spatch: (Default)
about.com's NYC guru has this to say about the Statue of Liberty and why access to the crown has been closed since September 11...
On that fateful day in 2001, she held her head high as she witnessed with her own eyes the horrors that took place just across from her watery home. Symbolism and sentimentality can be infinitely applied to her place in it all, and the National Park Service (the statue's operator) is taking it very seriously. Due to security reasons, the top of the Statue of Liberty will continue to be closed to the public.
The only thing is that Lady Liberty (who's been known to shed a tear for one cause or another from time to time) didn't witness any of that. The statue faces the harbor with its back to the skyline, more or less. Back when the crown was open to the public, you didn't climb up to the top for the view of New York. Nah, you climbed up for the HOLY CRAP I'M IN A GIANT STATUE'S HEAD factor (and when you're eleven years old, my god is that factor incredibly compelling.)

My favorite Statue of Liberty story involves Bill Gaines from MAD Magazine. Bill was a huge Statue of Liberty nut, and probably held the record for most collectible items featuring the statue. One of his lifelong dreams was to climb up into the torch, which has been closed to the public since 1916 (and not due to any terrorist attacks. I don't think.) Well, his wife Annie once pulled a few strings with the Parks Department back when this kinda thing wasn't viewed as a terrorist attack, and Bill got to stay in the statue after closing time (just like in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler!) and, once everybody had left, the string-pulled Parks Dept employee unlocked the gate to the arm and let Bill, Annie and Dick DeBartolo climb up the arm to get to the torch.

Problem was, Bill wasn't a very small man (in his memoirs Good Days and MAD, Dick describes Bill as "being a dessert fan") and the passageway in the statue's arm actually narrowed when it got to the wrist, I believe. In climbing up to the torch, Bill found himself actually wedged inside the statue's arm with nowhere to go. Being stuck in the statue's arm was bad enough, but Annie and Dick had gone before Bill and were already out on the torch's little balcony. Being stranded out on the torch was probably worse than being stuck in the arm.

Fortunately, with a bit of moving around, Bill was able to unstick himself and back down the ladder, letting a very relieved Annie and Dick escape as well. They got to enjoy (for varying definitions of the word "enjoy") the torch but unfortunately, like Moses, Bill was never able to visit the Promised Land. (Though for Moses, at least he never got himself wedged in a giant copper arm.)

And that's just a few random things about the Statue of Liberty for you today. You're welcome.
spatch: (Default)
Two juvenile seagulls, all mottled gray and nervous as heck, were trying in vain to get an adult seagull to notice them over by the Fort Point Channel. They circled around, making loud keening sounds and occasionally nipping at the adult's bill. The adult seagull was having none of this but instead of retaliating or nipping back, just stood there and tried damn hard to ignore the two. I sat on a rock and watched them for a while. Two middle-aged women strolled up and watched, too.

"Board meeting?" one of them asked me. I laughed.

"No, I think the mama gull is weaning the kids," I said.

"Oh, that's so sad!" said the first woman. "I can't watch this."

"It's not sad," said the second woman. "She's just cutting the apron strings, that's all. She's telling the kids okay, no more free ride, now you gotta go out and work for your own food."

"You can probably tell which of us has two kids in college," the first woman said to me.

"I wouldn't have been saying this after the first left," her friend replied, and they both laughed.

Meanwhile the seagulls kept keening and keening and keening.
spatch: (RKO Radio Pictures)
One of the classic film urban legends (or rumors, or perhaps "hopes") is that somewhere in South America, stashed in someone's basement or hiding in a chest in an attic, is a full, uncut version of Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons. Welles finished his first cut of the film in 1942 while in South America shooting a documentary called It's All True, which itself was devised in an attempt to improve relations between the US and several key Latin American countries. We were in a war, see, and needed all the pals we could get. If we couldn't get pals, we would've settled for good neighbors.

