Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reminder to Self: It's Downton, Not Downtown

Last chance to get in one final post for 2013.  Don't expect greatness, or even mediocrity in these words.  Can't produce that when I'm being rushed.

So I finally gave in and downloaded the first season of "Downton Abbey."    I've been reading positive revues and, although I'm not that big on BBC series, I figure I would suffer through the accents and give it a view.  Before I finished watching the third episode I downloaded all four seasons.  I have become addicted to those British Ladies, Lords and servants.  I am about to start the third season.  At the end of the last episode I watched Matthew and Lady Mary have finally devoted themselves to each other and meanwhile Mr Bates has had his execution overturned to a life imprisonment.  (We all know Mr. Bates is innocent of the murder charge he's been convicted, and even if not, we know his ex-wife had it coming!)

I have eighteen fresh episodes left before I am up to date, I wish they would put more than nine per season, and I am trying to slow down my viewing consumption to make them last.  This is why I am taking time out right now to write this.

Before when I stated that I am not that big on BBC series, do not mistake that for dislike of  the Brits, because that would not be true.  Some of the finest television and movies ever made, in my opinion, have come out of the U.K.   I love everything Monty Python did and I understand they are planning some sort of reunion.  Benny Hill was hilarious thirty years ago, the funniest show on television at the time.  Unfortunately Benny does not hold up like Monty.  The Flying Circus reruns are still handing out hands for repeated knee slapping.

Some of our best television was stolen right off the BBC.  Here's a sampling of hit US shows that got their start overseas.  Back in the 1970's "All in the Family" actually began on the BBC as "Til Death Do Us Part", and "Sandford and Son" was the UK's "Steptoe and Son."   In the 1980's our "Too Close For Comfort" was taken from "Keep It In The Family," and "Cosby" was copied from "One Foot In The Grave."  Some shows we didn't even bother to change the title.  Et al: "Dear John," "Life On Mars" and "The Office."

It's not just comedies and dramas we pilfered.  "Antique Roadshow," "Cash Cab," "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" and "The Weakest Link" were handing out pounds and euros way before American dollars.

And I am just touching the tip of the iceberg.  For every show I named there has to be five to ten more that originated on the BBC.  (And I probably am overly conservative in that estimation.)

So why do I prefer American TV to the BBC?  Because I am an American and I can understand our use of the English language a whole lot better than theirs.  But still I have to give credit to our neighbors over the pond.  A whole smack doodle worth of credit.  And so far I have failed to mention the film industry.

Have you seen Guy Ritchie's "Snatch?"  No, I am not referring to his ex-wife, Madonna.  I mean "Snatch" starring Jason Statham and Brad Pitt.  If never seen, then I suggest you quit reading this and download it for immediate viewing.  Guy Ritchie is the England's answer to Quentin Tarantino.  If you liked "Pulp Fiction," you will love "Snatch."  And since I mentioned one Brit flick, I may as well mention another: "Sexy Beast!" with Ben Kingsley at his evil best.  Or should I say "Sir" Ben Kingsley?  Do us Yanks have to include the Royal "Sir" when talking about a knighted person?  After all he was just plain Ben Kingsley all of last millennium.  The "Sir" did not kick in until 2002.  Oh well, that's a subject for another posting.

So in conclusion, I thank you, BBC, for all the original programming.  And I thank you, United States, for stealing and Americanizing the best of those programs.  I can't wait to see "Downtown Co-Op" or whatever they will call the rip-offed remaking of "Downton Abbey" when it appears on ABC or HBO.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Linda's X-Mas Gifts

It's that time of year again.  Holiday shopping.  This afternoon I found a pristine twelve foot long 2x4 at Home Depot.  I have no use for it but I think Linda does.  I recall several months earlier Linda was hinting around that she wanted some wood.  I am quite the attentive spouse.  But as my luck would have it, Home Depot does not gift wrap.  Nor did they have a decorative box for the lumber.   So I had to forgo that Christmas gift.  I'll have to stick with my original choice; an 80 ounce bottle of Liquid-Plumbr.  You may think that seems like an odd gift, but you will not believe the number of times Linda has whispered in my ear "How about cleaning my pipes, Big Boy."

