Sunday, December 30, 2007

Born in Arizona, Moved to Babylonia

steve-martin-letsgetsmall.jpgIn 1963, when I was 8, we moved to Inglewood, where I attended nearby Highland Elementary School. I remember my first day of 4th grade; I met a guy who became one of my best friends for over a decade, though I haven't been in touch with him for the past 30 some years. The first thing I remember about him is playing "robots" during recess. Everything we knew about robots came from "Robby the Robot". My friend lived in a small bungalow on Venice Way, directly across the street from Highland school, so it was easy to hang out with him in the afternoons. We both got paper routes and would sit on his front porch folding papers and waiting for the Helms Bakery truck so we could get doughnuts, cream puffs and miniature pies for nourishment.
My friend's family and my family both moved away from that neighborhood a few years later. Then some other stuff happened and then, a few days a go, I received a copy of "Born Standing Up", by Steve Martin as a gift. Steve Martin was never as much an influence on my comedy as, say, Bill Cosby, but I really liked him when he first started and I saw him on the Steve Allen show. His "let's get small", balloon animals, and nose-on-the-microphone parody's of stand-up were so innovative at the time, I've never forgotten them. On page 16 of his book, Steve Martin is writing about his childhood: "A few months later, we moved from Hollywood to Inglewood, California, and lived in a small bungalow on Venice Way, directly across from Highland Elementary School." So if you've been paying attention, you now know that Steve Martin was my best friend in elementary school.
No, actually, Steve Martin is about ten years older than I am and his family lived there only a couple years, before I was born, then moved to the Oak Street School area. But maybe, just maybe, my friend's family moved into that house directly across from Highland School right after Steve Martin's moved out. And then, I spent time in that house. Is that an amazing brush with fame or what?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

It's Too Late, Baby

2008.jpgWhat happens to the media stars when they die after Christmas? I have already seen the annual recap of celeb deaths on MSNBC (video I can't easily link to) and here (also note the link to "openly gay celebrities" and the sequel: "More openly gay celebrities" - Because we always update our Gay Celeb List and our Dead Celeb List at the end of every year). Is there a prize for being first to compile the death list? If it comes out Jan 1, does everyone ignore it because they are all looking forward to who will be the first to die in 2008?
On the plus side of the year-end rush to compile stuff, if your company is going to make an embarassing PR move, now is the time to do it. The list of biggest PR bloopers for 2007 is done. Feel free to issue a press release ridiculing crippled children and puppies any time in the next 4 days.
Are we just tired of 2007 already? I got the above picture, celebrating 2008, on 12/27/07.
A few days ago, on Christmas Eve, I happened to see Father Time as he was on his way out the year end.
"Where the heck are you going?" I asked.
"My obituary is already being written. Next week is just down time. No one will notice if I'm gone."
"Baby New Year needs someone to bring him in on Times Square. You have to be there."
"Feh, can't we just do it now? The 2007 statistics are all compiled, the reviews are done, everything is capped and recapped. I am going to Florida."
So, celebritneys, please hold on a few days. If you die this week, you don't get on the 2007 or the 2008 list and your demise will just be a waste. But, again, on the upside, I think you can flash your hoo-ha getting out of a limo and it'll go unnoticed if you do it prior to New year's Eve.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

This Is The End

gary.jpgEUNICE AND BERNICE: Hello, Rush Limbaugh? This is Eunice and Bernice, the Siamese twins joined together at the telephone, calling you from Pisgah. Rush, we just love your show. What's all this we hear about Gary Burbank being refried. What? Retired? He's retiring? We knew that, oh yes, we knew that.

GILBERT GNARLEY: Hello, Johnson and Johnson customer service, this is Gilbert Gnarley, G N A R L E Y. I just love your products. I'm a retired eccentric and I live in the Saint Pia Zadora Golden Buckeye Retirement Community in Pisgah, Ohio. I would like to buy a case of your Kentucky Jelly for Gary Burbank as a retirement present.

EARL PITTS (Native American Redneck): You know what makes me sick? You know what makes me so angry I just want to steal all the false teeth from the old folks home? It’s when the guy that does the radio show I was spawned from retires. That's al I have to say. Pitts off!

