Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Next, On A Very Stupid Oprah

Many legal analysts are advising Herman Rosenblat [above] to use an insanity defense if brought up on fraud charges for lying about his Holocaust love story, based on the fact that, "he's had to have [his wife's] voice rattling around in his head for more than 50 years."

I have to confess I am loving this story about the scam played by two old screwballs regarding how they 'met' while one of them was in a concentration camp during World War II. The reason I'm loving it is because it points out in glaring clarity just how stupid most people in the media really are. We subscribe to this myth that the people we see on TV or read in the newspapers [if there are any of you left out there who do so] are somehow brilliant, knowledgeable and credible. That they are diligent about checking their facts. But it is, indeed, a myth. Most reporters are lazy, shiftless, ne'er do-wells who - if not for spellcheck -- couldn't be hired to write a shopping list let alone a news story.

Well, with that off my chest, onto the story. Oprah Winfrey once dubbed it the "greatest love story" she had ever heard: a boy held at a Nazi concentration camp during World War II and a girl on the outside who tossed him apples to keep him alive. They eventually married and grew old together. Can't you just hear the violins? Can't you just hear Oprah's audience weeping, and an entire nation of house fraus joining in on the melancholy chorus? And that sanctimonious bag of wind Oprah herself looking with those big cow eyes into the camera saying, "we'll be right back." Herman and Roma Rosenblat first appeared on Winfrey's gabfest more than 10 years ago and she has repeatedly milked the story for tears. Why, just last month, Winfrey told her Nation that it was, "the single greatest love story in 22 years of doing this show."

This makes for a 'very special Oprah', if not for the inconvenient fact that the Rosenblats were full of shit. And, to be fair to that bloated waste of [much too much] space, Oprah was hardly the only one who got scammed. These two lunatics - the Rosenblats, not Oprah who only looks like two people - told this story repeatedly over the years and got a book deal, a movie deal and worldwide coverage in the media. These two maniacs even got into children's literature with Angel Girl, based on their story.

Now, I'm reading 'authorities' on anti-Semitism are fearful that the fact that this story was fake might give credence to those who deny the Holocaust occurred. I have a news flash for these 'experts': I doubt a lot of Holocaust deniers are regular Oprah-watchers.

As in stories like this in the past, there is an act of contrition on the part of the guilty. In this case, Herman Rosenblat issued a statement through his literary agent - yes, this bozo has (or had) a literary agent, meanwhile I'm writing this for an audience of 3: "Why did I do that and write the story with the girl and the apple? Because I wanted to bring happiness to people, to remind them not to hate, but to love and tolerate all people. I brought good feelings to a lot of people, and I brought hope to many. My motivation was to make good in this world. In my dreams, Roma will always throw me an apple, but I now know it is only a dream." As you can see, Mr. Rosenblat is still full of shit.

Herman Rosenblat really was in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II -- a subcamp of Buchenwald -- and he really has been married to Roma for decades - meaning he's been incarcerated for more than 60 years.

Berkley Books immediately canceled publication of Rosenblat's memoir, Angel at the Fence, which was set to be released in February, although the movie version will go forward - viewers of any of Oliver Stone's movies will not be surprised, seeing as how Hollywood's grasp of historical accuracy is about as dead-on as Oprah's sense of smell.

copyright 2008 by EBBP Redux. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than EBBP Redux or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

NASA Reports on the Columbia

The crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia, January, 2003.

I remember well the Space Shuttle Columbia crash on February 1, 2003 - as no doubt we all do. I was home alone with the kids, who were then just over a year old. I got five minutes without Barney and flipped on the TV to see what adults were doing and saw it on CNN. It is a strange feeling to be witnessing something like that and to have only two one-year olds to converse with about it. I just remember thinking, "God, this is weird not being able to talk about this with anyone."

I bring the Columbia disaster up because NASA came out with a report on Tuesday outlining in pretty close detail what the last minutes of the lives of the crew were like. As the ship careened out of control, alarms sounded in the cabin. The pilot, William McCool, pushed several buttons trying to right the ship as it tumbled out of control. Neither he - nor any of them - knew it was useless. Before the Columbia crash, standard NASA procedures directed the crew to spend more time preparing the shuttle than preparing themselves for their return to the atmosphere. A few of the astronauts weren't wearing their bulky protective gloves and still had their helmet visors open. A few weren't fully strapped in. One of them was barely seated. Within seconds, the darkened cabin lost pressure and the astronauts blacked out. If that loss of pressure didn't kill them immediately, the violent gyrations that knocked their unconscious bodies all around the ship surely did.

The report lists events that were each potentially lethal to the crew: loss of cabin pressure just before or as the cabin broke up; crew members, unconscious or already dead, crashing into objects in the module; exposure to a near vacuum at 100,000 feet; and crashing to the ground.

Among the conclusions in the report was a warning that astronauts need to better prepare themselves for landings. It is important to note that even had the astronauts been securely strapped in, wearing pressurized suits and still conscious, in the specific case of the Columbia and the damage to the shuttle, they were doomed regardless. Their fate was sealed, actually, on takeoff: once the ship was damaged upon leaving the atmosphere, there was no way to get them back safely without the ship disintegrating upon reentry.

For future crises, however, better preparation might keep astronauts conscious longer, allowing them more time to try to correct a situation before catastrophe.

As it was, with the little time the crew did have on the Columbia, NASA's new report indicates that they made a valiant effort to identify the problem - and no doubt it was best that they had no idea that there was nothing they could do. "It was a very disorienting motion going on," Wayne Hale, NASA's deputy associate administrator, said Tuesday. "There were a number of alarms going off simultaneously. The crew was trying very hard to regain control. We're talking about a brief time in a crisis situation."

Killed in the Columbia crash along with pilot McCool, 41, were commander Rick Husband, 45; payload commander Michael Anderson, 43; David Brown, 46; Kalpana Chawla, 41; Laurel Clark, 41, and Israel's first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, 48.

copyright 2008 by EBBP Redux. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than EBBP Redux or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Monday, December 29, 2008

'Twas A Very [Weird] Year

Most columnists, bloggists [word?] spend the last few days of the year looking back on said year and reminiscing about it. So, I can reminisce with the best of them. The top issue of 2008 is a toss-up between the economy and the election of Barack Obama. Since without the economy I'm not sure there'd be a President-elect Obama, I'm going to go with 'economy' as being the single biggest news event of the year.

First, a disclaimer: like everyone else, I've no idea what happened. I do know that part of the problem was an inflated real estate market, an incestuous relationship between the worlds of banking and investments, and something having to do with derivatives. I'm a pretty well-read guy, and I've tried hard, but I still can't get my arms around this derivatives thing and what it is. The best I can come up with is it's like a farmer who agrees to sell chicken shit next spring, at a price set today. If the price of chicken shit goes up, the farmer is screwed because he's stuck selling it at the price he set before the rise. If the price of chicken shit goes down, however, the farmer is rolling in it because he's selling at the price he set before the decline. Essentially, then, "it's the chicken shit economy, stupid."

