Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Take Me Out to the Cold Rain

Mother Nature spoiled Game 5 of the World Series last night with a chilly downpour from an early nor'easter. Commissioner Bud Selig suspended the game after 5½ innings—marking the first time a World Series contest has ever been suspended. Heavy snow fell in parts of the Philadelphia metropolitan area this morning, and tonight's continuation of Game 5 has already been rescheduled for tomorrow evening.

Whereas Commissioner Selig has seen fit to preserve what little is left of Major League Baseball's integrity—as well as make Philadelphians wait agonizingly for their first major-sports championship in a quarter-century—by not permitting adverse weather to influence a World Series game's outcome, we should remind ourselves that baseball used to be played and administrated by real men. Just look at the photo above: Opening Day, 1911, in Detroit. Blizzard conditions. The White Sox catcher eschews a squat, lest he be buried in drifting snow. Leadoff man Davy Jones' hands are stuck to the bat.* And the umpire needed two days stuffed inside a hot dog cart to be thawed out. Yet the wintry assault couldn't keep Ty Cobb from going 3-for-4 and spiking a vociferous spectator with a flying drop-kick in near-whiteout conditions.

*This is not the Davy Jones of The Monkees—although this Davy Jones did live long enough to hear "Daydream Believer" and subsequently drive himself to the morgue.

Sure, last night's inclement weather caused atrocious playing conditions and perhaps even posed a minor health hazard to thousands of fans stuck in steady, cold rain. I'll admit—I felt awful for the Phillie Phanatic, its fur soaked and matted (and as seen here, too weak to move). As far as I know, the Phanatic is cold-blooded. It may not have survived the rain delay. Has anyone looked into that?

Still, harsh April and October weather was far more common in the old days, before global warming shortened winter's grasp, and the Fall Classic has been no stranger to adverse conditions—such as in the inaugural World Series of 1903, when a snowbound Cy Young of the Boston Americans (a/k/a Red Sox) battled the elements as well as the Pittsburgh Pirates in Game 7 long after heavy snow had chased away most fans. Seen below (with 3rd-baseman Jimmy Collins guarding against the bunt), Young called this "my coldest day in baseball" but still stifled the Pirates for a 7-3 victory.

Bud Selig has to suck it up and let these guys play ball. And I mean literally suck it up—get down on his hands and knees and suck up all the water on the basepaths and mound so that the Phils can bring our city a championship with no more delay. Selig has been highly culpable in Major League Baseball's recent black eyes (ignoring the rise of steroids, ineffectually presiding over the strike that canceled the 1994 World Series, declaring a tie in the 2002 All-Star Game), so the least he can do to clean up baseball is to clean up the baseball diamond.

Assume the position, Bud.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pretzel's Honor

Before the start of the NLCS between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies, L.A. Times columnist T.J. Simers wrote an article that went beyond poking good-natured fun at the opponent city and took cheap shots at Philadelphia, its culture, and its citizens. An excerpt:

ANGRYVILLE—You spend any time in this dingy city and around these folks, and pit bulls running wild come to mind.

Fine when leashed, but set them free, put a beer in their grubby paws and it's only a matter of time before they're going to go on the attack—both the home team and its opponent feeling the bite.

For Dodgers, it will be handle with care... Dodgers bullpen might not include...It's an angry place, all right, everything old here in Philadelphia, crumbling and in ruin. Even the city's main attraction has a crack in it.

So the prevailing opinion around here is you have to be an obstinate pug to make it in Philly, the football team tough, the hockey team a bunch of bullies and the Phillies rugged competitors like Larry Bowa.

This is supposed to make Philly an intimidating place to play, Bowa telling the media Wednesday that if the Dodgers thought Chicago was bad, "they're going to be in for a rude awakening" playing here.

"It was like a West Coast crowd in Chicago," said Bowa, the Philly in him unable to keep himself from slapping Dodgers fans, and apparently discounting the manner in which Nancy Bea Hefley can whip a Dodgers crowd into a frenzy.

But if a Philly crowd is so intimidating, as Bowa suggests, why do the Phillies lose here so often? A year ago, the Phillies became the first pro sports franchise in North American history to lose 10,000 games.

Philly has always been more bark than championship bite, so why should the Dodgers give a hoot about folks who paint their faces and then have to drive home looking like sad clowns?

The Dodgers have the better team, a destiny date in Boston, and while that might make the folks in Philly miserable, they don't know how to act any differently here.

Simers' article was soon reprinted on a Philadelphia Web site (digphilly.com), whereupon it drew the ire of many locals. It was brought to my attention by a friend, who "commissioned" me to post a suitable response to Simers' boorish snobbery:

T.J. Simers proved as astute a baseball expert as an appreciator of American culture. But that’s to be expected from a resident of a city so uninventive that it essentially named one of its baseball teams the “City of Angels Angels.” Through L.A. smog, he foresaw victory for a squad that won a powderpuff division with a puny 84 wins—and won it solely because the Boston Red Sox virtually gave away Manny Ramirez. Without Boston’s gift, the Dodgers are pipe-dreaming of a .500 season. Even with Manny, they could only eke out a lone win in the NLCS—but that’ll happen when the opponent’s #2 starting pitcher out-RBI’s your catcher and right-fielder combined.

Yes, everything is “old here in Philadelphia, crumbling and in ruin.” We’re practically living in rubble. To hell with the history of the United States—we should raze historical and architectural landmarks like Independence Hall, the Museum of Art, Walnut Street Theater, the marvelously ornate City Hall, and start afresh. Who needs the colonial sublimity of Elfreth’s Alley when we could instead erect soulless abominations like Walt Disney Concert Hall and stare agog at how shiny they are? (Note to Los Angeles City Council: Keep Donald Duck away from the blueprints next time.)

Still, we’re quite proud of our city’s main attraction, crack and all. In the town that gave the New World democracy, our Liberty Bell is the foremost symbol of freedom—the same freedom enjoyed for the last fourteen years by the unending Los Angeles embarrassment known as O.J.

