1. Netflix!

    So there I was, dicking around online on my Netflix account trying to decide what to add to my queueue next.

    Netflix helps me make smart viewing choices by taking what I’ve recently watched and liked, and using that to help suggest other movies and TV shows I might also enjoy. For instance…

    I enjoyed “Smokey and the Bandit” (as did we all), and so they suggest, of course, “Smokey and the Bandit II.” See?

    Huh. I guess they didn’t. That’s odd. Well, sure, I like Bill Cosby. And he is kind of an iconic comedian like Jackie Gleason…so maybe that’s the connection. But it’s strange they’d recommend a DVD of standup after I liked a filmed comedy with a plot. I guess I thought they’d recommend one of the sequels to “Smokey and the Bandit,” or maybe “The Gumball Rally,” or “The Cannonball Run.” Or something with Gleason, Burt Reynolds or Sally Field in it. But I trust Netflix’s judgment.

    Let’s try another one. Ah, “Clue.” No doubt recommended to me because I recently watched “Murder By Death” and loved it, just loved it.

    What? Because I enjoyed “The Princess Bride?” Weird. Well, they are both comedies. Maybe they have some of the cast in common.

    Next:

    Not sure I get that one. “Terminator,” sure. But “Caddyshack?” What am I missing here?

    Let’s try it again.

    So, according to Netflix, “Lady and the Tramp” plus “The Rockford Files” equals “The Dick Van Dyke Show”…? I could almost buy this if it was just “Lady and the Tramp” because I always thought Rose Marie sounded a lot like Peggy Lee when she sang. But “The Rockford Files”?!

    Onward.

    Oh, okay, that makes a lot more sense. Netflix realizes, doesn’t it, that “Soap” is a soap opera spoof in sitcom form, while “Rockford” is just the best goddamn detective series that ever aired…? Just what kind of kooky algorithm is Netflix using to arrive at these suggestions?

    Oh come on, Netflix! That’s George C. Scott up there, not John Denver!

    Now wait a minute…! This is a documentary! Walken has nothing to do with it! He didn’t narrate it, he didn’t produce it, nothing! I looked it up!

    How the hell…?! “The Endless Summer”?  From “The Best of Chris Farley”?!

    Okay.  Okay, we’re done here.

    Posted by on August 2, 2011, 9:00 AM.

  2. RIP Amy Winehouse! Also Norway.

    I’m an enormous presence on Twitter, what with me constantly tweeting hilarious one-liners, non sequitirs, various other bon mots and insightful observations about anything and everything; re-tweeting this, hash-tagging that, trading witty barbs with other wags, one-upping them, occasionally (but rarely!) being one-upped myself; following tens of thousands of people, and being followed by – no surprise here! – many thousands more. My God, you can’t keep me away. There’s not the tiniest bit of minutia, the most seemingly insignificant detail of my day-to-day life that I would consider too run-of-the-mill, too dull, too mundane to share with the world in 140 characters or less. Hell, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, you surely being one of my aforementioned many followers.

    Aside from the personal joy Twitter has afforded me and the ways it’s enriched my life, the site has indeed been a godsend for many other lazy writers as well, especially when they need to file a story, any story, but don’t  really want to exert any effort in crafting something themselves.  Witness the flurry of articles you’ll see in any given week where the writer – or, really, the compiler – has simply culled a bunch of Tweets on a common theme.

    …Did you witness them?  Well, you should.

    Yesterday I saw no less than three such pieces –  yes, right here on the internet! – on a single theme: Celebrities reacting to the death of Amy Winehouse. Now, that’s to be expected – she was famous, she was popular, she made a song sound much more 60s-like than Zooey Deschanel. And Twitter was practically invented for celebrities, so many of which need to be center of attention every waking moment, so given a chance to issue some over-the-top, dramatic, tearful message, the stars came out in droves.

    So thank you, Kelly Osbourne, Kim Kardashian, Demi Moore, Ricky Martin, Soleil Moon Frye, Melissa Joan Hart, Ryan Seacrest, Usher, Adam Levine, LA band “Foster the People,” and those of you who I haven’t mentioned – for bravely sharing your feelings about what must have been difficult news to hear.

    And yet…I’m still left wondering if perhaps – just perhaps! – Winehouse’s death wasn’t as much of a shock as news of the murder of 77 people in Norway, which none of the above had anything to say about. (To be fair, many of the other celebs in the articles did mention the much more significant tragedy.)