Now that we've got the biggest story out of the way, here's a look back on 2008....sort of:

1 President Bush rings in the new year by announcing he will not run for another term of office. The White House shortly thereafter issues a release that the "President was joking and, of course, knows he is limited by the 22nd Amendment to two consecutive terms." This leads Vice President Cheney, however, to ask a reporter "the 22nd Amendment of what?" When told "the Constitution," Cheney tells the reporter go fuck himself.
23 Senator Barack Obama [D, Ill.] refuses to comment on polls showing him with a lead over fellow candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton [D, NY] in the primaries, although he admits on Oprah that it falls into the category of "things that make you go hmmmm."
3 Republican presidential candidate Gov. Mike Huckabee [AR] tells Late Night with David Letterman, "this country will never elect a black president. Remember, you heard it here first." Huckabee goes on to say, "the Phillies will never win the World Series, O.J. Simpson will never go to jail, and Mumbai is the safest vacation spot in India." Shortly thereafter, he withdraws from the campaign.
29 In an effort to avoid confusing their newborns, 345,030 pregnant mothers refuse to deliver their children. "Just when in the hell do I celebrate the kid's first birthday?!" demanded Mrs. Emmajean Smythe, of Keokuk, Iowa.
12 New York Governor Elliot Spitzer [D] falls in bed with a prostitute named Bubbles and tries to claim to his wife, "Look, she fell through the ceiling above and right into my bed." Noting that Dennis Rodman tried the same line once with Carmen Elektra, the New York media are skeptical of the claim, although Mrs. Spitzer says she loves her husband, although she does look like she's been hit by a two-by-four. Spitzer resigns later that day, claiming he needs to time "to fix the ceiling."
1 Another baseball season begins, with Yankees' general partner Hank Steinbrenner predicting a championship for his team in October. "Remember, you heard it here first," he boasts. When asked if the Yankees might not make the playoffs, Steinbrenner retorts, "You've got a better chance of seeing Alex Rodriguez leave his wife for Madonna and then converting to kabala."
20 Sen. Edward M. Kennedy [D, Mass] is diagnosed with brain cancer. As millions of well-wishers send up prayers and thoughts and wonder how hard it will be for the country when Kennedy goes, the family of Mary Jo Kopeckne offers to help the country learn how to cope when a loved one is gone.
16 California legalizes gay marriage.
17 The California Bar asks for help from other western states in handling the suddenly large volume of gay divorces.
4 Senators Obama and John McCain [R, AZ] - the presumptive Democratic and Republican presidential nominees - celebrate the nation's birthday by signing a document that says, in part, they agree, "to name only the most responsible, well-qualified, trustworthy and capable" person to serve as their vice president.
5 McCain confides to Letterman, "I had my fingers crossed when I signed it."
23 Obama names Delaware Sen. Joe Biden [D] to serve as his vice president. "I think Delaware deserves a break from him," Obama jokes.
29 Not to be outdone, McCain matches Obama's selection of a senior U.S. senator with over 30 years experience in major foreign and domestic policy issues by nominating Alaska Governor Sarah Palin [R]. "I believe in the [George] Costanza theory," McCain tells Letterman that night. "My first instinct was to choose someone capable, so I did the exact opposite and hope it works out for the best. Can't hurt: it's not like I'm going to win!"
9 In the first of three debates, Obama and McCain spend 45 minutes arguing over whether moderatator Jim Lehrer should be addressed as "Jim", "Mr. Lehrer" or "Jimbo".
23 In preparing for debates next month, Sarah Palin sprains her brain trying to pronounce Biden's name. "She spent so much time working out 'Mahmouhd Ahmenajad' that she just fainted," said a McCain source.
9 In their first and only debate, Biden and Palin both agree that, "[Biden] is more qualified than any of them [McCain, Palin or Obama] to be president." Biden later tells The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, "Jesus Christ, I was fucking kidding - what the hell's wrong with you people?" The Obama campaign later issues a statement that Biden, "didn't know anyone still watched The Tonight Show," and apologized for his language.
27 Sen. Ted Stevens [R, AK] is finally convicted of something. While the federal government tried him on charges of bribery, extortion and other crimes, his conviction this time is for continuing to wear those ridiculous ties. While sentencing is delayed until after the election, prosecutors are calling for the death penalty.
4 Barack Obama is elected the 44th President of the United States. "Better him than me," McCain tells Letterman that night, eschewing an address to his supporters for the more informal give-and-take with the talk show host. Later, CBS announces that McCain will replace Paul Shafer and lead the Letterman band beginning January 5th.
5 Murderer O.J. Simpson is sent to jail. While trying to state that Simpson's murder of his ex-wife and another man in 1994 played no role in the conviction, prosecutors break out laughing. "Sorry, let me try that again," said one. O.J. promises - if the judge will release him - "I will find the real guys who did this." The judge adds another 20 years for the outburst.
9 Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich [D], tired of all of the publicity President-elect Obama has been receiving, succeeds in his attempt to steal the limelight - and a few other things - as he is indicted on numerous charges. Citing the conviction in the Ted Stevens case, however, prosecutors throw in a charge of "hideous hair", "just in case we can't get [Blagojevich] on the real stuff," jokes a prosecutor.
So, with a few days left, hopefully there will be no other major stories this year to ruin this wonderful timeline. Happy New Year.

copyright 2008 by EBBP Redux. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than EBBP Redux or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Parson Brown, Farmer Gray and Celine Dion

I love Christmas as much as the next guy - well, unless that guy is in Manheim Steamroller, I guess. Don't love it as much as I used to, granted. One of the reasons I still do like it is Christmas music. I love Christmas music, but not all songs are created equal. I believe that any Christmas song written or recorded after 1970 [when John and Yoko's Happy X-Mas (War is Over) was released; the single greatest Christmas song ever written] has to pass a real strict test:

1)Is it by Celine Dion, Michael Buble, Josh Groban, or anyone else Oprah tells me I'm supposed to like?
2) Is it peppy and do I get excited when I hear it?
3) Is it Elvis?
4) Did the singer add lyrics to what was a perfectly wonderful song, thus 'suckifying' it?

By number 1, that eliminates about 1,000 songs. The fact that Yoko Ono let Celine Dion listen to Happy X-Mas - let alone record it - is a travesty much more serious than her alleged breaking up of the Beatles. No one - and I repeat no one - can fuck up a perfectly classic song like the three artists mentioned in number 1. They can make even the most cheerful of Christmas songs make you want to crucify Christ yourself.

Elvis? Well, anything Elvis does is classic, which goes without saying. Elvis could have recorded the Twelve Days of Christmas hopped up on Percodan and Jim Beam and it'd be a classic [actually, now that I think about it, I think he did that in 1974]. It's not Christmas until Elvis says it's Christmas.