Yes, the Phillies were the first North American team to 10,000 losses. It’s easy to stay off that list when your city doesn’t even have a professional sports team until after World War II. (Our long-departed A’s gave us five World Series titles before Hollywood even started shooting in Technicolor.) And how does the second-largest city in the nation allow not one—but two—NFL teams to abandon it? That’s some fan base Apathenos have there. But then, you can’t spell “blasé” without “LA.” Granted, the Lakers own a glorious history (even if their best player of the last decade is a Philadelphian), but those triumphs are cruelly balanced by the woeful Clippers, one of the poorest-run franchises in American sport.

And why do the Kings even bother?

“Angryville,” as Simers has less-than-cleverly dubbed Philadelphia (conjure that one in six-lane traffic on the way to work, T.J.?), doesn’t require Hollywood glitterati at its games. We’re content living without the starstruck sycophantism of La La Land. And if our favorite sons are as glamour-less as Benjamin Franklin and W.C. Fields, that still beats the Bloods, Crips, and the omni-obnoxious Jack Nicholson. (By the way, six decades after his death, Fields’ films are still more entertaining than ninety-five percent of the drek Hollywood churns out.)

Philadelphians are passionate fans, alright—occasionally too much so—but it was Dodgers fans guilty of acting like classless buffoons in this series, reported in the media and caught on Youtube throwing food, viciously berating, and even spitting at isolated Phillies fans.

You might want to reset the coordinates of Angryville in your GPS, T.J.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Foreheady Rivalry

Peyton Manning has been inextricably linked to brother Eli since the younger Manning entered the NFL in 2004. And with good reason: the Mannings are talented, high-profile quarterbacks who each led his team to Super Bowl victory in the last two seasons.

But as unfair as comparisons of a younger, struggling Eli to his superstar sibling have been at times, those comparisons have proved just as unfair to the elder Manning. For the hard truth is—though the Manning boys engender direct comparison because they are siblings playing the same position—Peyton's true rival is Mike Farrell, a/k/a Capt. B.J. Hunnicutt of M*A*S*H.

Until Peyton Manning's emergence on the national stage in 1998, Mike Farrell's crown for America's biggest forehead remained unchallenged—an honor he had taken from the Talosians of the Star Trek pilot (seen at right). Joining the M*A*S*H ensemble in 1975, Farrell's prominent squama frontalis instantly became the most recognizable frontal anatomy in prime-time. Although cast as a mild-mannered foil to Hawkeye, the producers soon found that Farrell's forehead lent much-needed counterbalance to Jamie Farr's nose. Farrell's huge forehead quickly became one of the 4077th's centerpieces—and even found its way into plotlines, doubling as an emergency helicopter pad in Episode 114, "Beyond the Call."

Farrell confessed to People in a 1981 interview: "Most of my fan mail concerns my forehead. Viewers want to know everything about it."

After M*A*S*H left the air, Farrell considered reprising his role in a spinoff, which was to be called BJ, MD and follow his post-war days as President Eisenhower's personal physician. But Farrell, a liberal activist, thought the character's conservative leanings on transthoracic echocardiography too out of sync with his own. Yet even without a major role since 1983, the abundant acreage above Farrell's eyebrows left him the king of craniums for a quarter-century.

And along comes Peyton Manning, a supremely talented quarterback with a forehead unlike any ever seen in the NFL. Former Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Mora would diagram plays on Peyton's ample forehead during timeouts. Sure, Manning's forehead afforded plenty of space for all the X's and O's—the Colts offense had a grand view of Mora's strategy. Only problem was that Peyton, himself, couldn't see the play. He'd look up and try to snare a glimpse of the upcoming playcall, but, of course, it was futile...and the Colts finished a dreary 3-13 that season. Not until Tony Dungy introduced the clipboard to the Indianapolis offense in 2002 did Manning blossom into an MVP.

Neither Manning nor Farrell has ever consented to a forehead measurement, so it remains to be seen who officially possesses more cranial surface area. But Manning's celebrity and broad advertising appeal have made him virtually ubiquitous, whereas Farrell has largely faded from the public eye. However, Farrell is fast becoming the darling of the astronomy circuit, his convex upper profile providing California observatories with on-demand solar eclipses, from which scientists have garnered a wealth of new data about the sun's atmosphere. Rumor has it that Farrell may take his new talent to observatories across the nation so that the public might benefit, and that Farrell has acquired the rights to Thus Spake Zarathustra to complement what NASA has dubbed the "Farrellian eclipse." This could well make Mike Farrell a hot commodity once again, so perhaps the crown shouldn't be handed to Peyton Manning too quickly.

Who's really the Sultan of Skull? Unless someone can get a caliper to Farrell's and Manning's foreheads while they're sleeping, it's the Super Bowl vs. the solar eclipse in the battle for the public's heart.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sibling Vapidity

Last Thursday, USS Intrepid, one of the United States Navy’s most decorated aircraft carriers, returned to the Manhattan pier she has called home for a quarter-century, after a two-year, $120 million renovation in nearby Staten Island. Intrepid—seen here steaming toward something exciting—saw action in six major battles of the Pacific war, as well as in Korea and Vietnam. She also twice served as a recovery ship for NASA astronauts. Since 1982, she has served as the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, one of New York City's most popular tourist attractions.

Yet, whereas Intrepid has one of the most distinguished careers of all aircraft carriers, little remembered is her sister ship, USS Insipid, owner of a stultifyingly boring and pointless history.

According to Jane’s Bickering Ships:

USS Insipid (CV-0) is surely the United States Navy’s most banal warship. Her keel laid down in autumn 1941 by wholly disinterested shipbuilders, she sailed from one end of the Pacific to the other without once encountering the enemy. Sighs of boredom from her exasperated crew could be heard aboard screening vessels more than a thousand yards away, and she soon came to be known throughout the fleet as "Dull Hull." By March 1945, even the Japanese Imperial Navy deemed her too jejune to seek out and directed their kamikaze pilots to target more interesting vessels. At war’s conclusion, she docked in San Francisco Harbor to scattered yawns.

