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29 July 2014 @ 02:28 am
I was listening to a podcast/interview recently with Dick Van Dyke where he was asked which of his movies he was most proud of. While he said he was aware when they were making ‘Mary Poppins’ that he was involved in something magical, and that ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ had launched his career, the two films he wished more people had seen were ‘The Morning After’ (1974) – a made for TV movie about alcoholism which I have always thought was the best movie ever that dealt with that issue, and ‘The Comic’ (1969) – a movie which I had never seen.  After searching the internet for a copy, I was surprised to find an HD print which I watched for the first time last Friday. Simply put, it’s a masterpiece.

‘The Comic’ deals with the turbulent life of fictional silent screen actor Billy Bright. It was apparently based loosely on the life of Buster Keaton, but also paralleled the life of other great actors of the era like Stan Laurel and Charlie Chaplin. Surprisingly, it was written and directed by Carl Reiner, the creator of ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’, but this film bears little resemblance to the lighthearted Rob Petrie. Much of the movie is perfectly matched to Van Dyke’s rubbery agility and slapstick antics during the character’s early film years, but it’s his bitter, late-in-life persona, with his horrible comb-over, dingy low-rent apartment, and unrequited love for his former leading lady, Mary Gibson (Michele Lee), that is mesmerizing to watch.

I uploaded the final moments to YouTube, but you really need to see the entire film to appreciate the poignancy of Van Dyke’s performance.


After watching ‘The Comic’, and being very impressed with Michele Lee’s performance, I decided to check out her debut film released two years earlier, ‘How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying’ (1967), which I also had not seen. I honestly was not overly impressed with this film (I guess any film that gives Rudy Vallee too prominent a role tends to lose me), but the stand out moment for me is Michele singing, “I Believe In You”, which she apparently also sang in the Broadway production in the early 60's. Leave it to a brilliant writer like composer/lyricist Frank Loesser to capture so beautifully what many men no doubt dream of;  an inspiring, vivacious woman telling a beaten man she believes in him and what he’s doing even if he does not.

14 April 2014 @ 10:44 pm

I’m pitching a new book idea.  At a high level, it’s about the CIA’s involvement in Central America beginning in 1981 in Nicaragua, when President Reagan subverted the Constitution to illegally arm the Contras (after Congress had denied funding to the pro-Somoza terrorist organization), right up to our present day covert operations under President Obama. If you thought Edward Snowden's revelations were jaw-dropping, wait until you see the dirt I've got on our government! YOWZA!

A lot of titles were bandied about, but for obvious reasons I kept coming back to “Your Arms Too Short To Box With Larry”.

Note: Unlike Snowden, I will accept money to keep my mouth shut. Let's talk!
12 March 2014 @ 04:35 pm

harlem-fire (before-after)2
05 January 2014 @ 10:28 pm
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson once said in regards to a life form from another planet coming here and communicating with us that the DNA of human beings is 99% identical to chimpanzees - and we cannot communicate with chimps.  So, would it really surprise us if a creature that can travel millions of light years to get here would likely not see a significant difference between humans and chimps? And furthermore would have no more interest in communicating with us than we have in communicating with a turkey or a caterpillar?

Case in point.

When I watch animal videos on YouTube, I’m often struck by how extraordinarily clueless some pet owners can be.

There are numerous videos online where people are abusing animals, but because they are not inflicting physical pain, just mental anguish, they cannot grasp that their behavior is cruel and abusive.

The videos below are typical of many where the description even states, “This Cat has NEVER been abused.”

Is any other animal on earth as blindingly unaware of a creature expressing distress (and thereby being ABUSED) as some humans?

If someone 5 times your size was coming towards you in a threatening manner (with an object pointed at you, no less!) and no matter how much you expressed your anguish, was clearly unconcerned – even laughing -- about your plight, would you think it's funny? Or would you consider yourself being abused?

The lack of awareness and empathy in some people is astonishing...

22 December 2013 @ 09:25 pm


In all the year-end editorials for artists we lost in 2013, I have only seen mention of the fact that we lost the last surviving member of the Andrews Sisters, Patty Andrews (February 16, 1918 – January 30, 2013), but no mention of the fact that we also lost the last original member of the Dinning Sisters, Virginia “Ginger” Dinning (March 29, 1924 – October 14, 2013).

While the Andrews Sisters are still well remembered for their extremely successful recordings of the 1940’s, the Dinning Sisters, whose popularity was in the late 1940s & early 1950s, have been largely forgotten.
Both groups were extraordinarily talented; the Andrews Sisters for their upbeat, joyous sound that kept America smiling during the dark days of World War II, and the Dinning Sisters for their other-worldly, almost hypnotic, dream-like harmonies.

There are many retro female trio acts today that carry on the harmony tradition pioneered by these ladies (along with the Boswell Sisters), but the timeless recordings by the Andrews Sisters and the Dinning Sisters have no peers. RIP, ladies.

dinning & andrews2

13 November 2013 @ 02:02 am

My response to Ross Douthat's New York Times editorial Return of the Jesus Wars that discusses Reza Aslan's "alternative view" of Jesus Christ in Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.



I have never been to a Costco. From what I gather, it’s a place where people like to buy things in bulk -- and buy things dirt cheap. Growing up, we had a Farmer’s Market we’d go to where you could buy a year’s supply of socks and a ½ dozen live pigs from the same seller. I assume that’s what Costco is like, only with more pig shit on the floor.

As someone who considers himself a connoisseur of the morbidly bizarre, my Google searches often lead me to things I never heard mentioned before – such as Costco selling caskets at “rock bottom prices”.

Several things intrigue me about this, such as folks who have the presence of mind when a loved one dies to think, “Yeah, it’s sad that little Timmy died… but where can I get a casket without being gouged by a funeral home? I’ll try Costco.”