Last year I bought her a bottle of No-Dose and a watch.  She was forever saying "Don't you think its time we go to bed?"   Well, I was never sleepy when she'd ask; it was always early in the evening.  So I figure the No-Dose will keep her awake then she can check the time herself on her new Swatch.

I always try to get what she asks for.  The year before that I had bought her a tool chest filled with every possible size of flat-head and philip-head screws.  They were all good, as requested, but I'll be damned if I seen her use one of them.

Four years back, for her Christmas gift, I replaced the front door of our home with a revolving door so she could have easier in-out, in-out access.

Linda's requests are not always easy.  Do you know how many pet stores I have been to searching for some creature that has two backs?  I still haven't found that particular beast.  When I do, that will be a Christmas to remember.

By the way, does anyone know of a dance studio that teaches dancing horizontally?

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Day JFK Left Office.

Fifty years ago to this very day my 5th grade class was interrupted and we were told that President Kennedy had been shot and killed.  A lot of the kids in my class began crying.  I did not understand this.  I had shook Kennedy's hand three years earlier, so he was a person I had met, yet I was not overcome by emotion like many of my fellow classmates.  Did they have a closer relationship with JFK than I?

In 1960 when John Kennedy was campaigning for the Presidency one of his stops was Tech-Plaza, a local strip mall near my home.  My mother took me to Tech-Plaza the day JFK spoke there.  This was to be a secret from my father, he was a Nixon supporter, but my mother, like most of the young women of that time, was enamored by JFK.  So I stood in the crowd holding Mom's hand and listening to a speech that I could not, nor wanted to, comprehend.  Kresge's Five and Dime was directly behind the platform and I kept my eyes alert to it staying open.  My thoughts were on getting to the Kresge's soda fountain and enjoying the banana split I had been promised.  My silence over seeing Kennedy could be bought cheap.

After finishing talking on the platform, Kennedy came into the crowd and shook hands.  Mine was one of them.  This was not because of my desire, but because it was my mother's desire.  She had taken my shoulders and propelled me directly in JFK's path.  "Shake his hand, Johnny," my mother instructed.  My name is John but, back then, my mother called me Johnny.  I like to think that Kennedy, upon seeing as how I was such a cute and bright little kid, had heard my name and decided to name his future son after me.  Sure, why not?  Who can prove otherwise?   Or who would bother to take the time to prove otherwise?   So, we'll go with that story.  JFK named his son John after me.  If you remember, back during Camelot, the little boy was called John-John.  One of those Johns could have been in reference to me.

You do recall that the White House Kennedy years was called Camelot?

Anyway, back to 1963.  My classmates are crying, I'm perplexed, Kennedy is dead.  Then something good happened.  We were allowed to leave early from school!  Getting out of school at an unscheduled earlier time is the most wonderful thing that can happen to a ten year old boy.  I began to think that that Kennedy was an alright guy for getting shot like he did.  Two hours of schooling had been dismissed.  Let the weekend begin!  The next day I changed my tune because Cartoon Saturday was preempted by assassination coverage.  But on that Friday afternoon, I couldn't thank JFK enough.

For years, one of the most popular ways to start a conversation was to ask, "Where were you when Kennedy was killed?"  I imagine today a conversation starter would be "Where were you on 911?" yet I can't recall anyone ever asking me that.  As horrid as 911 was, the Kennedy killing seemed to have a bigger impact.  I think this is because of the advances in communication. In 63 there were no internet sites, cell phones with twitter accounts, or cable network stations.  In 63, there was 4 channels for Detroit television and after the Dallas shooting each one was dedicated to coverage of the assassination.  This went on for days on end.  In 2001, after 911, your main stations may have been covering the towers falling but you could still change to another channel and catch the daily broadcast of the Beverly Hillbillies.  Your morning dose of Regis and Kelly may be preempted but you did not have to miss one of the hourly showings of the oft-repeated Law and Order episodes.  Now, apparently, this is the way of "The New Frontier."

