky now. Honnnnnk. Sniff…sniff…these kinds of stories always make me kinda…well, you know. Sad. The illustration for the story was done by an artist named Brendan Lynch.


Our granddaughter, Bella, stayed with us last night. Bella has so much fun playing with her grandma she doesn't like to go to bed. Here she is, hanging on to her last moments of consciousness before finally succumbing to sleep. Love those snowman jammies, which you'll be able to see better if you click on the picture for its full-size image.Earlier in the evening Bella went with us to a local store; Sally picked up a couple of presents for Bella and her sister, Gabby, but Bella didn't seem to even notice. I think this will be the last year that she'll be unaware of Christmas. She'll be three on December 29, and by next Christmastime she should be all pumped for a visit from Santa.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Santa Screams

My friend, David Miller, belongs to a group of record collectors who, once a year, issue CDs of Christmas music. Usually, from what I've heard of Dave's CDs, some of the most obscure, oddball and in some cases awful Christmas music ever put on record. A song on his 2007 compilation, "Christmas Balls" by Unknown, is pretty funny, with lines like, "Hang your balls on the Christmas tree."

Dave's choice in interesting and untraditional Christmas music is matched by his creativity at creating album artwork. Personally, I think Dave should go to work for a record label designing jackets, because his are better than 99% of what I see out there today. Here are some good ones from the past few years.


Once a year you can depend on some media outlet to publish pictures of kids screaming their lungs out while on Santa's lap. Why is this considered funny? I don't find kids screaming at all funny…except I admit these pictures are pretty good examples of why Santa Claus isn't always the object of kids' adoration.

Here's a picture of my son, David, taken when he was about three. He appears to be OK with Santa, even enjoying the visit. On the other hand, Santa seems to be glaring at the photographer, "Hurry up. I need a drink."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Monday, December 17, 2007


There are two December birthdays in my wife Sally's family, so we usually get together for dinner in a restaurant, then go back to someone's house for cake and some gift openings. Saturday night we showed up at a restaurant a few miles west of my house, a place called Madeline's. I hadn't been there before, but knew as soon as I walked in the door this wasn't a place where you ordered anything but manly fare. There were elk heads mounted on the walls, and the restrooms were marked Cowboys and Cowgirls. We were the first ones there and asked if there had been a reservation made. Nope. So Sally put in for a party of nine. Everyone in the family expected someone else to put in a rez, and no one did.

The manager came bustling out. "Are you the party of nine? I'm sorry, I won't have a table for at least an hour and a half." Other members of the party of nine showed up. Only now it had swollen to a party of thirteen when my nephew, his wife and two teenage kids, showed up.

Sally's sister Sharon--and say that real fast three times--headed up the street to see if a restaurant called the Oyster Bar could take us. She gave us a call on the cell phone. Yup. We all piled in our cars and drove a mile up the road to the Oyster Bar. When we got there Sharon told us, "Problem. This town has an ordinance that no one under 21 can be in a club where drinks are served, even if it's also a restaurant." OK. That let out the Oyster Bar. Right next door was Market Street Grill, which is a seafood restaurant, owned by the same folks as the Oyster Bar. Oh yeah…they also serve drinks. But they are primarily a restaurant, whereas the Oyster Bar is primarily a club. Fine. We got inside and the maitre d' said, "No problem with seating. Shouldn't be long."

Famous last words. The "not long" turned into the original hour and a half we were told we'd wait at Madeline's. The party ahead of us, who were taking up the tables for parties our size, wouldn't leave. They dawdled at least twenty minutes after paying their bill, finishing their drinks, talking, sipping water. Hey, no hurry, right? Let the other people wait. I thought I might go stand by them and let them hear my stomach gurgling from hunger, but the restaurant was so noisy and so crowded they wouldn't have noticed me.