Neither Ambersons nor It's All True turned out the way Welles wanted them to. Higher-ups at RKO, the studio which was to distribute the films, grew seriously unhappy with the way Orson was behaving while down in Brazil. Oh, sure, the guy worked like a madman, but he also played like a madman as well, and his filmmaking approach (progress? what progress? can't you see there are dances to dance, skirts to chase and delicious drinks to enjoy?) had long since ceased to worry the RKO brass. It had begun to piss them off something fierce. At this point in time Welles had only one film to his name. It just so happened to be Citizen Kane, which nearly everybody but William Randolph Hearst had praised, so Welles was under serious scrutiny from a lot of different eyes. His second film would have to surpass Kane in brilliance or else it'd just prove that Orson had gotten lucky the first time around.

The first audience preview of Ambersons was an absolute disaster. The film was previewed second on a double bill. The first film screened was a light-hearted, zippy peppy musical, which was what audiences wanted, especially so soon after Pearl Harbor. By all accounts, they loved it. The Magnificent Ambersons, on the other hand, was a brooding, slow-paced moody drama with (in the original cut) no uplifting ending, and it clocked in at just over two hours. Faced with this ordeal, the audience turned sour, began heckling, and left behind angry survey cards which were the 1940s version of YouTube comments only with just slightly less cussing (and, one presumes, without seventeen comment cards all containing the same line of dialogue with no extra comment.)

RKO knew they had to make drastic cuts to the film. Orson would never approve of their cuts, and they knew it. They also knew they didn't have to worry about that since Welles was completely powerless, being out of the country and without the right of final cut (he'd given it up during contract negotations.)

Welles could make suggestions from afar via telegram and telephone and he did, very much so, but his dispatches often carried no weight. If he had been in Hollywood, or if Robert Wise, the film's actual editor, could have gone to Rio to work with Welles (his trip was denied due to wartime travel restrictions) there's a good chance that the film might not have been butchered as it turned out to be. As it was, Wise edited the film under the guidance of studio executives who disliked Welles. Also involved with the editing process was Welles' own business manager, Jack Moss, but he was completely ineffective in defending the project and upholding what Orson wanted.

The result was a drastically shortened movie with a new, happier ending tacked on. Welles' relations with RKO fell apart. The studio eventually destroyed all the unused footage of Ambersons ("to free up vault space" was the official story, though it doesn't take a tinfoil hat to theorize they'd done it to keep the material out of Welles' hands.)

It's All True suffered disaster after disaster, including the accidental drowning death of an impoverished fisherman whose true story was being recreated for the film. The jangadeiro was one of four who sailed over 1600 miles down the coast of Brazil in order to bring public attention to their way of life, which involved working in a semi-feudal system of dubious legality. In the spirit of the pseudo-documentary, Welles had cast all four of the jangadeiros as themselves. However, as they were filming the re-creation of the dramatic conclusion of their journey, their raft capsized, killing one of the jangadeiros before a rescue crew could swim out to help him. Stop for a moment and boggle at that irony if you'd like; then we'll move on.

RKO quickly cut their losses on the project, which first had its budget slashed before it was eventually cancelled outright. Combined with the well-publicized Ambersons disaster, Orson Welles' reputation as an enfant terrible who couldn't finish a project was amplified and inflated, however justly or unjustly you want to call it.

Stories would later circulate that a print of the Ambersons first cut had been sent to Welles in Brazil, and there would be some folks in Rio who claimed to have seen it. Where that print went, though, nobody knows. It could very well be stashed somewhere. One can hope.

I only write this tonight (wait, was that just a lead-in?) because of an awesome piece of news out of Argentina. What appears to be an original, full print of Fritz Lang's Metropolis has been discovered in Buenos Aires. Lang suffered Hollywood studio butchery similar to Welles' ordeal when his amazing German impressionist masterpiece went over to the States. Executives at Paramount slashed nearly a quarter of the film's content, oversimplifying the story and removing key scenes for American audiences. Lang's original cut was lost in Berlin, and the versions of Metropolis you can get on DVD today will tell you, at certain points, what the next scene in the original narrative was supposed to have been. Even that, however, is based mostly on speculation.