There’s also interesting food for thought on Costco’s Funeral > Frequently Asked Questions page:

Q: Can you order a casket for preplanning purposes?

Yes, as long as the casket is being shipped to a member's home or storage facility of choice. The order will ship within the stated delivery parameters on the site. However, due to regulations and restrictions, we cannot hold on to any orders for future delivery.

Think about that. The no frills shopper who knows little Timmy is nearing death and wants to get the coffin ahead of time. He can’t have it delivered to a funeral parlor (since, unfortunately, little Timmy’s heart is still beating) so he orders it and has it delivered to the house.

            Little Timmy: (cough) what’s that large box the men are bringing in the house, daddy?

            Daddy: Nothing, nothing… Go back to sleep…

            Delivery Man: Where do you want us to put this coffin, mister?

            Little Timmy: (cough) what?... what did he say?

            Daddy: Nothing, Timmy! Go back to sleep!

My favorite part of the FAQ is this sentence at the bottom of the page that is upper-cased and in bold face:


Anyone who has ever worked in retail or public services knows that messages like this don’t just appear without a back story. They are written as the result of some incident that made it compulsory to spell out (For example, Children under 3 not allowed on this ride – Translation: Children under 3 have been thrown from this ride and decapitated – we’re not going through that shit again!)

I have to assume someone at some point buried a loved one (let’s say a young and attractive someone) who looked great going in the ground, but upon exhumation 20 years later looked horrific:

Angry Customer: Your salesman specifically told me that if I purchased the Costco Cryptkicker Sealant™ that Brianna would stay built like a BRICKHOUSE forever! NOW look at her! She looks like a SHITHOUSE!.... All that puss running out of her orifices! YUCK!! I was told there was SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE that the sealing device would PRESERVE HER REMAINS!! I WANT MY MONEY BACK NOW!!

Another great aspect of the casket page is the “Features” section: The top feature being that it has an “18 gallon” holding capacity.

Back to the father, this time on the phone, ordering the casket for little Timmy:

Daddy: The 18 gallon model seems a bit larger than I need. This is going to be for a small child. Wouldn’t 8 or 9 gallons hold him?

Salesman: Yes sir, but the 18 gallons is necessary, not so much for holding him…. Because, let’s face it, he’s not going anywhere once he’s in the ground..

Daddy: Ha-ha! True, true….

Salesman: No, the 18 gallon capacity is mostly for the foam and cushions and blankets that will be in the casket with your loved one.

Daddy: Oh, I see. That makes sense…. But if there was, say, less cushions and padding, which honestly seems kind of superfluous for a dead child, then couldn’t the gallon capacity be lower?

Salesman: Actually, there are laws prohibiting a casket from being any lower than 18 in some states?

Daddy: Really? That’s crazy! Sounds like a law some liberal hotshot Congressman crammed through to stick it to the little guy!.... No pun intended!

I also enjoyed the Customer Ratings & Reviews section where there are 14 reviews for the handy-dandy “In God’s Care” model casket. ALL give it a 5 star rating! Apparently, not one customer had an issue with the product whatsoever (which seems a bit rigged). I would have liked to have seen at least one unhappy customer give a bad rating:

* One star!     What a disappointment this was! From the minute we put little Timmy in this hunk of scrap
    metal JUNK, it started LEAKING like a wet rag! Imagine our embarrassment! We had friends at
    the funeral – some from over an hour away – who were aghast to see the liquid crud seeping
    from all four corners! Ugh! What an ugly day it turned out to be! I wouldn’t trust the “In God’s
    Care” casket to hold my PISS!!! --  AVOID THIS CASKET!!

Finally, you might think that caskets are genderless. Not at Costco! Here we have the “Mother Casket”:


Don’t know what to get mom this Mother’s Day?

Watch her eyes open wide when she sees this beauty sitting in the living room!

Anyway, just some thoughts on buying caskets at Costco and our bizarre, emotionally-detached, soulless 21st century….

17 May 2013 @ 07:54 pm

In anticipation of my upcoming jury duty assignment in Newark, New Jersey, I plan on the proceedings to go something like this..

Juror One: “Listen, Mr. Power, the other eleven jurors all agree that this kid, Julio, is GUILTY! Guilty of MURDER! Why are you insisting on being the lone holdout?!”

Me: “I just want to review the evidence again.”

Juror Two: “We’ve seen the evidence 30 fucking times!”

Juror One: “And what piece of evidence do you need to see again? The video of this kid SHOOTING the night watchman? It’s indisputable!”

Juror Eight: “It’s even in HD!”

Juror Six: “And in the video he clearly says, ‘I’m Julio Rodriguez! And I just shot you, mister night watchman!

Juror One: “On top of which, the kid has CONFESSED TO THE CRIME! He has admitted that his plan that night was to quote ‘ find and kill a night watchman ’ unquote”

Me: “I don’t know… I guess I just don’t see it that way.”

Juror One: “Don’t see it WHAT way?! For Chrissakes! Is this guy a joke?!”

Juror Three: “Look, you son of a bitch, my daughter is getting married tomorrow and I plan on BEING THERE!”

Me: “Well, you can forget about that. We still have a long, long way to go yet.”

Juror Three: “I’m going to fucking KILL YOU!”

Me: “Hmmm. I think I’m beginning to understand why you want to return such a hasty verdict... By the way, Juror Three, where were you on the night of November 3rd?”

All Jurors: “AHHHHHHHH!!!!!”

Me: “OK, I’d like to ask the bailiff if we can see the gun that was found at the crime scene.”

Juror One: “You mean the gun that has the name ‘Julio Rodriguez’ engraved in gold on it?!”

Me: “Yes. I believe that’s the one.”