Looking at those four criteria, there are a very few songs in the last 40 years to make the grade. Here are a few of them:

1) Wonderful Christmastime - it's McCartney, for God's sake. 'Nuff said.
2) Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth - this Bing Crosby/David Bowie duet is my all-time favorite. I believe the story is that Bowie wrote the lyrics of Peace on Earth either while they were taping or shortly before they were taping Bing's 1977 Christmas special, in September, 1977. Crosby loved it and the two are wonderful on it - you just have to get used to Bing and Bowie being in the same century, let alone the same room, together. It's also one of my favorites because it's Bing's last recording. He died 10 days after it was made.
3) Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You - Billy Squier didn't do much, but this one's fantastic and never gets played. Squier's right knee had more singing ability that any of the 'artists' in category 1[above] put together.
4) Step Into Christmas - it's Elton, for God's sake. 'Nuff said, again.
5) All I Want For Christmas Is You - yes she's crazy, her weight fluctuates more than Oprah's and I can't stand 99% of what she does, but this Mariah Carey original is just simply a classic, and was from the moment it was released.

I'm sure there are others, but those are the ones I can think of. But, even as much as I love classic Christmas songs, having listened to them pretty much nonstop for the last four weeks, I've realized that I never really thought about some of the lyrics. Take Do You Hear What I Hear? Take a listen:

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
"Do you know what I know?
In your palace warm, mighty king,
Do you know what I know?
A Child, a Child, shivers in the cold;
Let us bring him silver and gold,
Let us bring him silver and gold."

So, they find this kid freezing and they bring him precious metals?!?! That's a good way to kill an infant, pal. Try a blanket next time.

Or, try Winter Wonderland:

In the meadow we can build a snowman,
Then pretend that he is Parson Brown
He'll say: Are you married?
We'll say: No man,
But you can do the job
When you're in town.

The obvious question here is: who the hell is Parson Brown? If this were California, he'd be a 450-pound bearded transvestite who is violating Proposition 8 by marrying gay couples in the winter.

Another favorite is Sleigh Ride. Here, we hear:

There's a birthday party at the home of Farmer Gray,
It'll be the perfect ending of the perfect day.
We'll be singing the songs we love to sing without a single stop
At the fireplace where we'll watch the chestnuts pop, pop, pop, pop

First of all, singing the songs without a single stop? What if I have to pee? Secondly, is Farmer Gray supposed to be Jesus? It's apparently Gray's birthday and it seems a bit symbolic that he'd share the same birthday with Christ, right? Also, most farmers I know would not be too thrilled if a couple dozen strangers came barging into the house on Christmas Day. In fact, that's probably a good way to get yourself shot.

So, with that, I wish you all a Merry Christmas. Or, as a guy I used to work with used to say, "Merry fucking Christmas." He'd normally say this on his way to church.

copyright 2008 by EBBP Redux. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than EBBP Redux or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Book Review: John Lennon By Philip Norman

For most of my life - at least the last 28 years of it - I've been fascinated by the life of John Lennon. His words, music, ups, downs, genius as well as destructive behavior make him one of the most fascinating figures of the 20th century.

Norman's book is fabulous, so I'll get that out quick and up front. Norman criticizes earlier Lennon biographer Ray Coleman for not bringing Lennon 'to life' in his early 1980s work, Lennon.

Well, Norman certainly does bring Lennon to life. Here we see all aspects - good and bad - of John Lennon, from small child to that warm December evening in 1980 when it all ended

Yoko Ono agreed to interviews over a three-year period. While she did not want this to be an official biography, she did want to see the finished manuscript before publication. Unfortunately, she was not pleased, telling Norman that he was "mean to John". I agree with Norman's response that he certainly didn't feel he'd been mean to John and join with his hope that Ono will eventually come to understand what Norman was trying to achieve.

Even more than Ono - and a fascinating interview with Sean Lennon that appears in the Afterward - are the dozens of interviews Norman did with the Lennon cousins, aunts, his step-mother Pauline and countless other 'little people' in Lennon's life that have never before been interviewed. Through one cousin, Norman was given access to all of John's Aunt Mimi's correspondence, which shed a fascinating light on the woman who played such a strong role in his life that right up until the end - the day he died - he religiously called her twice a week and wrote her countless letters about his life in America, even though he never did manage to get back to England to see her after his departure in 1971

There are countless examples in this book of funny stories that have never before been revealed about Lennon. For example, during a jaunt down Cold Spring Harbor in 1979, as his boat passed the home of Billy Joel, Lennon called out to him, "I've got all of your records!" [John loved "Just the Way You Are"]. In his conversations with Mimi, he'd always begin with, "It's 'Himself'," as a greeting. In the late '70s a promoter offered The Beatles $50 million to reunite for three concerts; while Lennon had been an obstacle to such a reunion in the past, when Neil Aspinall called John at the Dakota to tell him about the offer, he was shocked that John agreed, "Neil, I'd stand in the corner on my head for a year for $50 million!"

There is also a tinge of sadness throughout the book, as we all know how it's going to turn out. Despite that knowledge, however, I still found myself becoming incredibly sad as I read the final pages - hoping for what, I don't know. Hoping he wouldn't die? That's how vivid a portrait of Lennon Norman has drawn that you're actually rooting for him until the very end. The last months of his life were a whirlwind after nearly five years out of the spotlight. The circle of life is here as well: on the day he died, in preparation for a second photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz, John had his hair shorn into a 'teddy-boy' 1950s style: at death, he looked not unlike the young tough Beatle from Hamburg.

Norman also asks Ono the question that has puzzled me all of these years: with all of their faith in numerology, astrology, tarot, etc, didn't Yoko receive some signs that John was in danger? For the first time, here, she reveals that - indeed - their on-staff astrologer [that's right, they had an astrologer on retainer, right along with their lawyer and their accountant] did tell Ono shortly before John's death that, "I see a woman with long black hair - she must be your sister. She is crying and she is holding a child. It must be your sister." Ono remembers telling the woman, "I have a sister - but she doesn't have a child." For some reason, Ono never once thought the vision might be her - even though as early as 1968 she had a premonition that if she stayed with Lennon she would be victim of some great tragedy

Finally, here Ono for the first time says that she and John actually had a run-in with Mark David Chapman on December 7th - the day before he murdered John. Chapman approached the two of them quite aggressively, and began taking photos of them. Angry, Lennon began to chase after Chapman to grab the camera. "Don't, John, leave it," Ono remembers saying. "If they get me," Lennon prophetically told her that day, "it'll be a fan."

The famous photo of Lennon signing an autograph for Chapman hours before the murder might have been quite a different photo: Chapman had intended on killing Lennon then and there. Unlike the day before, however, John was so nice to Chapman that the would-be killer lost his nerve and kept his gun inside his jacket. Ono has no recollection of that encounter on the 8th, nor does she have any reason to believe that Lennon knew that the man he was granting an autograph was the same man he'd chased the day before.