Well, soon we won't need those title cards anymore. The discovered print has been brought to Berlin for restoration (after 80 years in hiding look as good you will not, hmm?) and it's only a matter of time before it's released. This is an amazing find. I cannot wait. Isn't it wonderful? And to think that maybe someday we'll be saying the same thing about The Magnificent Ambersons. Hope springs eternal, cat. Just remember that.
spatch: (Diner - Booth Service)
I met Lynn yesterday at Kelly's for an early-o breakfast, doing our part to beat the Ball Square weekend brunch rush. It was also because we both found ourselves awake at 7 and hungry.

"You wanna go now?" I asked over the phone.

"Sure," she replied. "I'm just sitting around the apartment watching spy documentaries on the History Channel. See you there." She was doing better than I was; at the time I was trying to explain to the cat that a food dish only gets refilled when there's a lack of food and not simply because the cat in question is a fussbudget.

Saturday morning, for those of you who missed it, was quite lovely. The weather was just right, the ambient temperature as perfect as it could be, and the entire neighborhood was peaceful and quiet at 7:30. Hall was peaceful, Liberty was peaceful, Kidder was peaceful. What a day, I thought to myself. What a place. What a wonderfully idyllic Somerville morning.

And then I approached Willow and heard the construction crew near the school using some kind of compressed air equipment to rattle everybody awake. Some streets have all the luck.

Those who know diners know that you've got two truly iconic styles which are above mere hole-in-the-wall (there's more than a few holes in the wall, though, mark my words.) One style is the railroad car diner, more often than not made by the Worcester Lunch Car Co. ("of aluminum, Bakelite and glass", quoth Martin Sexton) and featuring the name of the establishment painted on the front in those stylized Gothic letters.

The other kind is the shiny metal square variety which are often found in the wilds of Long Island, New Jersey or suburban Maryland. In some locales these diners are run by Greek families who bestow upon their establishment proper Hellenic names such as "Parthenon" or "The Athenian". Other places are just, y'know, a diner. And an increasing number have seen fit to capitalize on the whole 50s retro style. You'll know you're in one of those places, these shams, if you will, if they've got those creepy paintings on the walls which show James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart all sitting up in some cafe which I suppose is meant to be in Heaven (you get bonus creepy points if Jimi, Janis and Jim are hanging around too, cause that's the Dead Icon genre equivalent of a Double Word Score.)

If the memorabilia is authentic, however, and the Betty Boop statue has been around since time immemorial and the Consolette jukeboxes don't actually work anymore, then you're quite all right. So it is with Kelly's.

Somerville is actually blessed both kinds of diners. Kelly's in Ball Square is classic example of the Shiny Metal diner, a true original with glorious chrome and neon on the outside with stainless steel and patched naughahyde on the inside. Both the Rosebud in Davis Square and Buddy's Truck Stop outside Union Square are Worcester cars, though Buddy's dates from an earlier time and is not as streamlined as the photogenic Rosebud. And while the Rosebud has adopted a decidedly more upscale menu, both Buddy's and Kelly's know exactly what you're supposed to serve at a diner: grub. Good grub. Good greasy grub that sticks to your ribs and keeps you going all day, accompanied by no-nonsense coffee served in extra-thick ceramic mugs, the edges of which have been rounded by time and countless cycles in the Hobart. Oh, sure, Kelly's has cleverly snuck in some avant-garde in their menu from time to time, thus pleasing the Food Network enough to send a camera crew and the guy with the scary hair out to see the place, but they know that it's grub what keeps people coming back.

Put it this way: If at any time you find the word "aioli" on a diner menu and it's not some completely incomprehensible typographical error, do yourself a favor and find another place to eat. You are currently patronizing an impostor. Give me the Real Deal any day.