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Daily Life Update

Recently I changed my cable services.  I left Wowway for ATT's UVerse at a 33% reduction in price and a 50% increase in features.  I now have such abilities as pausing a TV show I am watching, have phone messages appear on my television, record multiple programs at the same time, and see the majority of television in high def.  I realize most people already have these features but I am new to this technology and you'll have to excuse me if I marvel at this for a while.  With thirty or forty simple clicks of the remote control I can pull up on my television screen the current weather in my neighborhood.  I can know if its raining without having to look out a window.  Isn't a high tech lifestyle wonderful?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"The Future Ain't What It Used To Be"

The title of this post, "The Future Ain't What It Used To Be," is a quote attributed to Yogi Berra, the famous catcher for the New York Yankees.  He also managed the New York Mets in between his Yankee managing days.  Of course, his managing days followed his playing days.  The years he spent working for a New York ball club spanned from 1946 to 1985.  Playing from `46 until `63.  Managing from `64 until `85.

"The reason I am writing about Yogi is because I just found out he is still alive.  "Yogi Lives!"  Now that would be a great name for a movie.  I should have titled this post "Yogi Lives!" but its too late for that.  I already used the "...future..." quote.  Yogi was a very quotable fellow.  Perhaps he still is.  I just haven't heard anything from or about him for years.  Here is an assortment of my favorite Yogi-isms:

"You can observe a lot by watching"

"Nobody goes there anymore, its too crowded"

"It ain't over til its over"

"It gets late early out here"

"Never answer an anonymous letter"

"I really didn't say everything I said"

"Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't go to yours"

...and the oft-quoted...

"Its deja vu all over again"

"When I was small and played pick-up baseball games, this was back in the early 1960's, a ritual was always performed by us before starting a game.  We would state a name of a professional ballplayer who we would be representing.  If your position was outfielder, you claim to be a famous outfielder such as Al Kaline.  I would generally play catcher so if I got to select my doppelganger first I would be Dick Brown.  (Bet you thought I was gonna say Yogi Berra.  Remember, I am from the Detroit Suburbs, and the Tigers were number one on any of our lists.)  Yet sometimes, I was slower than the opposing team's catcher and he would select Dick Brown before I, thus leaving me to choose an alternative.  The number two catcher to be (~in the magnificent City of Center Line~) was Yogi Berra.   For the curious, if Al Kaline was taken, the next best was Rocky Colavito, also a Tiger at the time.  So you did not have to leave the Tiger's for a second choice.  It was just that Yogi was so good.  The Tiger catcher selections were Dick Brown and Mike Roarke, names that go down in history see-sawing back and forth as to which is the more forgettable. (Okay, I realize that Bill Freehan was also a catcher for the Tigers, and he was quite good, but for the purpose of this post, let's put Bill on the back burner and pretend his name was never brought up.)

Our teams never had enough players. We would close out one of the outfields and right field became foul territory.  Both sides together numbered ten players, five on each side.  Nine Tigers and Yogi Berra would composed our roster.  This not only should demonstrate our love for the Tigers, but our respect and admiration  for Yogi Berra.  To further illustrate, a kid would rather be Jake Wood than Mickey Mantle.  Tiger Jake was little more than a base-stealer while Mickey remains one of the most popular Yankees of all time.

So anyway, today I found out that Yogi is still with us at eighty-eight years of age.  I still adhere his advice about life: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

Friday, September 27, 2013

And I Said To Myself...