    One who apparently is still unaware about Norway’s darkest day – but not about Satanists and the Monsanto Company’s genetically modified seeds – is former Roseanne sitcom star Roseanne. Judging by the number of tweets coming through her account an’ stuff, she’s got little to do all day but dick around with her smartphone an’ junk. She tweeted about Winehouse at least 18 times over a period of about 24 hours, each tweet a little batshit crazier than the last, and then finally ended her ongoing 140-character eulogy with this:

    The inclusion of a hashtag advertising her new reality show? Brilliant and tasteful self-promotion! Good to know Roseanne’s as classy as she ever was.

    And yet my favorite celebritweets were from a gal named Natasha Bedingfield who I only know of because she has a song they play at my gym all the time that doesn’t annoy me like Zooey’s. Anyway, she originally tweeted…

    But let’s give credit where credit is due. She didn’t ignore the horrific events in Oslo: Sometime later, she followed that up with this heartfelt message…

    Shouldn’t that have ended with the tag “#insincereafterthought”…?

    Posted by on July 24, 2011, 11:34 PM.

  3. Zooey Deschanel Versus the LA Times

    I’ve been under a lot of pressure lately from all of you to weigh in on the whole Zooey Deschanel / LA Times brouhaha, or, if you prefer, kerfuffle. God, how I hate both of those asinine terms – “brouhaha” and “kerfuffle” – and you have my word that I will never again use them on this website.

    Anyway, you’ve been emailing, calling, sending postcards, a few of you have even shown up at our offices unannounced (and then begged to use the bathroom) – all demanding that I pick a side in the whole kerfuffle – this brouhaha, if you will.

    Okay. I give in.  Here’s my official position:

    …Actually, first, let’s review what we know about the case:

    Actress Zooey Deschanel reportedly said, with regards to Prince Will and Princess Katie’s recent visit to some event in downtown Los Angeles, “I just don’t want them to see the worst of L.A…This is such a big deal and there are, like, parking lots filled with trash all the way here. I hope they helicopter them in past that.”

    And on July 10, in an LA Times opinion piece, opinionated opinion piece writer Patt Morrison opined, “I can’t believe Zooey Deschanel is really the snobby cow she came off sounding like Saturday evening.”

    The verdict? I have to side with Zooey on this one. I mean, first of all, it’s the LA Times for God’s sake, so it’s a no-brainer. C’mon, we all hate the LA Times, and it’s a given that you just automatically take whatever the other side is.

    Secondly, well, the fact is, Los Angeles is a toilet.  And, yes, Zooey’s right: Downtown Los Angeles is a big ol’ greasy, corn-studded Number 2 wedged in the bottom of the bowl, and if you ever manage to flush that overgrown mudpuppy down, break out the Bon Ami and the waterproof Freezy Freakies because otherwise you’re going to have brown streaks all along the white porcelain of your low-flow Kohler. Hey, I’m not saying anything that we all don’t already know and agree on. However I will concede that I should have ended the toilet metaphor right after “Number 2.” It doesn’t really make any sense after that, though it sure was fun to read, right?

    But I’m not letting Zooey off that easy. Because I have to listen to her sing this song every day at my gym:

    They pipe music throughout the gym, but only in a coupla rooms do they have monitors, so I’ve been hearing her caterwaul for three months before I was finally in an area where I saw the actual video, and I was stunned – because like you, without seeing the video, I presumed this was some singing nobody wearing Birkenstocks and sporting unshaved armpits if you know what I mean. But then I saw the video. “Oh, okay, it’s Zooey Deschanel. Well…good for her…I guess.” But it’s still annoying. You know the most annoying part?

    “And you can worrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrk…”  Her extending the single-syllable word “work” just goes through me, and believe me, it’s about ten times worse on the cheap, tinny speakers at the gym than it is here. No other singer in the history of singing would take the word “work” and sing it “worrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrk.” In fact it’s more like “worrrrrrrr-urrrrrk.” I hate it. I hate it even more than you do, and I know you hate it a lot.

    And the other thing is the comments below the video. Everyone is going on about how amazing it is that Zooey has recreated the sound of the 60s with this song.

    Newsflash, folks: She hasn’t. But you think she has because of the kitschy extended intro to the video, the various dance scenes, the 3-Zooey girl-group back-up singers, and all the vintage set pieces in the admittedly extremely smart-looking video.

    But the sound isn’t all that 60s. If you want the quintessential 60s-sounding modern song, look no further than Amy Winehouse and “Rehab.”