The Kelly's clientele in the early morning is nothing but regulars which is comforting in its own right. Here, the proper greeting is "Howaahyuh" and everybody's a Hon to the veteran waitstaff. Whatkin I getcha, hon? Y'want s'mah coffee? Free from the misery (for another two hours at least) of having to serve embittered on-the-up-and-upscales who only show up because they were sufficiently annoyed by the lines at Sound Bites and Not Sound Bites, the waitstaff is almost downright hospitable in their natural state. Relatively speaking, of course; those who expect kowtowing and an "let me drop the eighteen plates of food I'm carrying and hurry off to fulfill your spontaneous request that you hollered at me in passing" attitude should still stay far away. Here, it takes two to be hospitable. If you don't give the waitresses guff, they won't return it -- and they're very good at the guff-giving when needed.

It's all a matter of self-entitlement versus telling it like it is, really. If a waitress says she can't get you a refill because you're at Eileen's table, she's only telling you the truth (and if you don't get all see-you-next-tuesday-ish about it, chances are she'll let Eileen know in passing and your refill will magically appear in front of you.) If the waitress is curt when taking your order and you're not the only one in the place, chances are she's got more important things to worry about -- making sure everybody in her station gets their food on time, perhaps -- than engage in more banter than necessary. (You may think New England hospitality is an oxymoron, but we're really just taciturn for the most part. Trust me on this one.)

But honestly this is as it should be. More people ought to be good to others and give the service profession a little respect, or at least recognize that those waiting tables are just people, after all, and not personal serving wenches. There are plenty of high-end fancypants restaurants that pride themselves in providing impeccably attentive yet unobtrusive service. It is these places which you should go when you're in the mood for that. But when you want to go out for food cooked by real people for real people and served by real people, stop by Kelly's any time you wish. It is what it is.

The breakfast was good. Had french toast and fake syrup, had some coffee, had some eggs, had some protein in the form of tasty bacon. There's not much more one needs for a full day of sitting at home writing. And you know, I can't remember asking for my eggs to be scrambled, but they were, and just as I like them.

"Oh, look," Lynn said near the end of our morning meal. "The hipsters are beginning to show up and it's not even 9 yet. These must be early hipsters!"

"Will wonders ever cease," I mused, and we shared one of those lovely collective Ain't-We-Glad-We-Is-Who-We-Am moments.

Then we unironically went back to our discussion about iPods, John Waters, urban exploration and Rock Band.

Ah, well. You are what you is.
spatch: (Default)
Q. DEAR ANSWERING GUY, I live in Boston and I take the T to work from Davis Square every day. Every day for the past week or so the trains have been late due to one reason or another, and every day we stand on the platform waiting like fools for one southbound train while two or three northbound trains go merrily on by. The thing is, there's only one stop after us on the north end of the line, and that's Alewife. Today was the actual worst, though, as we waited for one single southbound train from Alewife while no less than five, count 'em, five trains went by northbound to Alewife. What the hell is going on, and where did all those northbound trains go?
Signed,
Someone Who Is Not The Author
The Answering Guy has been answering questions since before you knew what a question mark was.
A. DEAR SOMEONE WHO IS NOT THE AUTHOR, the Answering Guy is very pleased you asked him this question instead of trying the MBTA, for they will not tell you the truth even if you pumped them full of sodium pentathol, gave them a twenty, and then asked nicely. Now the Answering Guy is certain that you know there are two platforms in the Alewife station and both of them send trains back southbound to your Davis stop. You may have already come up with some theories as to how all those trains could have fit, possibly imagining extra track behind the platforms which the trains use when they're backed up, or even theorizing that the trains back up before they even reach Alewife. But none of these answers is correct.