In conclusion - and I know this is a long review, but the book is 800+ pages! - this is a must-read, regardless of how much you think you know about John Lennon. It will make you miss him even more.

copyright 2008 by EBBP Redux. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than EBBP Redux or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Photo

Firefighter Richard Scheidt rushes out of the burning school with John Jajkowski, 10, in his arms. The boy was among the students who died in a December 1, 1958, blaze at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic school in Chicago. "I tried to put myself in the place of the parents of the children I was carrying out," Scheidt later told a reporter for the now-defunct Chicago American. "I knew many of them were down in the street below the second-floor classroom I was working in. I wondered how anyone could tell them that their children did not escape."

I'm about as sentimental as a turtle. Generally, when I see a sad-sack story in the newspaper the first thing I look for is the exit. My feeling is I've got enough problems running through my head, I don't need to add to them. Often, Mrs. EB will start talking to me about some recent tragedy that everybody and his mother is talking about and I'll give her that look I have that tells her: a) I've no idea what you're talking about; b) I don't want to know what you're talking about; and c) yet, I know you're going to tell me anyway. This is a little dance we've perfected, as only two people manacled together for nearly 20 years can do.

So, I'm not quite sure how I got sucked into the story of the 1958 fire at a Chicago Catholic school that killed 95 - 92 of them children. I mean, I know how I saw it, I was perusing the morning papers as I'm wont to do. It was the photo, I think, which is why I've included it above. Something about it just hit me. At first, I assumed the child had survived - why else would there be a photo of it? Unfortunately, the child is already dead. The photo was taken by a reporter for the now-defunct Chicago American named Steve Lasker, who happened to be driving to work that day. Over his scanner he heard, "...they're jumping out windows!". At that moment, a firetruck raced alongside of him. Lasker immediately took off after it and came to Our Lady of the Angels School which was engulfed in flames and smoke. Taking his camera, Lasker shot some of the most chilling photos ever captured - perhaps none were more shocking until those that surfaced after 9/11. Tears streamed down Lasker's face as he shot the above photo and dozens like it. In fact, only a few were used. The remainder were kept hidden by Lasker for more than 20 years before he would look at them and share them with others.

The details of the fire are horrid, obviously. In 1958 Chicago - and everywhere else, I would guess - buildings did not generally have sprinkler systems. In fact, no public or private school in Chicago did. Exits were not well labeled, there were no fire drills and there was not 'emergency lighting' so that when the fire knocked out power, stairwells turned dark. Three nuns sacrificed their own lives to try to save their students, 92 of whom also died. Emergency rooms became morgues, Chicago police forcibly kept screaming and frantic parents from rushing the burning building.

One of the most harrowing and heart-wrenching stories is that of the Stachura family. While father Max Stachura looked on in horror, his 9-year old son stood at a window, smoke pouring out. Max was begging his son to jump, where Max would catch him. By the time he was done, Max Stachura had caught and saved 12 such jumpers, children who went on to live lives full of joy, sorrow, excitement, etc. His son Mark was not one of those 12 that Max was able to save. Instead, Mark was holding on to a small statue that he kept showing his father. Shortly thereafter, other children frantic to escape pushed Mark out of the way and back toward the flames. He was later identified only by a crumpled homework assignment found in his pants pocket. The statue, the Stachura family later learned, was a figure of the baby Jesus that was given to the winner of the class' daily quiz question. His parents later surmised that Mark was so proud of the prize that he wanted to make sure his father down below saw it. A nun later gave the Stachura family a replica of the statue which his mother, Mary Stachura, 85, still has, tucked away with her other mementos. Mary now lives in a retirement home. She has a photo of Mark by her bedside, and she kept the shirt and tie he is wearing in the photo. She's asked her surviving children to make sure she is buried with them so that "my little boy will always be with me." Max Stachura died of a heart attack at the age of 52. Mary believes he never recovered from the trauma of watching his son die.

This is but one of the 95 stories surrounding the individuals who perished in the fire and all of those subsequently effected. For one thing, the fire accelerated the flight of middle class families from Chicago's West Side. What had been a growing parish was decimated and slowly virtually disappeared. While no cause was ever determined, many in the community blamed the Church and the city, claiming that those two entities indeed knew the true cause but -- because it would incriminate both the Church and the city -- each agreed to cover up the evidence. In the neighborhood today, few if anyone knows the tragedy even occurred, let alone lived there 50 years later to remember it.

In the aftermath of the fire, schools around the country examined their own fire safety - indeed, the term 'fire safety' was created as a byproduct of the tragedy. Over the next ten years, sprinklers, fire drills and escape plans became the norm. About 1,100 students survived the fire - perhaps a miracle considering the rapid advance of the conflagration. A few would go on to die in Vietnam. Many more would live lives not unlike the millions of their peers from that era. None, however, was unchanged by the events. The reports of divorce among the parents of the 1,200 or so students who attended the school were drastically higher than the norm. One survivor actually went on to become a decorated Chicago firefighter, yet spent over 25 years on the force before ever sharing with any of his colleagues his harrowing escape from the burning building in 1958.

The 50th anniversary of the fire is December 1st. The little boy lying lifeless in the fireman's arms above would be 60 today. As the father of two elementary school kids, who has dreams and aspirations for his children, I pause to think about the anguish that all of those parents must have felt - and in the case of those still living, continue to feel - watching similar dreams vanish in the smoke. The fact that the tragedy took place in an environment - school - where we all consider our children to be safe makes it even harder to comprehend. Even 50 years later.

copyright 2008 by EBBP Redux. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than EBBP Redux or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Standing At Attention

These two people should be ignoring each other like any decent middle-aged couple would do.

Today's rant is about the advertising campaign for drugs like Viagra. Since when did a four-hour erection become appropriate to discuss on television? I was watching football yesterday [ok, I wasn't watching professional football, I was watching the Eagles] and up popped [pardon the pun] a disturbing Viagra commercial. One of those 60-second ones that you can't ignore. Hey, assholes: I've got kids watching this game. It's bad enough I'm subjecting them to some of the most mediocre football in the last 20 years, don't force me into having to explain to my seven-year olds what priapism is.

There are so many things wrong with these Viagra commercials, I don't know where to begin. First, I think it's important that we as a nation come together and agree that erectile dysfunction needs to go back where it was for hundreds of years: in the closet, bedroom, toilet stall, wherever, anywhere but on television commercials. Whatever happened to the good old days when not only didn't you know that your middle aged neighbor was having sex, but that you didn't even think he him and 'sex' in the same thought pattern?

Second, every actor in these commercials is creeper than the last one. These guys look like they'd just as soon stick it in a Boy Scout or a farm animal as they would a woman, and I'm supposed to sit there and believe he's that happy about banging the same woman he's been banging for 25 years? It's like Chris Rock says, when you've been married, your fucking days are over - oh, you'll have intercourse. But your fucking days, are over. I don't want to see these creepy middle aged freaks in these commercials and their equally disturbing-looking middle aged wives engaging in game of mahjong let alone sexual intercourse.

