Friday, February 27, 2009

Vienna Againa

Scraping ice off the windshield of my rental car, driving in torrential rains, cold, snow flurries all in less than 24 hours. Ah, Chicago weather! Drove out to Lake County to see Oakner and few old friends from St. George days. Oakner was there and Head, and Steve.  Now we're pasty old men, but from age 14 to 16 we ran around Chicago's Roger's Park engaging in various fun projects. Head could imitate his father's gruff Hungarian accent and was able to order booze from the liquor store at will. The delivery man was in on the score, and accepted very large tips for keeping teenagers awash in quart bottles of Old Style and half-pints. (As a freshman, Head told me about the set-up. I didn't believe him. It seemed too impossibly good. But sometimes there is a Santa Claus. In fact, on Thursdays, Head would roam the halls of St. George taking drink orders for the weekend.)

Head reminded me of the time Oakner and I arrived at his house to find bullet holes in the front porch. The police had been there and shot Head's dog after she'd gotten out of the yard and snarled at a passing woman. (These particular Chicago cops were neither subtle nor especially keen marksmen.) Head was broken up. Oakner and I were too, since he couldn't go drinking.

Our late friend Rocco was mentioned often. Rocco's basement was the first we ever saw with surround-sound stereo speakers, rigged up from scratch. (Rocco went on to work as an electrician.) Rocco had a facility for improvisational mayhem and probably would've excelled as a political dirty trickster or internet hacker. One dawn after we had spent the night washing down Dexedrine with Bud tall boys, we were walking along Clark Street when Rocco opened the base of a stop light, hit something inside and left the light stuck on red. I didn't even know you could open stop lights.

We did many dumb, violent, laughable things together. And it doesn't seem that long ago, yet it was. Two generations. In 1969, St. George closed at the end of our sophomore year. We were no longer classmates, scattering to different high schools. I lived in suburban Skokie and ended up at Notre Dame in Niles, even further away from Roger's Park. Into the service and back to town, then out to California; there would always be time to hook up again. Luckily, Oakner realized years were zipping past faster than telephone poles seen from a speeding car. Thanks to the web, we're back in touch, Facebook classmates with no more tests or curfews. We can stay out as late as we want . . . we just don't anymore. 1969: Rocco in the chair. Oakner in center frame and myself to the right.
2009: Head, Steve, Oakner and myself.
(Photos: Oakner)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fun Phrases in Portuguese

Onde posso eu comprar os dentes de madeira?
Where may I buy wooden teeth?

Meu tio comeu um carneiro.
My uncle has eaten a sheep.

Let' visita de s uma prostituta
Let's visit a prostitute.

Para o divertimento, nós amarramos um anão a um avião pequeno.
For fun, we tie a dwarf to a small aircraft.

Meu gado está explodindo
My cattle are exploding.

Spain cheira engraçado.
Spain smells funny.

via: takineko

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Thoughts on American Facism

With a suitcase full of wool sweaters and socks, I got off the plane in Chicago to 50 degree temperatures. Earlier today, it had rained and been cold, but I arrived to a balmy clime.

Went to Mass in the evening where I got my Ash Wednesday ashes in Chicago for the first time in decades. How many decades, I can't say as I had jettisoned religion - at least any active participation in religion - long before I left. 

An odd thought occurred to me while traveling: if fascism reigns in America, the entire country will be like the airport. You can do pretty much whatever you want as long as you stand in the right lines, have the correct documents, and don't make jokes about the system. There will be signs to the tenth power telling you what is prohibited and the police will be everywhere in pairs. I hope I'm wrong. But you really have no rights in an airport. Or cheap bottled water. Or leg room. Or food onboard. Or decent movies. Going to the airport and taking a plane used to be cool. Now it's a metaphor for laid back American fascism. 

Enough. Many people to see tomorrow. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

In Wind-Swept Chicago

Last time in Chicago, the weather was unseasonably warm. According to Tim, my high school chum, this time it'll be hellishly cold. Fortunately, my Christmas trip to the chilly northwest has prepared me for the weather, though I recall Windy City winters being the worst. In any case, I'll be traveling for the third time in three months. (Phoenix Marathon was the other.) Mirth awaits, along with soggy bites by Maz and fun with family and friends, Chicago-style pizza and Italian beef sandwiches.

(Note to Narwhal: If you're still stopping by the blog, I'll be wearing the down-lined jacket from Sears you got me, ohhhhh, say, 30 years ago. Still the best.)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Paul Rugg Thanks Hollywood for Memories

Froynlaven ponders the divide between a typical Hollywood film and entertainment.