The real explanation is that there is a freak rift in the time-space continuum in the train tunnel and it is centered directly underneath the northbound tracks. Trains travelling northbound don't actually reach Alewife, you see, for they fall through the rift and end up in the lair of an ancient Eldritch horror so arcane and powerful that the mere sight of its full name will cause any mere mortal being's head to explode. In fact, Answering Guy cannot even attempt to spell its name lest too many of its dangerous alphabetical symbols combine to cause even a small explosion, so we shall refer to this being as (') since the apostrophe represents a guttural stop and we're safe enough with that.

At any rate, the northbound trains travel through the rift and find themselves facing ('), who apparently looks like a thousand eyeballs clustered together and each eyeball has a mouth full of sharp sharp fangs and there are also tentacles and possibly demon wings, the Answering Guy is not too sure. As terrifying as it may be, (') actually really likes choo-choos. In fact, it likes the choo-choos so much that it envelops each one as it arrives, absorbing all its choo-chooness as well as all the people inside, ripping apart each soul and dooming it to float in ancient torment until the Eighth Melting of Shu'Maru. (This event, is has been said, will only happen if both Kurt Russell and Wilford Brimley ever find themselves in Antarctica at the same time and that's not going to happen any time soon because the Answering Man is pretty sure Liberty Medical won't deliver diabeetus testing supplies there and honestly, they'll have more important things to test for while in the frozen wastes.)

Do you feel slightly better about your crappy commute yet? I mean sure, you're late today, but at least your soul hasn't been devoured by an eyemouthed creature which has lain in wait since before the separation of Good and Evil.

It doesn't stop there, however, because you'd think the MBTA would notice a few missing trains and, after a while, they do. Up in the Master Control Center, which is this super-cool Quonset hut just off the Pike near the Weston tolls, a big red light starts blinking. The red light has "TRAIN MISSING" written on it and you can't miss it if you're looking in that direction. Eventually Phil, one of the three men in charge of train operations, looks in that direction, but only because he just lost a game of "Made You Look".

"Hey, there's no unicorn over there!" Phil says indignantly to Barry, the winner of Made You Look, who is now doubled over with laughter. "But there is a red blinking light. It says TRAIN MISSING. What do you think that might mean?"

"Hmm," says Pat, who was a third-party witness to the game of Made You Look. "It probably means there's a train missing somewhere. Press the button and see." Phil presses the button and a big friendly map pops up with an arrow and blinking lights and stuff.

"The arrow's pointing to northbound tracks near Alewife," Phil says. "Oh, I bet it's (') again." However, Phil only gets the first two syllables of the True Name of (') out before he vaporizes in a puff of foul-smelling incense so he doesn't get to the word "again", much less the guttural stop. But Pat and Barry know what it means.

"Get the Wee Train-Making Elves on the horn," Pat says to Barry. "We need a replacement train southbound out of Alewife ay ess ay pee. And you may also want to call in for a replacement Phil while you're at it."

So the Wee Train-Making Elves are called into action and begin to build a brand-new train right at the Alewife platform in front of commuters who'd be astonished if they hadn't been atrophied to dull complancency due to the inordinate late times. And before you know it, they have cobbled together what looks for all intents and purposes to be a Red Line train, only you pedal it down the tracks and there's no working heater in any of the cars. The Alewife commuters all smush in and away the train goes southbound towards Davis, where you'll be sardined in next. Satisfied with a job well done, the Wee Train-Making Elves decide to call it a day right then and there and instead of maybe making more trains to help, run off and spend the next three weeks getting completely crunk off of morning dew and making passes at passing pixies. And that's why you're late today. Sorry there's no official record of this on MBTA.com, by the way, but your boss wouldn't have believed you anyway.

Q. This sounds like a load of hogwarsh to me. What's the deal?
A. Well, do you hear the T giving you any better explanation?
Signed,
The Answering Guy
The Answering Guy can be reached if you are within arm's length.
spatch: (Admit One)
So last night I saw THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL and not the groovy one from 1959, I'm talking the remake from 1999 with Taye Diggs and Geoffrey Rush of all people and I really am all going, like, what? about it and stuff. Okay I am going to tell you the story of the House on Haunted Hill okay so sit down and listen.