And yet, turn on your TV and there he is: that smiling pedophile-grin shooting back at you as he dances through the house with his old lady prior to a mid-day tumble. First of all, if you're going to do an ad campaign, be true to the product. The guy should be walking around with an erection, for one thing. Why not have a campaign where you see the guy at work with a raging hard-on while he's addressing a staff meeting comprised of mostly women frantically trying to ignore the new member of their team who is standing at attention? Then, he could be on the bus, and he could be poking people indiscriminately with it, apologizing profusely and explaining that he took a Viagra and they shouldn't take it personally. Finally, when he gets home and thinks he's going to finally hit paydirt he flings open the door only to find that his wife has thrown a surprise birthday party for him. There, fifty of his best friends - 51 if you count the little guy still standing at attention - can let the awkwardness of the moment just wash over them. Now, that's a commercial.

Listen, no one is more sympathetic than me to a guy who can't get it up anymore. Quite frankly, it's about the only reason to stay alive. So, I intellectually understand the need for Viagra and Cialis and all of those other stiffy-generating pharmaceuticals. But enough is enough: this must go back to being a shameful, never-discussed issue. Viagra should never be advertised anywhere, much less on television. It should be like heroin or cocaine - available, but just a little hard to get...pardon the pun, again. Middle-aged guys could still get it, but the rest of us - and yes, I'm aware I'm approaching middle age - can go back to pretending that these creepy guys don't even think about sex anymore, let alone have it.

Tomorrow, or some day in the future, I'll share my opinion on those awful prostate drug commercials with the four old guys who keep peeing. I figured we've had enough pecker talk for one day.

copyright 2008 by EBBP Redux. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than EBBP Redux or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Two Crazy Love-Struck Mental Patients

If you think you work in a dysfunctional office, you ain't got nothing on the folks at Philadelphia's NBC affiliate WCAU [which, apparently, should stand for 'We CAUtion you to hide the kids before tuning in to watch our news tonight']. You'll recall that the nation was thoroughly entertained by the zany antics of two other Philadelphia news anchors - Larry Mendte and Alycia Lane at the CBS affiliate KYW - earlier this year. The denouement of that one came when he admitted to hacking into her email account shortly after she punched a New York City cop. Little did we know that - at the same time - there was some monkey business taking place across the street at 'CAU.

As with most cases involving just about any story, this one involves two people having sex who shouldn't be having sex [turns out they shouldn't even be having coffee]. And, like most other cases involving anything, it involves a guy sleeping with a woman half his age. Finally, like most cases involving anything, it involves somebody suing someone, which is good because lawyers need to eat, too, and this economy is awful.

The story: 44-year old news anchor Vince DeMentri was having an affair with 26-year old anchor Lori Delgado. That much, it seems, everyone can agree on. From that point forward, however, the two parties have greatly different interpretations as to what transpired. DeMentri says that when the affair was discovered, he was fired but Delgado was allowed to keep her job. He is - surprise, surprise - suing 'CAU for gender-bias. Delgado claims that DeMentri began stalking her, leading her to quit her job last month because she feared him [how quitting would somehow make her safer from him is beyond me, but then again, I'm not 26]. Can't we all just get along? Oh, and by the way, Delgado's married. So's DeMentri, although you probably already assumed that.

According to Delgado, DeMentri stalked her throughout the city, confronted her husband [boy, that must have been some conversation, huh?] and acted in the proverbial 'threatening manner'. But what's great about a lawsuit is all kinds of stuff comes out in the depositions. Indeed, this story only came to light when Delgado filed a motion protesting DeMentri's lawyers requests to depose her. My favorite tidbit to surface so far involves the single most important piece of equipment to any news man or woman: at one point in the affair - one assumes toward the end - DeMentri hid Delgado's hair dryer [and no greater tragedy can befall a news anchor, you know]. Delgado initially thought the dryer-thief was any one of the numerous female news personalities at the station that apparently hate her 26-year old guts.

These two crazy kids are now both out of work [joining the other tens of thousands on the unemployment rolls]. We don't know what the future holds for them - although my guess is botox and tummy tucks for her, hair weaves and a tanning bed for him - but we're all very thankful that they decided to make news rather than read it. Let's hope more television personalities decide to sleep with one another, then go postal and stalk one another, hide hair dryers and confront each other's spouses. Takes our mind off the economy and the war.

copyright 2008 by EBBP Redux. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than EBBP Redux or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Stuart Saves Minnesota

Al Franken [left] and the disturbingly toothy Norm Coleman [right] are battling for a Senate seat from the Gopher State.

Al Franken is a pretty good comedy writer. He's a so-so on-screen talent. I've never listened to his radio show, but from what I hear he's passable as a radio host. So, it was an obvious natural progression for him to run for the U.S. Senate. The star of Stuart Saves His Family [if, indeed, such a train-wreck could be said to include a 'star'] moved to Minnesota recently to challenge the equally disturbing-looking incumbent, Norm Coleman [R]. Word is that some Minnesotans resented Franken's entry into the race, calling him a 'carpet-bagger' even though I'll bet 90% of the people who called him that have no idea what the word means.

Still, enough people didn't see him in a negative light as he won the Democratic primary earlier this year and waged a strong campaign against Coleman. So good a campaign, in fact, that nobody knows who won the damned thing. Imagine Florida in 2000, only on a smaller (and colder) scale. After 2,900,000 total votes, by the end of Election Night last week, Coleman led Franken by a mere 725 votes. What's funny is that somehow between the time that tally was announced and the decision to start a recount was announced, Franken had cut a cool 500 or so votes from that lead. As of today, Coleman's lead is only 206 votes.

I guess because it's so cold up there, people from Minnesota have a hell of a hard time doing simple math. That's the only explanation for why the results of this canvass aren't expected to be known until some time next month. Or, maybe Minnesota is one of those places that gets only 3 hours of sunlight in November, I can't remember. The point is, a good time will be had by all as this recount begins.

Prior to the final results nationwide, many Democrats thought the Franken-Coleman race might be a pivotal one in their desire to secure a filibuster-proof 61 votes. Even if Franken manages to eliminate those stingy 206 Coleman voters, though, that would give the Democrats 58 seats. Nice majority, but the dream of 61 is not going to materialize. That's a shame, because if the Democrats had 60 seats and were waiting on this Franken-Coleman race, election junkies everywhere would have another month to get their fix of Wolf Blitzer and the other odd-looking degenerates, ne'er do wells and bloated former Reagan/Bush White House staffers who now populate the 24-hour a day cable political news world. Anderson Cooper would be doing his awful show from Minneapolis, no doubt. Comedy Central would be running old Saturday Night Live episodes with Franken. There would be much mirth and joy in the land.

Instead, this recount is being conducted under the radar. Coleman - like Bush in 2000 - has the advantage of a Republican governor, Timothy Pawlenty [and how much better does he look now as a McCain VP candidate instead of Sarah Palin?]. Pawlenty was performing his due diligence the other day, telling anyone who would listen - and many who would not - that he was 'disturbed' by some of the antics of the Franken campaign, questioning how 500 votes could just disappear from Coleman between November 4 and November 11. History tells us that whenever a Republican governor is 'concerned' about Democratic shenanigans in an election, you can expect said governor to play a pivotal role in determining who actually wins the damned thing. Pawlenty - and even non-partisans like the Minneapolis Star Tribune - are blasting the group ACORN for their efforts to 'inflate' the voting rolls with bogus names. A recent study by the Tribune found that nearly 75% of the new voters added to Minnesota rolls this year came from ACORN, leading Pawlenty and other Republicans to cast doubt on their validity.