Oscar Report

Didn't watch last night. The only two movies I liked - or saw - were Dark Knight and Gran Torino. Heath Ledger won for playing the Joker, but since he died, he wouldn't be accepting the award. If he had died and accepted the award anyway, that would've been something worth watching.

Friday, February 20, 2009

L.A. Connection Days

Spoke with an old chum, Larry, last night. Back in the early 80s, we worked together at the L.A. Connection Theater. Improvisational comedy was the venue. Based on audience suggestions, actors would preform a scene that was hopefully either funny or brief. Scenes ended when the light guy blacked out the house, again, hopefully, on a laugh line. Rehearsals were on Tuesday nights out in Sherman Oaks. As the cast was hard-drinking even by acting standards, our breaks included a stop down the block at Tony's Liquors for beef jerky, Marlboro cigarettes, quart bottles of Budweiser and Auto Club Cocktails - mixed drinks in a small can. (The second half of rehearsal tended to be more raucous than the first, degenerating into bawdy suggestions and cat-calls that prepared us well for our audiences.)

Belonging to the L.A. Connection was money-out-of-pocket for "dues." Most of us were earning little or no dough, living in Hollywood and Silver Lake. We hung out between shows, talked about this show biz job or that show biz opportunity, and kept on struggling and complaining about the director and paying dues and how the dues were spent.

Eventually, Larry, myself and six or seven others coagulated in a cast that performed Friday nights from 1982 to 1984. Some evenings we sold out. Other nights we played for a half-dozen people. You worked with tension. Audience expectations were generous as they saw improv comedy as high wire walking without a net. Nevertheless, they did expect something. Full house or no, the goal was to get laughs. That's what made performing so sweet - bombing sucked the life out of cast and audience. Nailing a scene on a blackout line to big laughs and applause pumped the actors higher than Ozzy Osbourne in his prime.

(I would give examples but trying to describe old improv sketches is like trying to relate a sexual experience - words fail the deed.)

After the shows, we'd head over to someones house to beer-up and watch SCTV, or over to a local bar, the Chimney Sweep, where a pretty, blonde Canadian waitress served us all the alcohol we could pay for. ('So hey, would you like a chuter with that beer.')

In time, we drifted off to this and that. Back then we were in our mid-20s to early 30s. Now we're all solidly middle-aged.

Larry has been working for a casting director for almost 20 years.

Tina lives out in Arizona, doing something New Age.

Ken Segall writes animation and fed me my last few scripts for an MGM show.

Autumn teaches acting in Orange County.

Ken B. runs a dive company, taking people out to the waters around Catalina.

Elaine trains dogs, sometimes for the movies.

Bob produces segments for History and Discovery channel shows. As far as I know, he was the last to perform on-stage, appearing in a one-man show in 2007.

No one knows what happened to Darrell.

As we were drifting out, a new cast was drifting in, including Marc Drotman, Mitch Watson, and some young punk named Rugg.

From an experience that seemed rather cheap and low-rent, many good things emerged. I still hang with Ken Segall who was best man at my wedding. I met M.D. Sweeney and Sherri Stoner and, through them, went on to work at Acme Comedy Theatre and Warner TV animation. Bob and I acted together at Acme and stay in touch. Rugg is a horrible pain-in-the-ass that I can't seem to shake.

And the L.A. Connection rolls on. I still meet young actors and writers who have gone through the Connection, bitching about the organization and the director. Hopefully, they'll keep a few fellow cast members in their lives. At best, they'll have a lot of laughs.

I mostly remember the laughs.

And the stinking dues!!! Did I tell you about the sign party? We were trying to raise money for a sign this one time, see? And instead . . . .

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Running and Coyotes

Fie upon these fallow knees! I went out and ran for 45 minutes today over at Griffith Park. Staying on soft dirt trails, I would run for a minute and walk for two. A few twinges here and there, but overall the knees felt fine. Tomorrow will tell. I'll probably ice tonight just to be safe.

Finishing my run around dusk, I saw a coyote amble across the road past my jeep - just taking his sweet old time, big bushy tail dragging behind. He joined another coyote and they, in turn, hooked up with a third. Their needle snouts pointed in the direction of the Merry-Go-Round parking lot and I wondered if some poor woman was walking her dog up there.