Boatswain's Mate J.W. Chouinard and Betsy with
nothing to do in the Tasman Sea, 1944.

The third ship in the US Navy's history to bear the name Insipid, she inherited a pallid legacy. The original Insipid, a frigate that fruitlessly patrolled the Mid-Atlantic coast during the War of 1812, was taken out of service when her jaded crew contracted narcolepsy. Her successor, a Union gunboat, ran aground in 1864 due to "dreadful ennui."

Insipid's colorless career continued until 1962, when the Chief of Naval Operations recalled that she was still part of the fleet and, deciding that the ensuing paperwork would be more stimulating than giving Insipid another assignment, ordered her decommissioned. Capt. Theodore Purvis, tears of monotony streaming down his face, gushed, "Thank god that's over with..." Her 20-year ship's log, now displayed behind some empty boxes in a closet of the United States Navy Museum, contained no entries.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Three Ryans a-Vyin'

As of this morning, the top three National League leaders in home runs comprised a trio of Ryans: Philadelphia's Ryan Howard leading the league (and tied with Adam Dunn), followed closely by Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers and Ryan Ludwick of the St. Louis Cardinals.

There were 400 players on the National League's 2008 Opening Day rosters. Of those 400, 16 were named Ryan—and of those 16, six were pitchers. Thus, there are only 10 Ryans realistically capable of leading the league in home runs. Excluding Howard, Braun, and Ludwick, the remaining seven Ryans have, as of this morning, hit a collective total of 40 homers, with no player hitting more than Ryan Doumit's 13—hardly making any of these Ryans a threat to win the home-run crown.

Furthermore, Ryan Howard is the only Ryan ever to win a home-run title (2006) since the inception of the first professional league, in 1871, which illustrates the futility of a Ryan competing with the Hanks, Willies, and Gavvys of the baseball world.

According to namestatistics.com, whose data are derived from the US Census, Ryan is the 49th most common male name in the United States, with only 0.328% of the American male population possessing it. And Ryan currently is near its peak of popularity as a name for newborn American males—it has never appeared anywhere near the top ten most popular names since baseball's inception. Thus, the odds of three Ryans simultaneously leading the league in such a butch category as home runs is—well, my abacus is missing a few pegs, but it's gotta be in the zillions. Statistically, the chances of such an occurrence must be about as infinitesimal as Saving Private Ryan, Saving Ryan's Privates, and Shaving Ryan's Privates finishing 1-2-3 for an Oscar as Best Picture.

Which might have happened had Tom Hanks trumpeted comical war wounds and erotic hair removal as much as he did World War II veterans...

(Graphic wizardry courtesy of Mount Drinkmore's Dave.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Dude, Where's My Sequel?

I just had the idea for Ashton Kutcher's next film, based on an incident that I experienced not twenty minutes ago. Exiting my local bank, I walked to my car and opened the door. (I always lock my car door, even when popping into the lobby just to use the ATM...except for this time.) As I opened the car door, I hear, "Dude, that's my car," coming from a very portly gentleman who had exited the lobby a few steps behind me. I looked down and realized that I was absent-mindedly opening the door of the car adjacent to mine (I didn't need my key, as I'd left it unlocked, but by coincidence, his door also was unlocked).

Dude, That's My Car! would make the perfect sequel to Dude, Where's My Car?, Ashton Kutcher's career-defining epic. A two-hour film based on an insignificant five-second incident? Well, it's still more to go on than the original 2000 flick.

Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott drive to the bank to get money for their twin girlfriends' second-anniversary presents, only to find that they don't possess enough collective brain-power to operate the ATM. Frustrated and broke, they decide to go home, eat pudding, and watch their DVD of G.I. Jane. But as they're getting into the vehicle, a portly man (optimally played by William H. Macy, who puts on 90 lb for the uncredited cameo) informs them, "Dude, that's my car!" Further failing to possess enough collective brain-power to identify their own car, Ashton and Seann are forced to stand outside the bank for six hours, until the bank closes and the parking lot empties...during which time they discuss such compelling topics as what was their car's license-plate number to how awesome it would be to be back in their car.

When they finally get back to their car, Ashton and Seann realize that not only is it too late to buy presents for their girlfriends, but that they forgot to write their twin girlfriends into the sequel. Lamenting their lack of brain-power, Ashton and Seann become further despondent when they realize that their DVD of G.I. Jane probably isn't showing again tonight. They drive off to go home and eat pudding, leaving the door open for yet another sequel..."Dude, Where's My Pudding?

Also starring Stifler's mom as the lascivious bank teller who posts interest in her own special way and Rain Man as the automated change counter with a personal touch.

(Dude, Where's My Car? photo copyright 20th Century Fox.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Saving the Last for Best

Forty-six years after being kicked out of The Beatles, the first album of original songs by Pete Best is scheduled for release in mid-September. Don't be surprised if it's titled F*ck You, Ringo!

I'd also wager that the track list goes a little something...like this:

1. Can't Buy Me Bread
2. I Should Have Played Better
3. While My Snare Gently Weeps
4. I'm Only Sleeping in the Alley
5. Hey Judas
6. I Want to Hold Your Hand (Over an Open Flame)
7. Baby I'm a Poor Man
8. You Forgot My Name (Look Up Welfare's Number)
9. I Want to Tell You That You Ruined My Life
10. Lonely Peetah
11. Komm, Gib Mir Deine Royalty (bonus track)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Pat and Randy's Band Release Album!

This is the shameless promotion of the day. Pat and Randy's band, Effusion 35, has at long last released its debut album, Stonewind. Please buy it so that they can eat.

Purchase via Paypal for best value (Just $5.00!) and free shipping!

For best value in purchasing songs or the album in MP3 format, visit
Digstation here.