    Now that’s not to say that Zooey isn’t absolutely adorable in this and everything she does, because you know, I know, Craig Ferguson knows, we all know, she is. She’s absolutely adorable. Christ almighty, you look up “adorable” in the dictionary and there’s Zooey looking adorable, wearing something adorable, doing something even more adorable. No wonder Josh Deschanel married her. She’s adorable.

    Great, now that damn song is stuck in my head.

    Posted by on July 15, 2011, 9:31 AM.

  4. Original “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” Concept Art Discovered!

    WELL, here’s something that’s sure to be of interest to you, because why else are you reading this?

    Everyone’s favorite 161, 210, 192, 154, and/or 182 minute comedy from 1963, “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” was originally called something else entirely! And also had different movie poster art! Or concept art or something. Sure, why not?

    And, of course, we’re all familiar with Jack Davis’ iconic movie poster art from the film. Can we get a shot of that, please? The poster from the film…? Hello…! The poster from the film, please…?

    Okay, obviously I’m going to have to go and snag it off someone else’s website. Excuse me a moment.

    …And I’m back. Here we go:

    There it is; we all remember that, right? Ol’ Jack managed to cram everyone from the film – well, save for Jackie Gleason, Lucille Ball, Abbott and Costello and the Ritz Brothers – into that mob shot there. Unfortunately, because of this oversight – not his fault, either – apparently when he got the assignment, the fax cut off on the third page of the list of the cast, so he didn’t even know they were supposed to be included – because of this mishap, let’s call it, it changed the film entirely.

    At the time, movie poster paper was more expensive than film stock (remember, this was 1963!) and it was deemed too costly to redraw the poster with the missing cast (Adobe Photoshop still three years away!), so it was decided to simply cut Lucy, Jackie, Bud, Lou, and whatever the first names of the Ritz Brothers are – I’m not bothering with Wikipedia, it’s quarter to two in the morning – it was decided to cut their scenes from the film. And burn the negatives, so no record of them ever having been in the film exists. Also, swear the rest of the cast to secrecy under penalty of being forced to play a telephone repairman in an increasingly lousy 1970s sitcom starring a woman about whom my grandmother used to complain “Who the hell told Linda Lavin she could sing?”

    But someone talked, thank you, Marvin, and I have it under good authority that their scenes comprised the funniest additional two hours, fifty-six minutes in the entire film that you’ll never have to sit through at some artsy movie theater in Santa Monica with an audience comprised of a bunch of people on the very fringes of the entertainment industry who all seem to know each other. …Wait, wait…where the hell was I going with this?

    Oh, yeah, the original concept art.  Or movie poster or something. Anyway, so recently, I was going through the personal papers Frank Capra left to the Los Angeles Valley College’s film archives (essentially one slightly crushed banker’s box) for some vague project I told them I’m working on, and managed to sneak out a bunch of stuff to list on eBay (Shhh! But be sure to bid!).

    Anyway, this was stuck to the back of a beefcake shot of Frank “Dr. Research” Baxter from the Bell Laboratory Science Series film “Our Mr. Sun.” I’m guessing it was misfiled, since it was Stanley Kramer who directed “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” though Capra also has that funny “K” sound at the beginning of his last name so that’s probably how it happened.

    Okay, okay, I’m getting to the artwork! Keep your shirt on! Jesus!

    Here it is:

    As you can see, originally, the film was originally going to be titled the decidedly more sedate “It’s a Strange World” and feature a much smaller – if not disparate – cast, if you don’t count the elephant. Wait, wait, can a “cast,” singular, be “disparate”? Okay, let’s say a disparate cast of characters. Does that work?

    Regardless, judging by the artwork (Not Jack Davis, surprisingly; eagle-eyed MAD fans will recognize it as Don Martin’s work), it would have been quite a different film indeed. The Chinaman on stilts, though…? That’s something I think we can all agree that the final version would have benefited from.

    Questions for Discussion:

    1) How many people have I pissed off with this one?

    2) Who might have been a better obscure comedy team to have included rather than the Ritz Brothers?

    3) Oh, now who have I offended by implying the Ritz Brothers are “obscure”? Okay, yeah, I remember you from that screening in Santa Monica. You made sure everyone around you heard you say each line before the characters on screen did.  Lovely.

    4) Can you find at least two people in the concept art/recently discovered movie poster who also appeared as extras on “Jonny Quest”? (No fair checking IMDb!)

    5) Yes, I’m aware that Lou Costello was dead for four years by 1963. Get off my ass. Would it have been any funnier had I written “Bud Abbott & Stan Irwin”? Oh my God, you get that, don’t you?