REVEREND DEUTERONOMY SKAGGS: The Little Radio Church of the White Winged Gospel Truth is in the air. Flock, as it sayeth in the Book of Hominominies, not your old testament, not your new testament, but your present testament, writ by me, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, ‘cause the Lord likes to mess with us. Can I get an “Amalulah!”? Now the Lord is taking Gary Burbank – not calling him home, just getting’ him off the radio. I'm going to need some love oferings soon before my radio pulpit goes away. So reach into them jeans and pull out some greens. Fly them rockets from thy pockets up around my altar. Don't make me holler, don't make me shout. Turn them pockets inside out.

SYNONYMOUS: Mr. Burjank, how does this afternoon find you? I happen to be one of the Cincinnati Bengals who most certainly do want to remain synonymous so’s not to besmirch my reparation, you understand. I am calling you on my mobile celluloid helmet phone. Mr. Burjank, hearing about your impotent retirement, fills me with rear moss.

BIG FAT: I am a big, fat, balding guy with a stubby cigar in his mouth and his pants half-zipped and this time I am being honest wit chew when I say that we are interrupting records on radio like we do movies on television with our wonderful products. Today we have Big Fat’s Homeless Retirement Home in a box. Yes it’s a big cardboard box for the retired homeless person on your gift list. Well look who’s coming into the studio, it’s Gary Burbank. Smooch, smooch, Burbank. (Smooch, smooch, Big Fat).

HOWLIN’ BLIND: This is Howlin’ Blind Muddy Slim, your sixty-minute, jelly-belly, toejam man, with Blues Break 101, here to learn you about some blues. You know, after a gig, I go around to all the tables and collect the spiders outta the bottoms of the glasses and mix myself up a drink. Today I got me some Tanqueray gin, some bourbon, some Anchor Steam Beer, some Woodford Reserve Whiskey, some Fat Tire beer, and some crème de menth. You know what I call that drink? Queray bourb anc re tire menth (Gary Burbank retirement.). Yeah, so potent, makes me lisp a little. One drink and you swear you can’t go on no more. Two drinks and your toe turns black and falls off. Three drinks and your gone - off the air

RANGER BOB: Howdy boys and girls and all you little whippersnappers, it’s your old pal Ranger Bob, brought to you by Mush. Eat it! Use it to spackle the plumber’s butt crack. Just get rid of it so Mommy will buy you some more and I can stay on the air. Today, buckaroos, our guest is Ryle Drepper, the retired high school music teacher who travels around singing karaoke songs to educate children. Ryle.

RYLE DREPPER: Thank you Ranger Bob. Hi kids. Today I have a great song about retirement.
I could hardly believe it, when I heard the news today
‘Cause you’ve already “retired” a time or two
But Kiesewetter says you’re leavin’, Fox News says you’re going away
And it’s on the internet, it must be true
So though we all might doubt it, in case this time you’re not faking
Let me parody one more song before you go

Tell me how am I supposed to laugh without you
Now that I’ve been listening so long
How am I supposed to laugh without you
The Big One must be off, if you’re not on
And all the characters I’m writing for are gone

I didn't come here for cryin', didn't come here to breakdown
It's just a dream of mine is coming to an end
An how can I blame you, after all, you’re pretty old
But I’ll miss you and my other writer friends
Is there no more Reds and Restless, no more All My Bengals?
Are there no more commercials I will get to fake?

Tell me how am I supposed to laugh without you
Now that I’ve been listening so long
How am I supposed to laugh without you
The Big One must be off, if you’re not on
And all the characters I’m writing for are gone

RANGER BOB: Thank you Ryle, that was something. Well, you little sidewinders, all our time is up. Time to ride off into the sunset. Come ‘ere, Horse. Giddyup. This here’s your old pal Ranger Bob sayin’, “this here’s your old pal Ranger Bob sayin’, adios, Muchachos!”

KIDS: Adios Gary Burbank!
Thank you to Gary Burbank, Duke Sinatra, Rob Irvin, JD Riggs, Doc Kevin Wolfe, Tim Mizak, Bill Brohaugh, Jim Probasco, Mary Thomas Watts, Kel Krum, P.F. Wilson, Brian Bateman, Joe McDonough, Bill Tooker Heather Feather Pickle, Leah Burns, and a host of other names I might think of in the next few months.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Baby, You Can Drive My Car

