Saturday, March 21, 2009

"The Stars Just Don't Seem As Bright As They Used To..."

Here’s one for your Ipod.

“Is That All There Is?”

Peggy Lee.

Arranged by Randy Newman.

You’ll be able to find it in the vocalist and/or easy listening section of ITunes or Rhapsody or your download megamart of choice.

I have only lately come to fully appreciate the sentiment.

In a nutshell, it comes down to this.

That which we think is important in life almost always turns out not to be.
And that which we haven’t given much thought to turns out to be important.

But, either way, you should make every effort to find the joy.

The song popped into my head this morning when I read this little blurb from an Internet celeb gossip site.

Sitting down?
'Cause you'll want to be when you hear what I have to say.

A major character on a show we are obsessed with will commit suicide before the season is over -- and no one will see it coming. The shocking death will send shockwaves through the show and the fallout will be immense.

Spoilerphobes may want to hit the nearest exit, because I'm about to give you a hint...

I learned of this death after I compiled my 2009 season-ending
death chart, so it is not reflected on there. And it may never be. It's a DEFCON 1 spoiler, so I'm proceeding with the utmost caution. I may, at some point between now and when the episode airs, stealthily update the chart with this catastrophic development.
Or I may not. Just to be safe, you may want to refresh the page at least once a day.

In the meantime, let's get those guesses flowing in the comments section. Just to recap what we know:

• Major character
• Major show
• Not featured in death chart

Let the speculation begin…

Oh, and to my many sources/friends/family/EW bosses, don't waste your time grilling me for extra clues. This blind item's staying blind. For now at least.

I confess my first knee jerk reaction was “puh-leeze…”

Who gives a shit?

Then I realized that I was simply manifesting another symptom of the metamorphosis from open minded, free spirited energetically idealistic youth..

…to my father.

Because I have, for almost as long as I can remember, enjoyed the whole “show biz pop culture” thing.
From surreptitiously flipping through the movie mags that Mom used to bring home through my primary school years as supplemented by a monthly dose of Alfred E. Neumann through Entertainment Tonight in the days when Mary Hart was even chirpier than she is now and John Tesh was her numero dos (Yes, young Skywalkers, THAT John Tesh.) and right on up to the WWW dot days that allow me to share my ramblings here with you when the mood strikes.

And most of my professional life has been tied to the whole celebrity thing in one way or another, be it songwriters, singers or the celebs that I chat up and about during the radio shows that I have produced/hosted.

So, I brought myself up short and told me that looking down my nose at celeb gossip at this point in my life was a little bit like Rush Limbaugh not having much use for conservatives.

The pot and the kettle and all that.

What I also discovered, though, was that although I have what I think is a pretty clear understanding of what it is we find attractive about this kind of stuff (it’s a potpourri, if you will, of misery loves company, distraction from our trials and tribulations, genetically predisposed voyeurism and vicarious living, thanks for asking), I find that this kind of stuff simply doesn’t float my boat all that much anymore.

Celebrities in extramarital affairs, in and out of rehab, in and out of the tabloids, marrying this one, divorcing that one, characters on TV shows coming, going, loving, cheating, living, dying.

And now taking a header somewhere.

Is that all there is?

On my down days, it bothers me that it bothers me.

Because there’s nothing that makes you feel older than recognizing those things where once you found depth are, and have always been, superficial.

On the up days, it pleases me that I apparently have finally come to a place where the foolish pursuits of youth are being slowly but surely supplanted with a more mature and worthwhile expenditure of whatever grains are left me in the hourglass.

The slowly but surely thing occasionally accelerated by things like Natasha Richardson taking a “harmless “ little tumble and then shuffling off the coil all within a matter of minutes.

Those “life is short” moments are annoying little buggers, aren’t they?

And trust me when I tell you that the longer you live, the more those kind of moments are going to shove you closer to that more mature and worthwhile expenditure thing and away from really caring, one way or another, which TV star is about to insert head into oven.

That said, I still find myself drawn to the sublimely superficial.

And, as a child reared by the light of the tube, curious as to who’s about to exit, stage right.

I’m kind of hoping for Elizabeth Hasselbeck.

But I know better.