The scene last week on Election Night was equally enjoyable. First, the Associated Press declared Coleman the winner. This led the toothy Republican to bound up on stage at his 'victory' party to declare....well, victory. Problem is, by the time he got up there, the AP had rescinded it's call of Coleman as the winner. Unlike Joe Lieberman in 2000, Franken to his credit did not fold like a cheap lawn chair when the initial AP decision came out, so he refused to concede. The 'who's on first' teleplay that transpired over the next few hours was much funnier than any Stuart movie (then again, your next colonoscopy is going to be a lot funnier than any Stuart movie).

What's even stranger is that Minnesota conducts elections with 20th century technology [granted, not 21st century, but not the 19th century punchcards used by Florida eight years ago] with optical scanners to tally the votes. These systems are supposed to be impervious to the kind of manipulation that appears to be taking place in the Gopher State. Guess not.

Part of me hopes Franken wins. Not because he mirrors my political beliefs but for the sheer entertainment value. With Joe Biden having to resign from the Senate, the upper chamber needs somebody good with one-liners that often lead to dead silence rather than laughter. It would liven things up. A Franken victory might inspire others like Tim Kazurinski, Nora Dunn and other SNL alums to run for office [close your eyes and imagine Senator Tracy Morgan (D) from New York lambasting some poor slob called before a Senate committee with, "You a nasty motherfucker, ain't you?"]. The possibilities are endless. And so, apparently, is this election.

copyright 2008 by EBBP Redux. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than EBBP Redux or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

She's Baaaack....

After being hidden in a closet or something, Oprah Winfrey [seen above with Barack and Michele Obama at a fundraiser earlier this year] resurfaced Tuesday night, to the chagrin of most men across the nation.

If I'd have known she was going to show up again I'd have thought twice about my vote: that damned Oprah is back. After being hidden in a closet or stowed away in a [large] storage trunk, the nation's queen yenta was front and center on Tuesday night in Chicago at the celebratory rally held for President-elect Barack Obama after his election. If you'll recall, 21 months ago it was Oprah who began trying to shove Obama down our throats like one of those stupid authors she falls in love with every month or so. For the first few months of Obama's early campaign, in fact, it appeared as though Obama had replaced Steadman as Oprah's beard.

That "Oprama" duet started to get old real quick. For people like me - who think Oprah is an extremely brilliant business person as well as being the anti-Christ - anything Oprah endorses has to be bad news. "If Oprah's in favor of him," I'd say to no one, as no one was listening, "he's guilty of something." Just as she's empowered every housefrau from Kennebunkport to Baja to gain and lose 50 pounds every other year, Oprah has a scary ability to rally her 'Oprah Nation' to buy whatever awful tchotchke, book, CD or scented douche she tells them to. Thus why I believe she's the most dangerous person in America.

It must not have been just me, because after a few months, an anti-Oprah backlash began to take hold. American males began to transfer their animus toward Oprah onto the "the junior senator from Oprabama". Just as quickly as you can say 'Dr. Phil', Oprah disappeared from the face of the Earth. Or at least whatever corner of the Earth Obama happened to be in at any particular moment. Obama lost Oprah faster than Jeremiah Wright. You would have had a better chance of finding a male that Oprah has had intercourse with than you would have of finding Obama and Oprah together.

And the disassociation worked, too. Pretty soon, men began to forget that Oprah had foisted this young Illinois senator on our wives. We began to actually listen to him, to realize that he was a worthy candidate despite Oprah's endorsement. You got the feeling that somewhere, Oprah was tied up and held hostage to keep her from opening that big goddamned mouth of hers about Obama in front of a camera. The silence was deafening...and it was wonderful. Pretty soon, we all forgot Oprah....

...until last night. Not five minutes after Obama had been declared the winner, there she was - Oprah. Looking smug like she'd actually been responsible for Obama's election. To see Oprah last night, you might have thought she gave birth to the man. You half expected her to get up on the podium to accept the presidency for him. In a flash, millions of males like me who cast our vote for Obama were horrified to realize and remember that Oprah had been there all along, albeit out of sight.

Now that her Highness is back, good luck getting her to shut up. You can expect to see her take on a major role at more than one of the inaugural balls that will usher in Obama's presidency in a few months. I foresee a nationwide TV special hosted by Oprah and friends. Then, you'll see Oprah spending the night in the Lincoln Bedroom of the White House [if you're looking for Steadman that night, the one place you won't find him is in the White House]. Soon, she'll be some unofficial ambassador of goodwill [how funny would it be for Obama to put her in charge of the President's Council on Physical Fitness a la Arnold Schwarzenegger 20 years ago for King George I?].

This is awful. I demand a do-over. If I'd have known I'd have to look at this pompous windbag for the next four years I'd have thought about voting for McCain. I mean, if I'm going to look at a powerful, loud, annoying pompous ignoramous in a dress, I'd rather spend four years looking at Sarah Palin.

copyright 2008 by EBBP Redux. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than EBBP Redux or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Kudos to President-elect Barack Obama on a fantastic campaign for the White House. Of course, this falls into the category of 'be careful what you wish for' because now he's got a boatload of headaches in his future. Indeed, John McCain may actually have a better Christmas than Obama. While McCain will be able to sun and vacation - wherever the hell multimillionaires with wives 25 years younger than they are do these things - Obama will be pulling his hair out trying to pull together the transition into leading a country that is in an economic shambles.

In fact, if any of you have ever taken over a job that had been left abandoned or vacant for a considerable period of time - and lucky me, I've done that for my last two professional moves - you'll understand Obama's quandary. Essentially, President Bush has been out of office for about 18 months. I'm sure he spends a few nights at the White House still, but my guess is Camp David and Crawford are your best bets to find him nowadays. The country has been rudderless without a president that anyone: a) believes; b) respects; c) cares about. That last one is important: it's better to be a hated president than a forgotten one. And Bush has been long gone for a while.

So, essentially, President-elect Obama will take office on January 20th, be given the keys to the White House and he and Michelle will need to spend the first few nights just dusting, getting rid of cobwebs and figuring out how to get the furnace going again. But that'll be a piece of cake compared to what's facing Obama in the Oval Office. The economy. The war. Russia. Iran. Venezuela. Pakistan. Forming a cabinet. Keeping Joe Biden too busy to talk. These are all tall tasks individually - put together they are quite monumental.

So, while the country is expecting President-elect Obama to lead, he also rightfully expects engagement from all of us. Obama must be given the leeway and the time to assemble a team, figure out how to handle some of the lunatics he'll have badgering him in the House and Senate, and he'll need our support. We didn't get into this mess overnight [although sometimes it sure seems like it] and we're not going to get out of it any quicker.