Those folks finally got up and left and we got our seats, and by this time my legs hurt from standing for so long. I got to look at people while I waited, though. I noticed that everyone in the restaurant was white. No Asians, no Hispanics, no African-Americans. I guess that's odd until you realize that the town where we were is Yuppieville. The people of color were probably in the kitchen, and sure enough when I walked by the kitchen to go to the restroom--this one marked Men, not Cowboys--I saw the people of color, working diligently to make sure us overfed white folks got our dinners.

I also noticed a family of really tall people. Two men, probably brothers, were easily 6'5" or 6'6" tall. Their wives were also in the 6' category. They had little kids, just barely walking. My thought was, how do such tall people get around in a world not really built for such tall guys? Probably just fine, thankyouverymuch. When those kids grow up those families will look like a copse of trees walking around.

By the time we finished our dinners and our server, who looked like she was rapidly running out of gas and running on fumes, served up our bills, my legs were no longer hurting, but my butt hurt from sitting. Despite it being a seafood restaurant, my nephew's teenage kids, a boy and girl, each ordered hamburgers. You know the Miller High Life commercial where the Miller's driver complains to a restaurant owner about an $11.00 hamburger listed on the menu? Market Street Grill's price for a hamburger is $10.99, and for that the kids got what looked like a quarter pound hamburger with some French fries on the side and a couple of pickles on the burger. That outrageous pricing was immediately rectified when my nephew saw the hamburgers weren't listed on the bill. I told you the server was tired. I was sorry they got stiffed, but $22.00 for two burgers…c'mon. Even in Yuppieville that's high. My suspicion is that when someone orders a burger they send a bus boy over to the local McDonald's and order a Quarter Pounder, which they then plop on a plate and serve up.

The party at Randy's afterwards was the best part of the evening. That's when we have the conversation, the cake and ice cream, and the honorees open their gifts. Randy, Sally's brother, who turned 57, had a surprise for us. He showed us his new Private Investigator license. So now not only does he get his birthday presents, he gets to be Magnum, P.I., too. And yes, it's a real license, not something out of a Crackerjack box, and it means he has 15 years at least of law enforcement investigatory background. I'm sure he has more. But how cool is that? Very cool. I said to him, "Congratulations, Shamus." That's what a private eye used to be called, for all of you youngsters who don't remember Sam Spade.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas cards of the past, part 1

These are some Christmas cards my wife, Sally, and I found several years ago in an antique store. Most date from the late 1920s to early 1930s, although some are older. In those days Christmas cards were often just that...postcards. They were sent for a penny stamp.

Click on the picture for full-size image.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Death Proof not critic proof

I saw the movie Death Proof on DVD. In theaters it was part of a double bill, two movies together called Grindhouse. The whole package was made to look like a drive-in movie or Times Square theater double feature. It was a flop in theaters despite the pedigree of the filmmakers, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino.

Death Proof is a movie that proves that Quentin Tarantino has no one around him to tell him no. "No, Quentin…there's too much dialogue…" "No, Quentin, this movie is too long by 40 minutes at least." Tarantino has been sort of a darling since Pulp Fiction--still his best movie, in my opinion--and apparently studios or backers are giving him what he wants when he wants it.

One of the saving graces of this film is star Kurt Russell, who continues his string of solid acting jobs and movie performances. The man is one of those actors who can anchor a movie by his presence. I think he's overlooked because he's not flashy, flaunting his lifestyle, keeping himself in the public eye. In this role, he's given the job of seeming to be nicer than his true evil within, and he pulls it off.

He is first seen in a grotesque close-up shot eating greasy nachos. Look at the picture I took off the screen. The scar on his face is fake, but the creases in his earlobe aren't. Those creases are supposedly a sign of hidden heart problems. Careful with those nachos, Kurt.In a great scene he describes to the girls in the bar his history of being a stunt man, invoking old TV shows like The Virginian, and Vegas where he "did the whole third season" doubling for Robert Urich. He pauses and asks the girls, "Do you know any of these things I'm talking about?" and they tell him no. It plants the character in the viewer's mind as being over the hill, stuck in Austin, Texas, after an exciting life in Hollywood.