Whoever it turns out to be, one question will remain, in this life, forever unanswered.
Is that all there is?

"Yes We CAN!.....You First....."

Somebody said it again this week.

And I found myself smirking in that way that has been pissing off family, friends and ex-wives for nigh on sixty years now.

It came at the end of one of those verbose answers from one self professed economy expert or another to a question asked by one self professed media watchdog.

Or another.

“The issue of executives at AIG being given millions of dollars in bonuses even though the company took billions of dollars in bailout money has to be considered in context. There should be no rush to judgment for this matter, like so many issues involving our troubled economy require careful study and thoughtful examination because …”

…wait for it…

“…these matters are very complicated.”

Every time I hear the words complicated or complex spoken on a news channel these days, I honestly expect Groucho’s duck to drop down and pay the mouthpiece a hundred bucks.

(For those of you born after, say, 1965, you’ll want to wander over to You Tube or Hulu a little later and look for old video clips of “You Bet Your Life”. That last line will be a lot funnier after you do.)

More than once, people in my sphere have offered up the opinion that I’m an over thinker.

Fair point.

Although I would offer that doing what you can with what God gave you simply comes naturally.

Ann Coulter spews venom.
Jessica Simpson shakes her ass.
Nancy Pelosi clings to control like grim death.

I over think.
Just like breathing, baby.

Here’s the thing, though.

I’m not overthinking AIG.

Because there’s nothing to overthink.

The issue truly is not, at it’s core, complicated or complex.

AIG is, simply, a symbol of the battle.

And not the battle between conservative and liberal.

Or Republican and Democrat.

Or even believers and non. (Fill in your own denominational inclination.)

It is the oldest battle in the history of humanity.

The struggle for control between our inner demons and our better angels.

(The less poetic would offer up that it boils down to “right and wrong”, but I think I said that in a much more entertaining and dramatic way, n’cest pas?)

Each one of us is faced, each day, with a dozen, nay, a hundred different choices between the virtuous and the selfish, from “should I let that guy merge over into my lane” to “should I hide the remote so we can watch Sportscenter or commit an act of giving by surfing over to HGTV?”

And each one of us is subject to doling out love to our fellow man with our right hand while we take care of number one with our left.

We’re all tempted. We all struggle.

Those who usually opt for the selfless side are banking on an E ticket to that mansion on the hill.
The rest of us are either still wandering in the desert or hoping that a Hail Mary pass in the last two minutes will get us safely over the line.

There is nothing complicated about it.

And the only thing that should be surprising to anyone about the fact that the bill that got passed that gave AIG the billions came with a loophole that assured the desert wanderers their bonus money is that anyone should be surprised.

Because the struggle between the inner demons and the better angels runs twenty-four seven in a theatre of morality near you.

And in the material world, the voice of the better angels is usually soft, loving and barely audible above the din of the ka-ching.

The voice of the inner demon is somewhere on the audio scale between Gilbert Gottfried and Rosie O’Donnell.

Congress passed the bill with a loophole because Gilbert and Rosie were in full voice.

And the AIG “execs” want the money because they cant hear anything over the din of the ka-ching.

Yes. It is selfish and greedy and even beneath contempt.

And it is almost unfathomable to accept for any of us who aren’t AIG execs.

But it’s really not all that hard to understand.

Because it’s really not all that complicated.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

"So Long, Farewell, Auwiedersehn,Goodbye..."

One picture, the sage old saying goes, is worth a thousand words.

Personally, I think it depends largely on:

A) Who’s taking the picture.
B) Who’s writing the words.

Ask anybody who’s had Mom drag out the camera at family functions and they’ll probably tell they would much prefer to be written about.

Personally, I’m a word guy.

As if you didn’t know from reading what I offer on this site ad nauseum.

And I’m a lifelong fan of those who know how to put together the most poignant and/or affecting thoughts with the fewest words necessary to do the poignant affecting.

Bob Dylan was really good at it.

“I wish that for just one time / you could stand inside my shoes
Then you’d know / what a drag it is to see you”

And ouch.

The guy who wrote the script for the movie “Gladiator” had some game, too.
“I once heard a man say that death smiles at us all…all we can do is smile back.”

Good work, dude.
Cause I actually found myself smiling the first time I heard that line.