almost there.jpgI recently got a raise and a bonus at work. My wife convinced me that I should spend part of it to buy something I wanted for myself that is completely unnecessary. I bought a Garmin nuvi 260. I think of this as completely unnecessary because, back where I come from, there were people who you could go to to ask directions to anywhere and find out local places of interest and the best restaurants. These people were called Gas Station Attendants. GSA’s were the GPS systems of pre-history (1950’s – early 70’s, which is back where I come from).
I wanted the GPS because, even though I am a man, I am directionally challenged. I blame this on the fact that I have lived in the female dominated world of my mother, sister, grandmother, niece, wife and daughter for the past 50 years. My internal compass is thrown off by secondhand female hormones. Also in my defense, I grew up in a city (LA) that has streets laid out in logical grids. Cincinnati wrapped their streets around 7 hills and then made half of them one way in order to trap people and grow the population. It’s easy to get lost and confused, so the Garmin helps. But the real usefulness of the GPS will come when I visit other cities or when I lend it to my daughter so she doesn’t get lost visiting her friends going to college in who-knows-where. My daughter finds her way home by looking for "the house with the big bush in front of it", so I know she can use a GPS.
I chose the nuvi 260 for portability and text-to-speech features (I didn’t want the more expensive features on higher-priced models).
I tested my new GPS on the way to work and back yesterday. In the morning, I made it easy and followed the simple path down the interstate to the office. On the way back I gave nuvi her real test. I say “her” because the Garmin’s voice is female, speaking in unaccented American English. The way I tested her was to take a detour off the interstate. When you deviate from Ms. Nuvi’s chosen route, she says, “recalculating” and then starts giving you new directions based on where you have foolishly chosen to go. Her primary goal was to get me back to I-71, but I frustrated her further by sticking to a winding path of side roads that is the detour I use when traffic is backed up on I-71. nuvi, abandoning all hope of getting me back on 71, decided we were safest sticking to one main road that is direct but heavily traveled. My insistence on bypassing that crowded street convinced her that I am completely clueless. She had to “recalculate” several times. I swear to you that when she says “recalculating” she totally conveys her exasperation with my fumbling attempts to find my own way. You can actually hear her sigh in the middle (“re-CAAL-culating”). Seriously, find someone who has one of these and listen to it. You can hear her little electronic eyes rolling. I am not making that up.
I checked the “tools” section and found that the default voice I was hearing was not just "American English", but, actually, “American Wife”. After I “missed” a few turns, Ms, nuvi started to get absolutely pissy. “I really think you should have turned there”, she said, in a very passive-aggressive tone. Then she just gave up. “Hey, just go whichever way you want.” Exactly one turn and 0.6 miles later, she said, “You never listen to me anymore.” Finally, I guess she just got distracted and forgot she was mad: “Hey, if you turn here there’s a great little antique shop over on Locust Street. It’s practically on the way." I looked over at Ms. nuvi and thought about all the reasons I had considered her a fun companion and an important part of my travelling life. "Re-CAAL-culating," I said.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

What it Was Was Football

osu mich.pngWhen I first became interested in college football, I was a teenager living in LA and OJ Simpson was still a hero, not a killer. The only slashing he did then was running for touchdowns, leading USC to victory over rival UCLA and Heisman winner, Gary Beban. OJ later won the Heisman and a Rose Bowl, but then lost to bitter rival Ohio State. Back then the Rose Bowl was exclusively a contest between the Pac 8 (either USA or UCLA) and the Big Ten (either Ohio State or Michigan). At that time Ohio State was coached by Evil Incarnate, Woody Hayes.
As years passed, I became more interested in pro football. Yes, children, LA actually used to have professional football teams. The Chargers left LA for San Diego before my time; but the Cleveland Rams replaced them and I was an LA Rams fan. Then the Rams left for Anaheim, the Raiders arrived from Oakland and then went back. I can't really critisize these teams; I myself left LA for Cincinnati and became a Bengals fan (Bengals current quarterback, Carson Palmer, is a USC grad and Heisman winner who has not killed anyone yet).
I never followed college football during those years and I certainly was not about to root for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
When my neice went to Cal I paid a little attention to their football team, which challenged USC a few times and I also checked in on the University of Cincinnati when they made it to a few minor bowl games. But I never watched any games. And my wife never watched even more games than I never watched.
I've told you all this so you will understand how bizarre it was that Karen and I were intently watching LSU play Arkansas yesterday and we really cared about the outcome. Why? Because if LSU lost, it was one of the steps needed for Ohio State to get back in the running for the national championship. Yes, Ohio State. See, our daughter is going to Ohio State. Even SHE, my almost fashion designer, sports hating daughter, has become a college football fan. And all 3 of us knew the teams involved and the scenarios that needed to happen for The OSU to get into a championship. It's still possible, but, even though LSU did lose (great, 3 overtime game!) Ohio State will probably end up in the Rose Bowl playing USC. And I'll be rooting for Ohio State. That's like if I switched from being a Dodger fan to being a Yankee fan. But you know, Woody Hayes is long gone and OJ is in jail and I'm paying tuition to Ohio State. So my money's on them.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Plague of Roaches?