I will try writing on my Blog again.  Now I only need to think of a subject.
(Just type, John.  Something will occur to you.)
Great, now I'm talking to myself.
(No, you're not.  You're typing to yourself.)
Fine.  I'm typing to myself!
(You trying to be sarcastic?  You can't pull that off on the keyboard.  Just type without being a smartass.  Think you can do that?)
Hey.  You don't have to be so critical.  After all, you'll end up only insulting yourself.
(Look, if I'm not hard on you, then who will be?)
(Don't make me laugh.  She thinks you're Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut and Elmore Leonard all rolled up into one.)
Those are just a bunch of dead guys.
(You know what I mean...)
I doubt if Linda knows who Kurt Vonnegut was.  They didn't turn too many of his books into movies.
In fact, if it hasn't been printed on a store coupon, Linda hasn't read it.
(Whoa.  Ease up on Linda there.)
(I'm not the one who needs your apology.)
I'm not gonna say 'sorry' to Linda.  She doesn't know about any of this.  That'd be just causing trouble for no reason.
(Spineless bastard...)
Oh what, you're gonna shame me into apologizing to Linda?
(Feckless cur...)
(It's a word.  Look it up.)
I know it's a word.  I just didn't know I knew it.  Sometimes I amaze myself.
(You trying to change the subject?)
Okay, fine.  I'll go apologize to Linda.  If I'm not right back, then that means we had a fight and I went off to get drunk.

(Don't worry, Readers, John should be right back.)

(Anytime now...)

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Poor Excuse Is Better Than None

Is my hiatus complete?   It has been almost a year since my last post.  Should I apologize for my absence, or even concern myself over anyone missing me?  Is anybody curious on what has gone in my life since last posting?

The biggest event that happened is the passing of my closest friend.  We had been best of buds for over forty years.  Cancer ended his life last November.  Fortunately for him he died within a few months of diagnosis. He did not suffer a long drawn out death.  Gary, I miss you daily.

I celebrated my 60th birthday in February.  If I had been asked in my youth "would I make it to 60?"  I would have resounded loudly "No way!  Who would even want to?"   As you may have guessed, I do not share the same opinion today.  Now, 75 seems to be a reasonable age to achieve before even thinking of a possible end date.

This past June was the end of my affiliation with Wowway.  They raised my phone/TV cable/internet rate for the last time.  I have two televisions, one in the bedroom, the other in the living room.  The bedroom TV is where I had the main service box connected.   The living room I had a converter for capturing the signal.  The bedroom did not need a converter box.  It never did.  When I returned the equipment, Wowway wanted two converter boxes.  I only ever had one.  The main service box was all that was required in the bedroom, thus only one converter box was all that was needed for my sole other television.  I never had a second converter box, nor did I ever request a spare converter box.  I tried explaining this to Wowway, but they claimed I had two and they wanted the return of the second non-existing converter box.  Anyway, they are trying to bill me $200 for a device that I never received, never requested, and never needed.  Can you see why I quit my Wowway service.  I now have ATT U-Verse for half the price with twice as many bells and whistles.

Before I end this, I shall try to come up with a joke or amusing anecdote for you.  Let me think on this...

Hear's a joke about grave robbing.   There were these two goons, Bad Bob and Jimmy the Gent, that thought they could make some big bucks by digging a famous person from their grave, contact the surviving family members and hold the corpse for ransom.  Bad Bob suggested Elvis to be the corpse and Priscilla the family member.  Jimmy the Gent agreed on Elvis but thought Lisa Marie would make the better target.  After all, Priscilla stopped being the wife and divorced Elvis, whereas Lisa Marie remained Elvis' daughter throughout her entire life.  Bad Bob gave in.  Elvis would be the corpse and Lisa Marie the ransom provider.  So within the following weeks, Bob and Jimmy made their way to Graceland and selected a perfect night for the abduction.  It was a Wednesday night and at midnight, the crypt was dark as Jimmy and Bob's souls.  Bad Bob unearthed Elvis' casket and Jimmy the Gent inserted a crowbar into the lid and began prying it open.  Barely a crack open and light emitted from inside.  Bob assisted Jimmy and together flung the lid up.  Inside was Elvis.  He was surrounded by paper after paper of sheet music.  Elvis had a giant eraser in his hand and was obliterating all the notes and words on the pages.  Elvis turned towards Bob and Jimmy, and in an angry outburst exclaimed, "Damn it!  Shut the lid!  Can't you see I'm decomposing!"