But all of that is for the future. For today, we should simply enjoy this. Even if you voted for McCain, you cannot deny the monumental historical reality we have just witnessed. While it is true that racism is alive and well [yet another nutjob said to me today, "I'm scared if [Obama] is assassinated by a white man there's gonna be a race war." I wanted to say, 'Assassinated is an awfully big word for a moron', but I restrained myself], does anyone really doubt what it means for the country to have elected its first African American president? Do you realize that until 43 years ago there was no national legislation guaranteeing African Americans the right to vote in every state in the Union - let alone to lead that Union? Until that Voting Rights Act of 1965, if you lived in certain parts of this country and you were African American, trying to vote could - and often did - get you killed. Read some of the great books written over the last 25 years detailing the Civil Rights years [Taylor Branch's trilogy/biography of Martin Luther King is by far the greatest] to get a full appreciation of exactly what we've just witnessed in this election. It is truly breathtaking.

Like you, I've no idea how wise Obama's presidential decisions will be. I think it's amazing, however, that he has the opportunity to make them.

copyright 2008 by EBBP Redux. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than EBBP Redux or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I know the four or so of you reading this out there have been just waiting for an official nod from me before deciding who to vote for. Well, wonder no more: EBBP is endorsing Illinois Senator Barack Obama for President of the United States. While other venues for news and other bullshit have been giving their endorsements over the past few weeks, I wanted to wait until the last minute to see if anything truly hilarious happened [i.e. Joe Biden tried to cop a feel on Sarah Palin, etc]. Now, on the eve of what will be an historic election regardless of who wins, the time has come to get off the fence [which is good because it was creasing my ass].

Four years ago when people first saw Obama at the Democratic National Convention and started talking about him as a possible candidate for president, I'd generally slap them on the back of their heads and remind them that America would never elect an African American in my lifetime. Sure, tremendous progress had been made over the previous 40 years on the race issue. But I knew enough good 'ol boys in my own life - a sheltered life, mind you - that would sooner cut their arms off than vote for anyone of color for president - and who had no problem openly telling anyone about how they felt. Extrapolated over the entire country, I figured there was no way in hell, despite all the progress that had been made, that an African American could be elected in my lifetime. The same was true for a Jew, a woman, or anyone else not very white and male.

And even when Obama's campaign took off, I was certain that Hillary Rodham Clinton would get the nomination. Obama was a 'celebrity' in my mind; the American Idol candidate, I called him. The mania his appearances generated made me think of him as Sanjaya in a suit. 'And this too shall pass', I thought. At the same time, I started listening to Obama, reading up on him, etc. I had to say I was duly impressed. He and I had differed on the Iraq war; he'd been right as it turns out. I certainly couldn't discount the cult of personality he generated - no small thing for a leader to possess in this wacky old world we live in. It was not until the very last moment, however, that I finally conceded that the Democrats were going to nominate this man to be their candidate. At that point, I started to pay close attention to the way Obama handled the weight of the nomination. He had run a brilliant campaign against Clinton, and I've always thought that one of the biggest [and, perhaps, only] benefit of a long and drawn out campaign was that it showed us what the candidate's management style, appointments, and crisis-management skills were all about. My feeling generally is that if you can run a successful campaign in this climate, you can run an administration. Now, George W. Bush shot that theory straight to hell, but I'm going to consider him an aberration of the sake of this entry.

Obama's abilities as a manager, as a leader of men and women, as a motivator, as a politician have been been thoroughly demonstrated during his 2-year campaign for the presidency. Besides having to overcome people like me who had too little faith that the American people would look beyond race in this election, there were missteps [remember his comment in Pennsylvania regarding those who hide behind guns and God in fear during poor economic times], there were embarrassing revelations [i.e. that fascist preacher of his]. And through it all, Obama made the necessary corrections, moved forward, and put forward an air of confidence and self-assurance that, dare I say, made him seem 'presidential'.

Now, it is also true that you couldn't have scripted a better time for a Democrat to be running. Some might argue that 'anybody' could beat John McCain in 2008 with the Bush hangover, the economy, the war, etc. Well, ask Michael Dukakis about that theory [if you can find him]. After the '88 Democratic Convention Dukakis held a double-digit lead against an unpopular Vice President George H.W. Bush, saddled with Iran-Contra, his close association with a bumbling administration breathing it's last misguided breaths, and a vice presidential choice in Dan Quayle that still baffles the mind 20 years later. You'll notice, though, with all of that there still was no Dukakis Administration. So, don't for a minute assume that it was slam-dunk that Obama was going to win this election.

It is not, however, impossible for John McCain to emerge victorious. Pre-election polls are fickle, which is a nice way of saying they are horseshit. In 1980, the pre-election polls were so close between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, that Newsweek magazine had three different front covers designed for their post-election issue. On one was a picture of Carter on the campaign trail, jacket hung over his shoulder, smiling with the headline, "Four More Years". The second one was a smiling picture of Reagan looking out on that shining city on a hill [or staring into space, one or the other] with the headline "President Reagan". The third was a simple cover, showing the seal of the United States House of Representatives and the headline, "Now What?" The latter was because some polls indicated that third-party candidate John Anderson might siphon enough votes from both Carter and Reagan to deny either man a majority in the Electoral College, thus throwing the election to the House of Representatives. We all know that Reagan won that election rather comfortably. The point is, the pre-election polls were way, way, off.

Tomorrow we [begin] to find out. Before 2000 I would have said 'tomorrow we find out' but we all know that there's no guarantee we're going to know anything after tomorrow. It could be a long night-into-morning before we know. Or, it could be the slam-dunk for Obama that the polls are calling for. Either way, Obama has earned the right to four years as president. His success or failure will in large part be determined by the size of the majority Democrats will hold in Congress. In an odd way, Obama might benefit from the Democrats not gaining the 60 seats in the Senate they need to break a filibuster. Ask Bill Clinton what it's like to be a new Democratic president with a sizable Democratic majority in the House and Senate. After Clinton's election in 1992, the Democrats were like a crack addict who discovers speed, too. By the time they were done, they got their clocks cleaned in 1994 and - at the time - seemed to have doomed Clinton to a one-term presidency. No, Obama might benefit from a nice, healthy majority in the Senate - say, 55-45. This would require working with Republicans to get certain parts of his agenda passed, while throwing others to the wayside because of impracticability.

We begin the process of finding out tomorrow. EBBP throws it's totally insignificant endorsement to Barack Obama - if for no other reason than I can't wait to spend four years listening to the things Vice President Biden is going to say into an open microphone.

copyright 2008 by EBBP Redux. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than EBBP Redux or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Cavemen and Geckos and Bears, Oh My....

This nonsense has gone on long enough. The GEICO caveman thing - what the fuck? I just don't get it. That little gecko guy that sounds like Phil Collins? That's funny. I get it: a talking reptile with a bit of an attitude, cool. Geckos are also a bit cute, particularly when animated as opposed to seeing them in real life.