Now at
Cdbaby here

Effusion 35 Album Promo Video

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Great American

In a perfect world, George Carlin would have been president, for he possessed far more intelligence and honesty than any actual candidate. Carlin's incisive wit peeled away the layers of bullshit that the government, organized religion, big business, and everyday idiots heap on the world, exposing human foibles with the visceral precision of a forensic pathologist.

Yet, as Carlin demonstrated time and again, this is anything but a perfect world.

My introduction to George Carlin occurred circa 1977 as I watched an airing of Saturday Night Live. He walked on stage and stared blankly at the audience, not uttering a word during his entire routine. At first confused, the crowd's reaction slowly turned to pockets of giggling, until, after two or three minutes, the audience couldn't contain itself and bubbled over in torrents of laughter as an expressionless Carlin eyed them silently. I was about ten and too young to grasp the courage of such a routine. But Carlin had the courage to say and do what he believed, whether it be his infamous "seven dirty words" or his diatribes on the fallibility of religion and our leaders. Sometimes he made his audience squirm because they were among the characters and ideologies he lampooned—but he made them laugh as they squirmed, and he made them think with his wonderfully constructed routines. Carlin's rapid-fire wordplay fell from his acerbic tongue so eloquently that how he said it almost overshadowed what he said. And when he microscoped the mundanities of everyday life, such as on A Place For My Stuff—one of the funniest comedy albums ever recorded—Carlin created timeless humor that will remain forever relevant.

In one of his many HBO specials, Carlin claimed, "I'm not a very good American, because I like to form my own opinions. I don't just roll over when I'm told to." His all-too-accurate knock on Americans' sheep-like proclivity aside, George Carlin was, perhaps, the ultimate American. Anyone can waive Old Glory and proclaim America "great"—it is the courage to question (and when necessary...denigrate) the highly suspect actions of those in power that constitutes the rarefied essence of what it means to be an American.

The Supreme Court ruled Carlin's "seven dirty words" routine "indecent, but not obscene," but Carlin, watchdog as well as comedian, highlighted life's true obscenities in its iniquities, prejudices, and idiocy. He never mellowed with age or grew complacent with fame, maintaining to the end his prolificacy and dissatisfaction with the state of the world. Carlin is one of the few people about whom I can honestly say that our world is a lesser place without him, because—if you'll consult his seven dirty words—George Carlin was one funny #6.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Heston Peace, Charlton

As a youngster, one of my first personifications of God was Charlton Heston’s Moses in The Ten Commandments. Sure, I little grasped biblical hierarchy, but Moses’ austere white beard, commanding voice, flowing robe, and superpowered walking staff epitomized a Supreme Being to my young eyes. Not long after, Dad took me to see Earthquake, and the ultimate eye-opener proved not to be the oh-so-lame Sensurround, but witnessing the man I previously identified as God struggling to lower a screaming yenta down the side of a wrecked skyscraper with a chair and firehose. That’ll take the luster off a deity right quick.

Still, as both actor and activist, Charlton Heston played a leading role on the American scene for more than half a century, fooling thousands into believing he was Jewish through such iconic roles as Moses, Judah Ben-Hur, and the narrator in Armageddon, while lending star-power to every Rambo-wannabe nutjob itching to get his trigger finger on an automatic weapon. With the passing last Sunday of one of the earliest influencers on my conscious, I can’t help but pause to reflect on the man who, for a time, filled my young mind with otherworldly wonder.

Nor can I help but wonder if his final resting place will be marked by a Ten Commandments–like double-headstone. Or possibly a half-buried mini–Statue of Liberty. Will any apes attend his funeral? Will he be buried with a rifle, or will the funeral director indeed pry it from his cold, dead hands? Will he even be buried, or will his corpse be used to make soylent green? Tough questions to ask about the man who once embodied my concept of God.

Yet they needed to be asked. Needed to be asked because I’m bored out of my freakin’ mind by my job and all I have for jollies during daylight hours is this goddamn Web site that nobody reads and it now costs almost $3 for a friggin’ slice of plain pizza and I can’t get my hands on a DVD of the original Ultraman series, which I haven’t seen since 1975, and no one uses a goddamn turn signal anymore and the world is teeming with idiots, all of whom find their way into my life, and the country is doomed and I’m hungry and I have no money for the vending machine and I just wanna lie down.

Yes, these questions needed to be asked.

Heston peace, Charlton.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Catching Up With a Stand-up Performer

As the 40th anniversary of the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey approaches, you’d think that the film's most recognizable star would stop and smell the roses. But while other surviving veterans of the science-fiction classic are fondly reminiscing on a job—and a career—well done, not every cast member is basking in the starshine. The forty years since this cinematic landmark have not been kind to the 2001 Monolith, and he let’s Mount Drinkmore know about it.

Randy: First of all, should I call you "Monolith"?

Monolith: Yes. I prefer it to “slab.”

Randy: Is this a special year for you? Is there a heightened sense of pride that your work is as highly regarded today as it was four decades ago?

Monolith: I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t proud of what the film still means to people. We revolutionized an entire genre of motion pictures, and to an extent, American culture.

Randy: And yet you’re bitter?

Monolith: You’re damn right!......I’m sorry. I’ve been a bit on edge about all of this.

[Quite literally he was, and I needed a lever to get him down flat again.]

Monolith: You see, being selected for that film was an honor and a challenge. I did some really fine work in it. Have you ever seen a more low-key, yet dominating, performance than what I portrayed in the “Dawn of Man” scene? It was all-encompassing power and subtle dignity amongst screeching, frenzied man-apes. Steve McQueen couldn't have pulled that off. I thought my career would skyrocket after that caliber of acting.

Randy: And what did happen?

Monolith: We all know what happened—a bunch of half-assed, totally exploitative offers that led nowhere. A lot of Roger Corman rubbish—Blood Slab and the Cobra Woman. Are you kidding? Playing second fiddle to Bruce Dern in parts not fit for a dog. You know who got all the glory? HAL. He’s the one everybody remembers. A red light! From the back of the theater, he could’ve been mistaken for the exit sign. All of his lines had to be overdubbed by Douglas Rain anyway. Yet he’s the icon. Big deal. A talking computer won’t open the pod-bay doors. Boo-hoo. That’s a film? Not much of a story without my mysterious intrigue and extraterrestrial intelligence. But the industry forgot about me in a hurry. The only offer I’ve had in the last four years has been to pitch Viagra. “You'll be the perfect spokesman,” they told me. What a joke.