Probably because I’ve reached a point in my life where death doesn’t seem like the hazy, abstract, way, way, way far in the distance destination that it was when I was twenty. Or thirty.

And while I’m not feeling any need to dwell or obsess over the idea (dark, brooding, Scotch German Irish manic depressive DNA notwithstanding), I do find that I wonder, from time to time, how, when and where my mortal coil shuffling will take place.

For me, best case would be the exit described by that guy in the Kenny Rogers song, “The Gambler.”

“And the best that you can hope for / is to die in your sleep”

Don Schlitz, songwriter, and another very well written line, by the way.

Oh, and just so family, friends and/or creditors don’t get the wrong idea and start wondering if they should be discreetly emailing me the names of professional mental health providers, let me share that this whole piece was inspired, not by mood, rather by some mindless web surfing (redundant?) during which I stumbled upon a fun list from one of my favorite mindless trivia collection sites, Mental Floss dot com.

And I thought it would be fun to share it with you.

Because, just between us kids, we both know that we all wonder about how this sitcom we got cast in on our birthday is going to wrap up in the final episode.

So, settle back, relax, sip a cup and enjoy these stories of how these well known people died.

And, hey, have a nice day.

1. King Adolf Frederick of Sweden ate himself to death in 1771: His last meal included lobster, caviar, cabbage, smoked herring, and Champagne, followed up by 14 servings of his favorite dessert, semla in hot milk.

2. Allan Pinkerton, founder of the Pinkerton detective agency, died from an infection incurred after he bit his tongue.

3. Jack Daniel, purveyor of fine whiskey, died from an infection sustained after kicking his safe and busting his toe.
4. Isadora Duncan, an early 20th century modern dancer, was killed by her trademark scarf while riding in a convertible car. The long scarf blew back and wrapped around a tire axel, breaking Duncan’s neck
5. Vic Morrow, lead actor from the television series Combat!, was decapitated by a helicopter blade during a stunt for The Twilight Zone: The Movie gone way bad. Two Vietnamese children also died in the accident, prompting the film industry to institute stricter child labor laws.

6. Tycho Brahe, 16th century Danish nobleman and astronomer, supposedly died of a bladder infection after holding it way, way too long during a banquet. Good story, but not true: A 1996 report showed that though Brahe did become ill after the banquet with symptoms similar to a bladder infection, he actually died of mercury poisoning. Brahe and his assistants frequently used mercury in alchemical experiments, however, how the mercury got into his system in such a concentrated dose remains a mystery.

7. Tennessee Williams, longtime alcoholic and author of some of the most enduringly bleak plays of the 20th century, choked on an eyedropper bottle cap in 1983.

8. Sherwood Anderson, author of Winesburg, Ohio, died of peritonitis – an infection of the lining of his stomach, suffered after he swallowed part of a toothpick.

9. Norman “Chubby” Chaney, one of the original Little Rascals, died as a result of a glandular disorder at the age of 21. Evidently, what made him a popular character on the show – his weight, which at one point topped 300 pounds on his 4-foot 7-inch frame – was actually contributing to his death.

10. Attila the Hun died of a nosebleed on his wedding night – he passed out drunk and drowned in his own blood,

11. Sir Francis Bacon died after trying to preserve a chicken in snow; the famous scientist contracted pneumonia after the successful experiment and died a few months later.

12. Aeschylus, Greek playwright, died after an eagle dropped a tortoise on his head. The tortoise reportedly lived.

13. Chrysippus, Greek stoic philosopher, is believed to have died of laughter after getting his donkey drunk and watching it attempt to eat figs.

14. A bug allegedly flew into Roman emperor Titus’s nose and, for the next seven years, happily ate at his brain. According to the Babylonian Talmud, it was the size of a bird when he died.

15. Keith Relf of the Yardbirds was electrocuted by his own electric guitar.
16. According to Karl Shaw’s book 5 People Who Died During Sex and 100 Other Terribly Tasteless Lists, Emperor Claudius of Rome choked on a feather he’d been using to induce vomiting during a banquet in 54 AD. Other historians say he was poisoned by his wife, Agrippina.
17. Playwright Christopher Marlowe, who was perhaps better known in his day than even contemporary Shakespeare, died in 1593 after a fatal argument in a tavern over a bill – he was stabbed in the eye.
18. King Henry I died in 1135 of food poisoning after overdosing on lampreys, a parasitic eel-like marine animal popular in British cuisine during the Middle Ages. Because he died while in France, his remains were sewn into the hide of a bull and shipped back to England for burial.