But cavemen? I know, I know the original tag line was 'GEICO insurance - so simple a caveman can do it'. Great. Then what the fuck is a caveman doing in a disco? And what does that have to do with insurance [or anything else for that matter]? When I first saw the caveman ad 100 years ago when it first aired, I was mildly disturbed. First of all, the guy looks more like a werewolf than a caveman. The guy doesn't even carry around a club to beat things with. Secondly, he's dressed in modern garb. So the theory we're supposed to believe for the premise of this campaign is that somehow, someway, Evolution didn't hit this one guy's family and he's still a caveman, but he dresses in a speedo and plays volleyball on the beach?

And another thing: the chicks. Listen, it's bad enough that an ugly [albeit talented] bastard like Billy Joel ends up with beautiful women - at least he can play piano. I absolutely refuse to tolerate a werewolf with a hot piece of ass on his arm trying to sell me car insurance. Call me old fashioned, but I ain't buying it.

Still, the ad campaign's been going forever so it obviously works [although I really think the gecko is carrying the whole thing, personally]. It's just one of a slew of things that are simply inexplicable to me. I have a real problem with what I like to call 'nonsensical absurdity'. See, I love the absurd. My whole life has been based on a kind of 'absurdity', in fact. Tremendous amounts of humor lie in the absurd. But even the absurd has to have just a tiny trickle of fact/reality to make it work, otherwise it's nonsense. The caveman is a perfect example of the nonsensically absurd. Whereas a talking gecko - equally absurd - is perfectly reasonable: 1) geckos really do exist; 2) some people really do sound like Phil Collins; 3) everybody knows somebody that's a smart ass [all I need is a mirror]. Put those three things together, and you get the talking gecko. The caveman who looks like a werewolf? Ok, neither cavemen nor werewolves exist anywhere [other than New Jersey]. But being imaginary doesn't eliminate you from being absurdly funny: for example, if the guy was in a loincloth smashing things with a stick while quoting, that could work. You lose me, though, when you dress him up like John Travolta. The problem: 1) I repeat, cavemen don't exist; 2) werewolves are inherently unfunny, and this dude looks like a werewolf; 3) there's not a blessed redeeming or funny thing that the guy says. Maybe if he was a serial killer, played the banjo or was figure skating in the nude I'd have something to work with.

Other examples of the nonsensical absurd? The Berenstain Bears cartoons on PBS. First of all, I'd like to see an episode where - in the middle of some great moral lesson Momma and Papa are teaching, a hunter walks on screen and blows both their fucking heads off. But that's because I'm sick. What really gets me is: nobody on that show sounds like a bear. Again, I understand it's a cartoon and that bears don't really talk - period. But, if they did talk, they wouldn't sound like Canadians. You watch the Berenstain Bears with your eyes closed and you'll think you're listening to Hockey Night in Canada. My kids are almost done with these fucking bears, and I'm counting the days. As a side note, Little Bear is equally guilty of this but to the nth degree: every fucking animal on that show sounds like a Canadian teenager. What the hell ever happened to creativity? Christ, when Mel Blanc was doing the voices of cartoons the man put some soul into the characters. Can you imagine Foghorn Leghorn sounding like a Bob and Doug McKenzie?

So, in conclusion: the cavemen and talking animals that don't sound like animals [assuming they could talk] are just two of the things that really piss me off. Items three through 10,202,221 will be forthcoming over the next few years of this blog.

copyright 2008 by EBBP Redux. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than EBBP Redux or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I Should've Stayed in Copenhagen

Funny-as-a-migraine octogenarian Jerry Lewis. On the top he charmingly spits water at a female reporter. On the bottom, he's just made a crab cake in his pants.

It's days like this that we should be glad that Lenny Bruce, Freddie Prinz, James Coco, Dick Shawn and Totie Fields all died relatively young. Had they not, they might have ended up like our old friend Jerry Lewis - an 82-year old unfunny bastard who makes us long for the days of Yakov Smirnoff. Lewis' latest reminder to us that he's not dead yet came this weekend when he charmingly told an audience [and who knew he even had one] in Australia that cricket is a "fag game." This after his performance in his 2007 Telethon [again, who knew he was even still doing that] when he called some cue-card guy on the set an "illiterate fag," when the man gave him the wrong lines to read.

On the one hand, Lewis has never been funnier than with these two performances. I'm not politically correct, as anyone who knows me can attest. I happen to think there are certain words that are just inherently funny. Nipple, douchebag, polo mallet, most words beginning with the letter 'f' -- all are just funny, for no particular reason. So, I don't necessarily have a problem with someone utilizing the word 'fag' in a humorous way. Yeah, yeah, I know, it's insensitive, blah, blah, blah. Have you ever heard Jerry Lewis sing You'll Never Walk Alone? Now that's insensitive. I agree, however, that 'fag' is a word that has seriously hateful connotations, so in humor it has to be used extremely delicately. For example, railing against the French and declaring, "France is a fag country," can be funny if delivered right. For one thing, the French are a bit effeminate. For another, not many people like the French, making them an excellent foil for comedy. Finally, France is not an individual. It's impossible to throw the word 'fag' at an individual and remain funny. Hence, the problem for Jerry Lewis that in both instances he wasn't trying to be funny [and for anyone who's labored through any of his films, you know he has never had a problem being unfunny]. He was brow-beating some union laborer slaving away for almost no wages for 24 hours on a telethon that no one -not even those who have the disease for which the fundraising is being done -is watching. The fact that he threw in 'illiterate' didn't help either. And in the case of his most recent fuck up, there was nothing funny about calling cricket a 'fag game'.

Lewis - or, more accurately, his publicist [I hate to repeat myself, but who knew he had a publicist?] - issued the obligatory apology, which ranked on the sincerity meter somewhere around Germany's apology for World War II. I'll bet you, however, that Lewis is confused about the uproar. In his mind [what's left of it, anyway], he didn't say anything wrong. Of course, he didn't say anything funny, either, but he doesn't get that, too. If we were a more advanced country, years ago we would've given Lewis an ultimatum: retire from public life or we'll euthanize you.

Perhaps most amazing is what Lewis was doing in Australia to begin with. This old facacta actually has a stage show on tour. I know people joke about The Rolling Stones still touring, but an 82-year old unfunny has-been on tour has to be like a freak show. Apparently, the show is a retrospective of his career - how you can make a show out of what essentially were probably 20 minutes of funny material over a 60-year career, I don't know. There are show tunes, excerpts from those God-awful movies of his. It must be a fucking train wreck. Now, of course, we all know why Dean Martin hated this annoying prick so much that he literally would not speak to him for almost 20 years after their act dissolved. And Dean Martin liked everyone.

I've always believed that there were some celebrities better off having died young. I mean, does anyone really need to see what Mama Cass would look like today? The embarrassment that is Jerry Lewis has gone on about 60-years too long. As punishment for their refusal to let our bombers fly over their airspace in the 1986 attack on Libya, we should make France take in Lewis on a political asylum deal. A few more press conferences with this charming prick and I can guarantee you France will never do that to us again.
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