Randy: The rest of the cast went on to fairly successful careers in the 70s and 80s. Did you ever feel resentment toward them?

Monolith: In the beginning. I mean, those damn apes padded a half-hour sequence into years of lucrative Samsonite commercials. I stewed about it for a while. But then I came to realize that the apes, Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, all of them, were just doing what they had to do. I would’ve done the same. What made me seethe—and still does—are the studios. They wouldn’t know talent if it emoted in their faces. By 1970, the quality parts had already dried up. Do you know what I had to resort to? That damn Who’s Next album cover. Can you believe that? Here I am, the star of a groundbreaking film just a few years before, and I’m sitting through six hours of makeup just so they can make me look like a concrete block. The money was good, but if I’d known those limey animals were going to urinate on me, I’d have crushed them where they stood.

Randy: Didn’t you also appear on Led Zeppelin's Presence album?

Monolith: That’s only a likeness of me. They wanted me, but I didn’t want to get typecast in album cover art, so I refused. Jimmy Page somehow got hold of my baby pictures and used them without my permission. I never saw dime one. If it ain't nailed down, Jimmy Page'll steal it. And if it is nailed down, Page'll steal the floor and get it anyway.

Randy: And what about the sequel, 2010?

Monolith: [heavy groan] Rubbish. I did it for the money. Period. They had me regurgitate the same role I’d done fifteen years before. Humiliating.

Randy: So what do you think of 2001 from a cinematic standpoint?

Monolith: I must be dashing the hopes of every hardcore fan out there, but I don't know what the hell it means. People are always coming to me for the answer, looking for some mystical insight that will unravel the great cinematic secret. Damned if I know what Kubrick was going for. I don’t have the answer. I’m just happy not to fall over.

Enjoying a quiet afternoon in the park is a challenge for the Monolith, whose privacy is often disturbed by those soliciting the meaning of his most famous role.

Randy: From a technical aspect, though, it certainly was a marvel.

Monolith: Sure, no doubt about that. But gimmickry was never my cup of tea. I always preferred dialogue and character development. I was weaned on English sitting-room dramas, and well-crafted witticism sat better with me than filling the screen with fantastic colors. The “Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite” sequence was nice, but it did nothing to advance the plot. Truth be told, I thought it would have fit much better in Barry Lyndon, but that’s hindsight.

Randy: How did you decide on an acting career?

Monolith: I come from a long line of I-bars, cross-beams, and highway pillars. But even at a young age, I didn’t see holding up an overpass as a rewarding profession. It was so...redundant. I did have a cousin who found success as a sculpture outside of a Cleveland public school, but acting was in my blood from an early age. I never felt that I could express myself as a piece of superstructure.

Randy: Did you have any idols in the acting arena?

Monolith: I've always admired the strong, silent type, so I was a great aficionado of Gary Cooper. He could say more just by standing there than any other actor I’ve seen. I also adored Red Skelton, but I learned early on that hamming it up wasn’t my forte.

Randy: What are your thoughts on Stanley Kubrick?

Monolith: He got more out of me than any other director, before or since. We’d met in ‘66 at a foundry in Birmingham and hit it off right away. He was taken with my appearance and intimated to me that he was writing a treatment about some outer-space epic. Our chat must have left a good impression, because he called two weeks later asking if I’d be interested in the part of the Monolith. I told him, “You provide the crane, and I'll do it.”

Randy: So you were his first choice for the role?

Monolith: Well, the first choice of actual actors. They’d hit a snag on how to depict the “Sentinel,” as it was called at the time, from Arthur C. Clarke’s original short story. As filming approached, MGM was really pressuring him to get the ball rolling. Out of desperation, he was going to use a blackened, overcooked soft pretzel shot at low angles as the Monolith...which probably wouldn't have played as well. It was just good fortune that we bumped into each other when we did. Well, he bumped into me...

Randy: Did you sit in on any of the advance screenings before the general release?

Monolith: Yes. I had the crew of Loew’s Chinese Theater disguise me as one of the balcony risers and laid quietly under the last two rows. The audience viewed the unedited version about three weeks before it actually premiered. Not a peep out of them for the first forty-five minutes. But as the sequence on the moon developed, the audience really got into it. I found out later that people were dropping enough acid to drown a cow.

Randy: Did you ever indulge back then?

Monolith: I never got involved in the drug scene. Besides, I’m solid, non-porous lucite, with no mouth, nose, or veins. How would I even ingest them?

Randy: Does any aspect of show business still give you pleasure?

Monolith: Not really. My son has taken up acting and quite enjoys it. He’s very good. I enjoy it through him. He’s playing Hitler’s moustache in the new Broadway version of The Producers.

Randy: Clarke wrote two sequels since your last film appearance, in 2010. Would you ever consider doing one of them?

Monolith: Only if they give me screen time worthy of my talent. I’d much rather get a spot on Boston Legal.

Randy: Do you ever see any of your co-stars?

Monolith: Only if they come to see me. It’s tough for me to get around. I saw Keir Dullea about two years ago at a Piggly Wiggly, but he was in a rush. In truth, I had very little interaction with him during shooting. It was the apes with whom I shared the most scenes. I’ve stayed in touch with a few of them over the years. Doug Rain still crank-calls me as HAL. Every year, it's the same gag—"Hello, Monolith...it's HAL. What...are you...doing, Monolith?" That guy drives me nuts!

[I sensed that the Monolith was getting annoyed now, as his trademark eerie, high-pitched shrill began to crescendo, so I bid the embittered Monolith farewell.]