How did he get into being a stuntman, he's asked. He got in because of his brother. What's his brother's name? Stuntman Bob.

Tarantino does an acting job as the bartender. Quentin, you might be the wunderkind--or former wunderkind--of the directing biz, but please, please leave acting to the professionals. Even Hitchcock was content with a cameo. He didn't try to act in scenes with James Stewart, Grace Kelly or Cary Grant.

The pleasant surprise to me was seeing for the first time beautiful actress Vanessa Ferlito as Butterfly. I didn't think any woman could match Scarlett Johansson's lips, but this young woman has a set of Mick Jagger bumpers to rival any Hollywood collagen job.I was immediately taken by how sexy she is, especially in the scene where she gives Stuntman Mike a sexy dance to the tune of the Coasters "Down In Mexico." I'm going to watch for this beauty in future films. The music is really good, even if the dance scene was gratuitous and could have been easily cut without hurting anything. Except for my chance to see Vanessa Ferlito swing her booty.
The other thing that could have been cut was nine-tenths of the uses of the f-word. Quentin, baby, when you overuse that word it loses all meaning. How about saving it for when you really, really need to make a point or emphasize something?

SPOILER ALERT: You don't want to read the rest of this if you want to see the movie.

This is a crazy script for any director to film, even Tarantino, who wrote it. Two sets of four girls are victimized by Russell's character, Stuntman Mike, and his muscle cars. Too much time is spent in the set-up to the situation. Even though the scenes in the bar drag on interminably, Tarantino doesn't seem to get the hint that less is more. Less talk, less profanity…it'd be better, Quentin. Truly.

The crash scene that causes the deaths of the first set of four young women is one of the best special effects-stunt jobs I've ever seen. I ran the scene on my computer DVD player, paused it and took digital photos of the highlights. (I'm low-tech and don't know how to do screen captures.) The scene is set in four segments, each one beginning with the cars crashing, taken from different angles, and showing the mayhem to each girl individually.The first girl is shot through the air, and hits the ground.
In the second set-up of the same scene, the driver of the car is shown showered with glass from the windshield.The third set-up causes the leg of the third girl, Jungle Julia, to be cut off, and it also ends up on the road in a gruesome shot.The fourth set-up shows the girl, Butterfly, sitting behind the driver having her face taken off by the rear wheel of Stuntman Mike's vehicle, as it travels over the top of the girls' car.Wow! Good clean fun, huh? Even though Stuntman Mike has deliberately run into the car full of girls at 100 miles per hour, his car is a special stunt car, and the driver compartment is death proof. Hence, the title.

OK, after that and a time lapse of several months we're shown another set of four girls, this time in Tennessee. But we're given the same lengthy conversations, all dialogue that sounds a lot like the first set of girls. Tarantino has just got to learn to quit loving the sounds of his own written words. He likes black people, only he likes them to call each other by the n-word. That was already established in other projects of his like Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown. He likes black women, especially pretty, young black women.

This time Stuntman Mike's plot to kill the four girls using his car backfires--no pun intended--and they use their car against him. Considering the guy is a stuntman who has faced death many times in a very risky job, considering he's probably been injured many times, and that we have seen him deliberately crash head-on into another car at 100 mph, he seems to have a very cowardly reaction to suddenly being the victim instead of victimizer. To Kurt Russell's credit, he gives it credibility. He does a wonderful job portraying a man who has had his plans turn bad. At one point Stuntman Mike shrieks like a little girl, which is totally out of character, but Russell's believability saves it from being as ludicrous as it sounds.

Tarantino wanted to capture the look of a 1960s cheapie drive-in movie. He made a movie that looks 2007, but with the film quality--faked digitally--of a print run way too many times. Why not make it look like 1966 with beehive hair on the girls? Quentin Tarantino likes to show us he's cool. Cool dialogue, cool characters, cool plot twists, and especially cool music. But he could put a lot more cool into his movies by letting us decide what's cool, and not be hammered by his self-indulgence.