19. Bobby Leach cheated death when he made the historic (and historically stupid) trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel, the second person to do so, but he wasn’t so lucky on dry land. The stuntman slipped on an orange peel and fractured his leg – which then became infected. Despite the amputation of the gangrenous limb, Leach still died only two months later.

20. Draco, Greek lawmaker whose stringent legal code gave rise to the word “draconian,” died somewhere in the 7th century BCE, supposedly after particularly masterful speech: He suffocated under the mounds of hats and cloaks thrown upon him by admiring Greeks, as a show of appreciation.

Wacky cat that Grim Reaper.
All you can do, the man said…is smile back.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

"Uh, She Falls Somewhere Between 43 and 44, I'd Say..."

On November 4, 2008, Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States.

Actually, not actually.

Historians would offer you that he is actually the 45th President of the United States.

If you take David Rice Atchison into account.

If you’d like to take Atchison into account, here’s a link that will take you there.

I remember first reading about Atchison in a book of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not when I was a kid.

(AUTHORS NOTE: For those born after, say, 1985, the word “book” refers to a collection of paper pages on which words were printed, ideally to inform, entertain and/or enlighten. They were popular for a number of centuries prior to the advent of the Internet. Samples of these historic artifacts can be found in a museum-like structure actually created solely to store said artifacts. They’re called libraries. For more information on the words “book” and “library”, just look them up on the Internet.
Or you could actually go to the library.)

I think the case can be pretty articulately made that, technically, Atchison was president.

But, for my money, that still doesn’t make Obama the 45th.

My thinking, lately, is that he is actually the 46th.

If you take Nancy Pelosi into account.

Now, first, let’s get one thing understood.

I am not a sexist or misogynist. I don’t have issues with the idea of women in power. I have,
willingly and successfully, worked for and under women (grow up, that joke is really beneath you).

As a matter of fact, I think the fact that we still haven’t elected a female president indicates that this country still has a lot of growing up to do.

And my conscience is clear when I share with you that if Nancy Pelosi were, say, Norman Pelosi, my opinion would be the same.

Don’t care for her much.

My impression of her so far, and especially lately, is that she doesn’t have a real handle on what I personally believe to be the hallmark of someone who understands the true purpose of having power.

Using that power to make life better for as many people as humanly possible.

More and more, she seems to be of the school that the purpose of power is to get more power.

And to stand in the way of things not so much to valiantly uphold a principle as to simply make it clear that she has the power to stand in the way of things.

I imagine that Republicans dig her.

After all, she’s almost as much an obstacle to the Obama agenda as they are.

And I think it’s not only fine, it’s essential, that there be people who are willing to tell truth to power and not just rubber stamp everything a president wants to do.

From what I read, Obama likes to have those kinds of people around him.

So, my guess would be that he likes the idea of a Nancy Pelosi.
So do I.

I just don’t like the way she’s implementing the idea.

And here’s the reason why and, at last, my point.

By its nature, the position of Speaker of The House is, arguably, the second most powerful position in our system of government.

With all due respect to Biden.

Not to mention Hillary.

Here’s where it goes south…

We, the people, didn’t elect Nancy Pelosi to the second most powerful position in our system of government.

The people of California elected her to represent them in the House of Representatives and the House of Representatives elected her to the second most powerful position in our system of government.

It’s one thing to stand in the doorway and block somebody from entering because you believe it to be in their, and our, best interest.

It’s very much another thing to stand in the doorway and block somebody simply because you can.

Pelosi is, apparently, the latter.

And if her reasons for doing it were to hold fast and true to her personal vision of what is best for America, then I, and we, would, I think, be honor bound to respect that.

Provided, of course, that we had also elected her to be the person living at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

But she’s not.
And we didn’t.