I think the park has too many coyotes. Perhaps one day a famous person will announce on TV that he's eaten a coyote and that it tasted real good. (Maybe not like chicken but more like turkey loaf.) Then people will sneak into Griffith Park and pot coyotes for supper. I'll bet hats with bushy tails become popular with the ladies. Let's hope for this, or the introduction of a colossal coyote-eating bird, because there are a lot of tasty coyotes going to waste with tummies full of pets.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Russian Through the Water

At my health club this afternoon, doing lap pool lengths with a kick board; guy in the lane next to me is swimming freestyle laps. Two large Russian woman ambled into the water like Slavic hippos and blocked both lanes. There was a brief game of aquatic chicken in which the freestyle guy, myself, and the Daughters of Muscovy all advanced on a collision course. But the women moved at the last second and I continued my workout, though wary now. Clearly the idea of a lap pool as a place of exercise, as opposed to drowning dissidents, seemed to have escaped them. They eventually went over to the hot tub and bobbed in front of other people's air jets. 

Big fat commies.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

At the grocery store yesterday there was a card rack near the check-out counter. Most of the cards were addressed to "My Darling Wife," somehow implying that men are more likely to make such purchases at the last moment.

I bought a card for my wife.

Then I sued the store for gender discrimination and creating an uncomfortable atmosphere through implications of tardiness.

Legally, I will break the store like a pot, tear down the building and sell the land to a government agency that wants to reintroduce grizzly bears to Southern California.

(There's millions for that in the stimulus package.)

Plus, next month is St. Patrick's Day.

Then Easter.

Then Flag Day . . . .

Friday, February 13, 2009

Gimli and I

Playing around with Animoto, this slide show-making site.

h/t: Kiley

Keeper of the Ragtime

Who among the next generation will play the "Maple Leaf Rag?" Ragtime composer and aficionado Keeper mentions an upcoming documentary that poses a similar, if larger, question on the future of this most American music. It is beyond me to perpetuate ragtime. (I can't even remember to save the coupons from Dominos.) But I encourage others and hope they succeed. And while they're at it, bring back the straw boater.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Knee Update and Fast Old Man

In Japan, a 60-year-old man ran a marathon in two-hours and thirty-eight minutes. That's like, freaking impossible. Yet, he did it anyway, breaking an 18-year world age group record. Congratulations to Yoshihisa Hosaka. You are a cool dude.

Meanwhile, my running recovery mines untapped levels of diagnosis. The orthopaedist I saw yesterday suggested torn knee cartilage. An MRI would clear matters up. For cost reasons, I must first try and convince my new HMO doctor to authorize such a procedure. Perhaps I'll succeed this time. I can use the savings to fly to Japan and hang out with Hosaka. How do you run that fast, man? How do you run . . . period. Let's watch "Silent Library."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sony's New Tech Hottie

(If you have kids, turn the volume down.)

h/t: Freakazoid! writer Ken Segall ("Two Against Freak" and "Arms Akimbo.")

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Off the Canvas - Again

Since 2007, my friend Dale has battled cancer. He went into remission, but last November, the hospital reported his cancer had returned Stage IV ("cancers have often metastasized, or spread to other organs or throughout the body") and did he have a will. Dale considered simply staying home and waiting for the Reaper. However, for the sake of family, he agreed to a final, desperate, double-chemo, go-round. With more determination than hope, Dale shaved his head in advance of baldness and prepared his mind and spirit to fight. 

Last Sunday, he announced his disease had retreated sufficiently, and that doctors had given him the Okay, to return to work part-time. He was laughing and in good spirits as only someone who has evaded cancer's pitiless grip can be. I think he's also glad he battled in the face of dire odds and didn't cede life because of chemo loathing. I've seen the difference his recovery has made to his family, faces once heavy with loss, now bright with relief.

What will happen long term, I cannot say. There is an operation ahead, and more chemo, but a corner seems to have been turned and Dale has been rewarded with a gift of days. How he handles this gift will be a challenge. Life absorbs us. Having faced death, it's not something we want to dwell on. Soon it seems you've never had bigger problems than bills and stuff to fix around the house. But for now, there's joy in Dale's household, and going out for sushi, and watching Ultimate Fighting Championships with his teenage son on TNT.  