    Posted by on June 14, 2011, 9:00 AM.

  5. Dear God in Heaven, That’s Dick Van Dyke!

    HERE’S something disturbing.

    As regular readers to this blog know, my beloved Nana Parsnips is something of a hoarder. It’s my secret shame. Well, it’s not really much of a secret now is it? Especially since I’ve told you.  And we all know how well you can keep a secret. Remember the time you bumped into me at Smart & Final and I couldn’t think fast on my feet so I just told you why I was buying all that cranberry juice? I guess I just didn’t expect you to post it on Facebook forty minutes later. But that’s all water under the bridge.

    Anyway, no, the fact that she’s a hoarder isn’t disturbing – on the contrary! We’ve all seen hoarders on TV and I know I speak for you all when I say, “Well, wouldn’t it be great if someone in my family was saddled with some chronic emotional problem or mental illness that outwardly manifested itself in classic hoarding behavior to the point that I could save $89 a month by getting rid of that stupid storage unit and just move all my excess crap into her living room, on account of, what the hell, it’s not like she’s going to notice the difference?”

    Indeed, I speak for all of you when I say that. But in my case, I’m living the dream.

    So I’m there last week, and was looking for a little something to read for later that morning when I had to sit in the car waiting for another never-ending appointment with her damn nephrologist, sure, and decided on an issue of “Good Housekeeping.” And yes, I made sure to point out the irony there, which of course made her cry. But what the hell, who among you could resist zinging her with that one? That’s right – none of you! Awright then.

    But I wanted a clean issue, so I had to dig down to the 1978 stratum to get one not covered with cat fæces or mummified cats, for that matter. Or mummified cat fæces, for that matter.

    Man, that æ dealie sure makes fæces look real elegant, huh? That’s some high-class fæces there. Dignified. In a word, yes!, dignified. Nothing makes plain, run-of-the-mill, garden variety feces look sophisticated like the ol’ æ!

    Where was I?

    Anyway, yes, so there I am digging through the mummified cat fæces and I uncover a nice clean thirty-three year old copy of “Good Housekeeping.” A delightful and fresh-faced Debbie Boone graced the cover.

    So I’m flipping through, and I see this:

    And it doesn’t register at first, but then, with mounting horror I realize,

    Dear God in Heaven, that’s Dick Van Dyke!

    I’m serious! No, that’s not a woman! Look closer, man! That’s Dick Van Dyke!

    Look!   Look!

    He looks like your aunt! He looks like my aunt! I mean, not any specific aunt of mine, God forbid; he just looks like someone’s aunt! He looks like someone’s aunt in the 1970s!

    This is the sophicated, urbane Rob Petrie we’re talking about here! What happened to the poor man in the twelve years since “The Dick Van Dyke Show” went off the air (not to mention the four years since “The New Dick Van Dyke Show” went off the air) that turned him into this? He’s got a lady’s hairdo! He’s wearing a blouse! That’s no Hawaiian shirt, it’s a g_dd_mn blouse, and you know it!   It’s a blouse!

    And that’s not the worst of it.

    This is:

    What the hell is that?

    Why is Dick Van Dyke in drag for Kodak instant cameras? I mean, he’s not merely camping it up in that photo, he’s become a woman! He’s wearing tangerine slacks! And the blouse! And  don’t forget the hairdo – the lady’s hairdo!

    Dick kind of redeems himself in the last picture in the ad; he looks more like himself in that one, the Dick Van Dyke we all know and love, but I’m not bothering with a closeup of that image here. (Scroll up if you must.) It might take away from the fact that in the other pictures, he looks just like a woman!

    And yet, here he is in a toy commercial which incidentally seems strangely aimed at parents rather than their children (“Chutes Away is so much fun your kids may never stop playing it.”), where he’s basically the same likably goofy Oh, Rob!-type with more gray in his hair. Oddly, both the commercial and the  print ad are from 1978. At least I think they are. You people don’t pay me enough to hire someone to actually research all this stuff. But according to some vintage game website, the toy’s from 1978, so it follows that the commercial’s from the same year. Probably.

    If you take anything away from all of this, let it be how to use the æ symbol and make your fæces shine. And I forget how I did it, which mystical combination of pressed keys makes it appear as though by magic; I’ve just been pasting it in there since the first one I used. You might want to make a few copies for yourself and take them with you.

    Fæces. Free from me to you.  Chutes away!

    Posted by on April 7, 2011, 1:00 AM.

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