David Rice Atchison may have been, by circumstance, an official President of the United States.
Nancy Pelosi ain’t.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

My Favorite After School Snack...Cold Glass Of Milk and A Big Slice Of Coulter's Food Cake.."

Nostradamus ain’t got nothin on Shakespeare.

Oh, futureboy gets all the oohs and ahhs when it comes to his documented prognostications of, what were in his time, future events.

But I’d offer you that Willie was quite the fortuneteller, as well.

For example…

(CNN) — Conservative political commentator Ann Coulter’s 15-minute address at CPAC played more like a stand-up comedy act than a political speech.

Coulter delivered line after line of jabs at President Obama, the Democratic Party and the media – each met with roaring laughter from the crowd.

The commentator – who is no stranger to controversy – first went after MSNBC, calling the hosts the “alternative prom crowd.”

Pointing to recent comparisons of Obama to Jesus and Abraham Lincoln, Coulter said the media has turned from being the people’s watchdog to the “government guard dog.”

“Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t see Lincoln text messaging with Scarlet Johansson … and I forget, how many times did Lincoln vote present?” she said, to much applause.

Coulter likened members of the media and Democrats to parents “gushing” over a newborn baby.

“Having pulled off their rather mediocre 53 percent to 46 percent victory, liberals can’t stop boasting about their new baby boy,” she said.

She said it was interesting that Obama’s “adorers” in the media compare him to Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, because, “apparently they can’t think of a Democratic president worthy of being compared to.”

“If [Obama] thinks people wanted change in 2009, wait until 2012,” she said.

Coulter has a long history of making controversial comments about politicians. Following her appearance at the 2007 CPAC, multiple companies asked to pull their ads from her Web site after she used what some observers called an anti-gay slur to describe then-Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards.

She was also at odds with Sen. John McCain during the campaign season, saying "John McCain is not only bad for Republicanism, which he definitely is — he is bad for the country."

If Ann Coulter wants to make fun of politicians, I say thee yea, Ann Coulter.

After all, being able to lampoon the government and our elected leaders without fear of being dragged not so softly into that good night is a wonderful benefit of being an American and said lampooning is a proud American tradition, from Will Rogers to Mort Sahl and beyond.

And that kind of lampooning does us all a service for, underneath it all, it keeps us aware of what those vote seeking scoundrels are up to and them aware that we are aware.

At the same time, using humor as the frame keeps us civilians intrigued long enough to pay real attention to the painting being framed.

Put simply, humorists who, without concern for their personal agendas, stick pins in the hot air filled balloons of politics are as American as Mom, apple pie and…well…humorists who stick pins in the hot air filled balloons of politics.

Here’s the thing, though.

I never really get the feeling that Ann Coulter is making fun of politicians without concern for her personal agenda.

You can’t reasonably call her the loyal opposition because I think you have to be on a specific side to oppose the other loyally.

And while she is obviously a pit bull for the conservative cause, she obviously didn’t feel the need to even feign allegiance to McCain and the Moose Lady this past year.

So if she feels empowered to rag on pretty much everybody involved in the process, regardless of platform plank or party affiliation, it seems only reasonable to conclude that the only agenda she is out there hawking is her own.

The gospel according to Ann Coulter.

Those who don’t like Ann Coulter use lots of derogatory, misogynistic terms both before and after the mention of her name.

That’s just bad taste.

She’s not the way she is because she’s female.

And throwing that dart is, ironically, certifiably UN-American.

I’ve also heard more than one Coulter basher describe her in more Biblical terms.

They say that she is the Anti-Christ.

Personally, based on her presentation to date, I’m inclined to split the tiniest of hairs here.

Literally the Anti-Christ?
Uh, no.

The devil?
Getting warmer.

No pun intended.

And as evidence of my theory, I would only offer you that she fits the job description:

Deviously and cleverly playing both ends against the middle while she pushes her personal agenda and enlists glassy eyed recruits into her own private band of followers.

Which brings us back to Nostradamus and Shakespeare.

Cool Mo NostraD could “predict” wars, famines and assassinations with the best of em.

Willie The Bard, on the other hand, seemed to have the whole Biblical / political connection nailed.

Act 2, Scene 2.

“The devil hath power to assume a pleasing shape…”

Apparently even Nostradamus didn’t see that one coming.