Friday, February 29, 2008

United Ireland on Shaky Ground

On Tuesday, a magnitude 5.3 earthquake shook northern England. Sinn Féin and the factions of the IRA missed a golden opportunity when they failed to claim responsibility. Decades of political maneuvering and sporadic violence have brought Ireland little closer to unification, but the Brits might be frightened out of Ulster if they think Irish republicans now have the power to shift the Eurasian plate...especially if Gerry Adams can come up with some strange, unidentifiable contraption with, say, wires running into the ground, and have a photograph taken of him "operating" it.

England at the mercy of Irish earthquakists is a troubling prospect for a nation of tea-drinkers whose boiled lifeblood is so vulnerable to falling dust...and especially grim for chubby UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who is prone to embarrassing jiggling.

Such a ruse could finally force the British to relinquish Ulster, achieving a unified, free Irish nation bloodlessly.

Like how Gandhi non-violently got the British to quit India by putting on a scary voice and claiming to be the cause of an early frost that ruined Clement Attlee's petunia garden.

I'm Dreaming of an Olive Christmas

For centuries, countless Western artists have portrayed Jesus as lilywhite, blue-eyed, and flaxen-haired, creating his likeness in their image rather than admit his true ethnicity. But genealogy, biology, and common sense tell us that Jesus, a Middle Eastern Semite, almost certainly possessed olive (or even darker) skin, as well as coarse, dark hair. Our institutional images of Jesus—cast into public consciousness centuries ago by Europeans who could not, or would not, accept so foreign a savior—amount to ethnocentric self-deception.

Yet today, many Americans and Europeans still can't bear the idea of Jesus as anything but the classically wholesome, fair-skinned, Nordic type. Witness the blatant denial of Jesus’ desert heritage in this current ad for a S’mores nativity scene. Could Jesus be any whiter?

When will someone offer a historically accurate S’mores nativity scene using roasted marshmallows that properly reflect Jesus’ true ethnicity?

(Photo of S'mores nativity scene copyright Santa’s Depot.)

Monday, February 25, 2008

To Sleep, Perchance to Vote

One of my dreams Saturday night included a midget doing yoga. I don’t know what it meant, but I suddenly feel inclined to vote for McCain.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Curse of Cato

Sports “curses” have haunted luckless franchises almost as long as professional leagues have existed: the Curse of the Bambino, the Curse of the Billy Goat, The Curse of Muldoon, and the Curse of Billy Penn, to name some of the most infamous.

I believe it’s time to add another “curse” to that list: the Curse of Cato.

Cato the Younger (95-46 BC) was one of Rome’s greatest senators, a staunch defender of the republic, known for his honesty, integrity, and his opposition to power-hungry militarist, Julius Caesar. A man of inscrutable moral fiber, Cato would be appalled that the Ottawa Senators franchise carries as its logo not the pride of the Roman republic, but a Roman centurion—the symbol of brute imperial dictatorship. As senator, Cato devoted his public life fighting to maintain Rome’s republican principles. Such a slight to republican ideals by the Ottawa Senators angers not merely the hockey gods, but Jupiter, Mars, and the entire Roman pantheon.

The Curse of Cato is starkly reflected in the fortunes of the Ottawa Senators. In fourteen full seasons in the modern NHL, the Senators have progressed from league doormats (losing 70 games in 1992-93) to paper tigers. Ottawa has registered at least 100 points in six of the last eight seasons—and is well on its way to a seventh—yet the talented Senators fall short of the Stanley Cup every year.

Prior to the Ottawa Senators’ re-institution to the NHL in 1992 and its adoption of the centurion logo, the first incarnation of the franchise won eleven Stanley Cups as one of professional hockey’s early powerhouses. In those bygone years, Ottawa donned a truer, more honorable logo—one that didn’t mock the franchise’s very soul by featuring its political arch-enemy. In fact, it could be argued—especially after a 12-pack of Labatt’s—that Ottawa’s original logo (seen here, on the sweater of Frank Finnigan) paid senatorial homage to Cato, who was known to friends, Romans, and countrymen simply as “O.” Even if you don’t drink Labatt’s, you can’t deny that the Ottawa Senators enjoyed infinitely more success sporting their Cato-friendly logo. When Ottawa shunned that in favor of an imperial image, the Senators lost power like their Roman counterparts in the wake of the Caesars.

Until the Ottawa Senators lift the Curse of Cato by replacing that centurion on their chests with the deserving image of Cato, Cicero, or one of the Gracchi, don’t expect a parade down Wellington Street any time in the next millennium.

(Ottawa Senators' logos copyright the National Hockey League. Graphic wizardry at center ice courtesy of Mount Drinkmore's Dave.)

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Imperfect Storm

In the 1990s, certain Native American groups pressured numerous professional and collegiate organizations to change their nickname from what these groups perceived as stereotypes offensive to their culture—among these "offenders," the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, Washington Redskins, and St. John’s Redmen. According to the St. John’s University Web site, “Redmen” derived not from the traditional derogatory slang for a Native American, but from the fact that “the men of St. John’s wore red.” Even so, St. John’s caved to pressure and renamed itself the “Red Storm” in 1994.

Personally, I never understood the rationale for “Red Storm.” The only sensible connection that it possesses is to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, a gargantuan red-tinged storm that’s been whirling for centuries through the Jovian atmosphere.

That’s not very practical for an Earth-based team. Whose sponsorship is the university’s board of governors trying to lure? Sure, Jupiter, king of the planets, is a thousand times more voluminous than Earth and potentially harbors a colossal fan base. But even assuming life does exist in its frozen, toxic clouds, it's most likely the microbial variety. And if those microbes could make the 700-million-mile journey to Earth, so many would fit in a single seat of Carnesecca Arena as to render corresponding ticket sales totally unprofitable for the university.

Poor marketing move.

Much wiser would have been to rechristen the university’s nickname the St. John’s Wort. Pharmaceutical companies toss advertising dollars as freely as UConn guards toss alley-oops over St. John’s heads, and with the 7-12 Red Storm currently dead last in the Big East, makers of this herbal treatment for depression could find a goldmine among tortured St. John’s students and alumni. Frankly, how can St. John’s University hope to compete against Georgetown, Syracuse, and the other beasts of the Big East without becoming the St. John’s Wort and cashing in on America’s insatiable need for medication? Yes, St. John’s wort may cause sensitivity to sunlight, but when you’re going to school in Queens...the less time spent outside, the better.