"Is Marijuana Kosher For Passah" (Passover)

As we always ask at the Seder, "On all other nights we fire up a doobie at dinner. Why on this night do we just get wasted on wine?"

It's logical to put aside your refer during Passover because, when you get the munchies, all there is is matzah. and, even when you're stoned, that's just dry, tasteless crackers.

But why would toking on a number be non-kosher for Passover? Because we fled Egypt before our crop could be harvested and dried? Because the locusts ate it all? Because we would start giggling about the word "Pharaoh" and not be all serious about how we were once slaves in Egypt?

According to the article linked above, it's because weed is classed as a legume. Have these rabbis ever had a drug education class in school and SEEN a marijuana plant? In what way does marijuana resemble peas, beans or peanuts? It looks more like a tomato plant to me.

But, then, I'm foolishly looking for logic in kosher law, which is like looking for an honest man in D.C. There is no logic: The article says it is because legumes were stored next to grain and might fraternize too much and become assimilated. Another explanation (and this is only for Ashkenazic Jews) is "The Smak (Rabbi Moshe of Kouchi, 13th century, France) explains that products of (legumes) appear like (wheat or grain) products. For example, it can be hard to distinguish between rice flour (kitniyot) and wheat flour (chometz). Therefore, to prevent confusion, all kitniyot was prohibited."

Seriously, the "Smak" rabbi? The Smak rabbi says we can't eat peas because we might confuse them with flour? Only if we are STONED! "Dude, am I eating a pack of Ho Hos or a bag of lima beans? I am SOOOOOO wasted right now, man. Wait, wait - listen: 'Pharaoh'. hehehe 'Phaaaaraooooh'. SNORK! It sounds SOO weird."

So, if we don't get high and confused on Passover, we should be able to eat legumes, right? Dude, I am so confused. At least I know grass is allowed on Easter.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

God Only Knows

This guy got drunk, fell 16 stories and lived. He says he survived because "somebody had a plan for me". I infer that he means God had a plan because he says "There ain't too many days go by that I don't thank God that I'm still here." and he went so far as to attend church the first Sunday after he got home. It's not clear if he means that God's plan was to get Joshua to attend church that one day and pitching him out a window was the best way God could come up with to accomplish it.
Most assuredly, I don't know God's plans or his M.O. for accomplishing them. I am nevertheless skeptical when people attribute someone's death or survival to "God's will" or "God's plan". For example, assuming there is no "Funniest Heaven's Video" show up there, why would God particularly want Sonny Bono to ski into a tree?
People are often rather selective in what they credit God for. When quarterbacks throw a touchdown pass, they often point to the sky, indicating their thanks to God. When, on the next possession, the quarterback throws an interception, he never shakes his fist at the sky, indicating that he is miffed at God. If God actually is determining the outcome of the game, why even play; we could just look for the score in the Church bulletin. And, seriously, if God were interested in football, why would it be played on the Sabbath (Friday night and Saturday for you Jewish, high school and college fans or Sunday for the Christian, NFL fans - Monday or Thursday night football being an abomination).
If God has a plan for us, I believe it's a very general plan and not so specific that it involves saving Joshua Hanson from his drunken stupidity. Does Joshua believe that this conversation took place as he crashed through the window:
St. Peter: Lord, Joshua Hanson just went out the window on the 16th floor of a building.
God: Joshua Hanson? Me damn it! I have a plan for him. I turn around for one second and they all get drunk and act crazy.
St. Peter: Perhaps you should not have given them wine, as Noah himself fell into trouble with that. That aside, you still have time to save Joshua.
God: Yeah, but I don't want it to look like a miracle. My plan for him is secret and I don't want him to suspect anything. Just stick an awning under him or something.
If that was the way plans were managed in Heaven, it would make God look like Michael Scott, the manager of The Office.