Moving some heavy boxes yesterday and jammed my left middle finger. This morning, it had an interesting new crook. I am now in possession of a passive-aggressive middle finger. I can flip a guy off and use the new bend to indicate that I really meant someone nearby at an oblique angle. (Unwise, but theoretically interesting.) Luckily, I visit the orthopedist tomorrow for my knees. While he's got the x-ray out, he can zap my pamf. Between my knees and finger, I'll have enough radiation pumped in me to light up Pasadena. From there, perhaps work with the Atomic Energy Commission. In time, exile to a Channel Island, where I'll glow and kill goats. Don't move heavy boxes, please. Invest in a home forklift. That was my downfall, playing it cheap. Get the forklift. Your family, government and Channel Island wildlife will thank you.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Dental Singers

My dentist's office used to play KOST (local LA radio station), easy-listening music. Recently, the office has switched to a track playing songs I haven't heard anywhere. Today while waiting to have my teeth cleaned, I caught "Mission of My Soul." In this tune, the singer desired to be a garden to someone else's flower. In "Crossing the Sea," another singer offered to help someone actually cross the sea if that particular action  was desired. These singers seem like very generous people. My mother-in-law moved from the Bay Area to Los Angeles and I didn't want any part of that action. I can't imagine helping her move across the ocean, say from LA to the Cook Islands or Sumatra. Anyway, the singers have shamed me. I'll try not to be so selfish. If you need help moving, please call my mother-in-law. She has a lot more experience than me. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Noteworthy Addition

Welcome to old Warner chums (and champion composers) Steve and Julie Bernstein as they set aside their keyboards and climb aboard the blog train for hours of non-lucrative, yet stimulating, fun. You meet a better class of unemployed here.


MDW and I returned from seeing Gran Torino - which I liked a lot. However, the coming attractions had a tedious sameness. Like the synchronized drivers of Dallas, different studios are releasing similar films dealing with a small group fighting back against a massive conspiracy by:

1. A giant billion-dollar corporation whose reach goes "all the way to the top."

2. A giant bank underwriting dictatorial regimes with tentacles everywhere and a reach that goes "all the way to the top."

3. Something else where a there's a conspiracy that doesn't go all the way to the top, but extends part of the way, stops, takes the stairs, rests and has a smoke, then gets off on the wrong floor, but sees the snack cart and stops for a Danish. Later, it reaches the top by freight elevator. 

I might Netflix the last one.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Paul Rugg as Stephen Hawking

Another coup by Paul Rugg as he scores an advance track off Professor Stephen Hawking's new comedy album, "Hawking Goes BANG!!!!"

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Iceland is MINE!

Paul Rugg and his accountant left far too soon. The frosty island nation fell into my hand today like a ripe naval orange. And all I did was respond to an unsolicited email.  This fellow in Nigeria said his dad was once Secretary of Money for all Iceland. Anyway, there was a coup and his dad died after being gored by a war reindeer. Anyway, this Nigerian guy said his dad had stashed several billion dollars in a bank on Lichen Island, which I assume is right near Iceland. He said he needs my bank routing number and account information so that he can get the money out and, in return, grant me title and deed to Iceland. I'm not sure how that works, but once I've taken possession, I can summon the war reindeer and invade Greenland which is closer to Los Angeles and which I'd rather have anyway. So, wish me luck and come visit me in Greenland. (Or Johnland. I'll have to see how much it'll cost to change the stationary. If it's too much, it'll stay Greenland.) Anyway, this is great! I'm going out now and buy fur garments.  

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Rich Arons Smells

But that's because he and his Gang of Seven pals have been drawing Pepe Le Pew for AT&T.

Bale vs Hu Jintao

A volcanic actor and a pushy Chinese chairman throw down on the set, courtesy of Paul Rugg. WARNING: Do not drink liquids while listening. This is milk-out-the-nose funny.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Knee Zap

While performing a mundane household task, I felt a sharp knee pain. Sharp pains are usually serious pains, meaning some manner of stop-running injury. As my HMO is the medical equivalent of Jiffy Lube, I've decided to pay my old doctor cash for X-rays and a diagnosis.

In the meantime, I'll pretend I really did want to swim more.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Angeles Forest Run

A wee 5.1 mile run up into the hills past a reconstructed bridge, beyond the fossilized remains of the Elmer Smith bridge, across three rock-strewn streams up to the Gould campground. I said 'hi' to a bearded homeless guy who looked like Z Z Top, reading the paper as I trotted past. At a spectacular cactus patch that rose up like a hydra, I turned around. My run/walk ratio was a modest one minute running per two minutes walking. But my knees felt healthy and vibrant like knees should.

If all stays well, I'll slowly build up mileage to around 20 - 25 miles a week. Once there, I'll begin working on speed.

Meanwhile, MDW and I went car shopping on Saturday. We looked at the Rav4, Jeep Liberty, and Nissan Pathfinder. Deals abound.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Director Nathan Ruegger

Tom's son, Nathan is one of 12 finalists in the Coca Cola college film competition. Check out his short film, "Moonlight Theater."