DISCLAIMER: Less than sixty seconds before I posted this, ESPN SportsCenter’s upcoming topics displayed on the right side of the screen included the headline “St. John’s Warts.” For the record, ESPN’s pun in no way inspired or gave rise to this post. In truth, I conceived the idea for this post six weeks ago—a fact verifiable by Mount Drinkmore’s Dave, who worked the graphic genius that you see above via e-mail on December 20, 2007—although the text had not been fully fleshed out. This morning’s headline on ESPN merely served as the catalyst to finish this post immediately, lest some Cheeto-fingered ESPN junkie falsely accuse me of lifting ideas.

I would also like to express my deep admiration for ESPN anchorwoman Linda Cohn’s thighs, so seldomly yet tantalizingly displayed during full-body shots.

(Graphic enhancement courtesy of Mount Drinkmore's Dave; St. John's Red Storm logo copyright St. John's University; photo of Jupiter courtesy of NASA.)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Here a Goose, There a Goose...

On January 8, Goose Gossage was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his ninth year of eligibility. The fireballing fireman was one of the premier closers of the late 1970s and early 1980s, thrice leading the American League in saves, en route to a lifetime total of 310—fourth on the all-time list upon his retirement. Regardless of your personal feeling on whether (or how many) relief pitchers deserve enshrinement in Cooperstown, one fact is indisputable: the hallowed walls of baseball’s Hall now boast a pair of Geese: Goose Gossage and 1920s slugger, Goose Goslin.

No sooner does Gossage emerge from the decade-long battle amongst Baseball Writers’ Association of America voters over the Hall-worthiness of relief pitchers than he finds himself immersed in an even stickier debate: Just who is the Hall of Fame’s greatest Goose?

It’s futile to debate the statistical virtues of a slugging left-fielder versus a flame-throwing reliever. Clearly, both were among baseball’s best during their heyday, and each vaulted his team into multiple World Series. So what remains to settle the issue?

Why, prominent facial features, of course.

Goose Goslin was renowned for his colossal proboscis, which took up much of Griffith Stadium’s outfield and may well have been the source of his nickname. Born in Salem, New Jersey, some say Goslin’s nose grew to enormous proportion as a direct result of the nuclear power plants located in his hometown. But as many pundits fail to realize, Goslin’s nose had reached its generous size more than half a century before the first Salem nuclear plant commenced operation.

Goose Gossage, as many will recall, sported in his prime an intimidating horseshoe moustache, which, when combined with his surly on-field attitude and blazing fastball, lent him something of a demonic aura. I once saw him throw a fastball behind a batter, leaving the hitter shaken and contemplating a career change to geology. Gossage’s horseshoe moustache irrefutably contributed to his greatest success, for his career stats demonstrate that his glory years in New York and San Diego coincided with donning his overgrown facial hair, whereas he had largely struggled while clean-shaven with the White Sox. Such mustachioed success was recognized by opponents, culminating infamously in 1979, when Carlton Fisk of the arch-rival Red Sox charged the mound with a Gillette Atra.

Goose Goslin, too, used his facial attributes to his advantage. Although one of the most feared sluggers of his day, Goslin was hit by a pitch 55 times, almost all of them on his nose—including a key 1931 contest in which his bases-loaded hit-by-pitch in the 9th inning enabled the fifth-place St. Louis Browns to cut the mighty Philadelphia Athletics' lead to 17-3. (After the game, a bandaged and bruised Goslin called his effort, "My gweatest day in basebawl.") His nose also played a vital role in the 1935 World Series by providing shade for a laboring Alvin Crowder late in Game 4. Crowder credited Goslin's nasal shade with conserving enough of his strength to shut out the Cubs over the final three innings and preserve victory for the Tigers.

Clearly, each Goose's unique facial feature contributed mightily to his success. Enough to make each Goose a Hall of Famer? It's difficult to assess...although the majority of animal-nicknamed players go on to Hall of Fame careers—Ducky Medwick, Rabbit Maranville, Catfish Hunter, Chick Hafey, Turkey Stearnes, Mule Suttles. (Frankly, Cooperstown is as much zoo as it is museum...)

Bill James, one of baseball's preeminent sabermetricians, awarded the following total of career "win shares"—his measure of an individual player's contribution to his team's performance—to each Goose:

Goose Goslin: 355
Goose Gossage: 223

Such a large discrepancy is, of course, a result of comparing a relief pitcher against a position player, who, obviously, plays far more often—and thus has far more impact—on his team's fortunes. Even so, such figures swing well in favor of Goslin as the greater Goose.

However, the win-shares system doesn't take into account that Gossage, who pitched for six years in the all-night party of the Big Apple, probably got laid a helluva lot more.

Yup, boners are more important than homers. I've gotta go with Goose Gossage as the Baseball Hall of Fame's greatest Goose.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Dream: A Muddy Little Christmas With The Zombies

Hold onto your hats for this one—I am going to see this boat my grandmother bought. It's a fairly sizable fishing boat. Me, Melissa, and my family are all going. We get there and the boat resides in this football field–sized swimming pool. We get on and just tool around the pool for an hour or so. The pool is also filthy with leaves and dirt everywhere and is in the middle of nowhere. After that fun, Melissa and I head back to this house we have on the plains. We have to get back before dark to board it up because the "zombies" are coming. They do come, but don't get in. The next day, we go to my parents' house to find that Melissa's mom has left Christmas presents for us in the mud in the back yard, by my old tire swing. Also, our cat is on a leash and is trying to break free. Again, we rush home because the zombies are coming.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Worst Idea Ever #731: Mick Jagger and David Bowie's "Dancin' In The Street"

It probably seemed like a good idea on paper. Two friends....perhaps more than friends.....both highly talented and respected singers in their own right, covering a Motown classic from back in the era when they themselves first made their mark. Okay, I can accept that. But then there was the VIDEO. Capturing some of the most heinous, over-the-top footage since the crowd reaction to the stripping robot in Metropolis, this video would make Ziggy Stardust crush his own sweet hands in horror. Perhaps the only way it could have been worse is if they included the bubbles from the Rolling Stones' "It's only Rock 'n' Roll" video. The disgusted look Charlie Watts gives as the bubbles overtake him says it all in that one. Sadly, he was not there to be the voice of reason for Mick and Bowie's misadventure.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Philadelphia: The City That Loves You to Look Back

We Philadelphians are tortured sports souls. We haven’t known the thrill of a major sports championship since the 76ers won the NBA title in 1983 (and even that is difficult to savor because, well, it’s basketball…). We bemoan our fate whenever our Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, and Sixers break our hearts in their annual ritual of defeat. So desperate for a champion are Philadelphians that we grasp at any homegrown straw—human or animal—in hopes of salving our collective self-esteem: Bernard Hopkins, the 2004 Saint Joseph’s Hawks, Smarty Jones. We are forced to revisit past glory because we enjoy none in the present, our media endlessly regurgitating the long-gone triumphs of the 1980 Phillies, the Broad Street Bullies, and Chuck Bednarik’s 1960 Eagles. Many Philadelphia fans weren’t yet born the last time one of our major sports teams won a title, and most of us exist in a state of perpetual nostalgia to cope with the frustration over today’s teams.

To ease Philadelphians’ suffering, I propose combining our insatiable penchant for living in the past with the in-vogue marketing ploy of “throwback” uniforms and hold a throwback parade for one of our past championship teams. Instead of incessantly booing our athletes and badmouthing them on local call-in radio shows, let’s get the entire city lining Broad Street for the yesteryear glory we haven’t experienced in decades. The city could hold a parade for, say, the pennant-winning 1915 Phillies. Fly in some distant relatives of the original team and dress them in those vintage woolen uniforms. A column of cars parading Grover Cleveland Alexander’s 5th cousin, thrice removed, and a bunch of other anonymous yokels down Broad Street as they wave to two million adoring fans while wondering what the hell they’re doing there is just the shot in the arm Philadelphians need. At City Hall, a descendant of manager Pat Moran can thank the town for its passionate support and then urge continued isolationism in the wake of the Lusitania torpedoing to a confused crowd. The parade could continue up Broad to Lehigh—the former site of Baker Bowl, the 1915 Phillies home—and conclude with the septuagenarian grandchildren of Erskine Mayer and Gavvy Cravath getting checked for gout at the medical center that now stands there.

(Graphic enhancement on banner courtesy of Dave.)

Friday, January 4, 2008

One Missed Call I Won't Miss

So just about every day for the last 3 weeks, I have been bombarded by commercials for one of the lamest-looking movies I have ever seen: One Missed Call. Seriously, does anyone want to see this garbage? Some amalgam of The Ring, The Grudge, and every other J-Horror film of the last 10 years. That's not even to mention it doesn't look even remotely frightening. This is what we've been reduced to? Fear of missing cell-phone calls? Since the movie is being released today, I am praying the promotional campaign will finally stop. That is, until the sequel: Two Missed Calls.

Indiana Jones or Indiana's Pride?

While re-watching The Fugitive several weeks ago—an excellent film and a real testament to amputees with a can-do attitude—it occurred to me that although Harrison Ford gave a strong performance, his role would have been better played by David Letterman. Sure, this taut thriller called for moments of deadpan dramatics, but Ford played it a little too straight. Starring opposite the equally intense Tommy Lee Jones, the film ached desperately for levity—a facet the serious-minded Ford lacks. There was no give-and-take between Richard Kimble and Deputy Gerard, no mocking, no cynical wisecracks—a commodity Letterman could have delivered in droves. One of the Late Show host’s trademark quips through his goofy, gap-toothed smile while standing at gunpoint in the dam’s tunnel would have elevated The Fugitive from merely excellent to the realm of Citizen Kane, Casablanca, and Gone With the Wind.

After a two-month hiatus, Letterman returned to the air Wednesday—sporting a decidedly Richard Kimble–esque beard…fully validating my theory.

Therefore, I offer my Top 10 reasons why David Letterman is a better actor than Harrison Ford.

Drum roll, please...

10. While being prepped for quintuple bypass, Letterman kept surgical team in stitches; surgeons find Ford a colossal bore concerned only with improving his medical condition.

9. Ford cannot enunciate with a cigar in his mouth.

8. Ford's portrayal of "Alexei Vostrikov" in K-19: The Widowmaker clearly derived from Letterman's "Old Salt" in Cabin Boy.

7. When Letterman comes home at 2 AM, girlfriend buys "flat tire" story; when Ford comes home at 2 AM, Calista Flockhart remains suspicious.

6. Letterman spent several years as an innovative television weatherman; Ford doesn't even know what a "dewpoint" is.

5. While Ford was starring in one of the biggest bombs of 1979 (Hanover Street), Letterman electrified nation as "Ellsworth," a shady group therapist, in Episode 17 of Mork and Mindy. (I recall watching the episode as a youngster and thinking, "America's finally found its new Brando.")

4. Harrison Ford has several false teeth; all of David Letterman's teeth are false.

3. Ford made a career playing the same characters (Han Solo, Indiana Jones, Jack Ryan); Letterman versatile enough to host "Stupid Pet Tricks" and "Stupid Human Tricks."

2. Harrison Ford had zero on-screen chemistry with Larry "Bud" Melman.

And the No. 1 reason why David Letterman is a better actor than Harrison Ford:

1. Letterman turned down the role of the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day; Ford was never offered the role.

(Photo of Harrison Ford and The Fugitive copyright Warner Brothers. Photos of David Letterman copyright CBS. Outstanding graphic enhancements courtesy of Mount Drinkmore’s Dave.)