Written in CAFFEINE-O-RAMA )

Still, I had more fun watching FROM DUSK TIL DAWN a few nights earlier. But I would totally ride a roller coaster with Lisa Loeb any day. Over and over and over and over again. You know how to reach me. Let's make this happen.
spatch: (Typewriter Guy)
[livejournal.com profile] ayelle has brought to our attention the story of a nature writer whose textbook descriptions of the black-footed ferret were lifted, word-for-word, and used as pillow talk in a romance novel. Paul Tolme's article on the black-footed ferret, which he researched in South Dakota, was originally published in Defender magazine's summer 2005 issue. Somehow, he became an unwitting contributor of dialogue to Cassie Edwards' romance novel "Shadow Bear", in which the exotically-named Shiona Bramlett falls in love with a Lakota chief named, uh, Shadow Bear. Tolme, alerted to this lifting by a romance novel snark blog, reads the book and discovers that portions of his article were placed hot on the heels of a torrid sex scene. I quote:
...a few pages later, as Bramlett and Shadow Bear bask in their postcoital glow, my ferrets arrive on the scene.

Bramlett hears something rustling in the bushes and recoils in fear. Could it be the evil Jack Thunder Horse, come to steal the map that reveals the secret location of the gold discovered by her late father?

No!

It's just a family of ferrets. Phew. Let's put aside for now that ferrets live on the prairie, where there are no bushes—never mind the forest where Edwards has set her characters. Seeing the cute animals, Shiona and Shadow Bear launch into a discussion about the cute little critters.

"They are so named because of their dark legs," Shadow Bear says, to which Shiona responds: "They are so small, surely weighing only about two pounds and measuring two feet from tip to tail."

Shiona then tells Shadow Bear how she once read about ferrets in a book she took from the study of her father. "I discovered they are related to minks and otters. It is said their closest relations are European ferrets and Siberian polecats," she says. "Researchers theorize that polecats crossed the land bridge that once linked Siberia and Alaska, to establish the New World population."

Ohmygod that is so hot.
Well, we took a look at that and worried. You see, we had been hard at work on a romance novel of our own, tenatively entitled "Buffalo Love", and had just smoked two cigarettes (one for each of our protagonists) after finishing a particularly steamy passage. We worried slightly because, as you see, while we were in the midst of this strenuous writing, a Wikipedia window just happened to be open and we might have kinda glanced its way while tapping intently on the keyboard. However, after reading over the finished passage, we are certain that we did no wrong and that nobody will notice anyway.

AND SO, burning with desire and torrid passion... )

It's certain we've nothing to fear.
spatch: (Spike Dancing The Hula)
Pray, scorn me not! I pledge my troth to thee
And if thou shalt ever deign to change thy mind
My love so strong compels me head the line
In the hopes thou tak'st a chance on me.

Oft times have I thought back upon that night
O sweet Fernando, canst thou hear the drums?
Their beat brings something in the air that comes
To make the stars of liberty shine bright.

Behold, this lass of only seventeen
What beauty this, such grace upon the floor!
Jiveth she as none have dared before
O truly, for she is the Dancing Queen.

It's oft been told the winner takes it all
If that be so, the loser takes the fall.
spatch: (Default)
Here's a charmingly tasteless story from [livejournal.com profile] b0st0n, where this post originated:
i had a halloween party.

SOMEONE TOOK A SHIT ON MY BATHROOM WALLS
AND IT'S A BATHROOM THAT IS WITHIN MY BEDROOM

so here is my question:

has anyone here ever used a local private investigator? what are the prices like? any recommendations?

thanks,
gene
It was a cold and windy day in the City of Beans. Temperatures dropping to near-freezing, the Sox had just won the Series and I slowly regained consciousness to find myself lying in a pool of potato-scented drool. I grunted, glancing about to ascertain my whereabouts: the underside of my desk. A popular and familiar destination. Also familiar was the feeling of a tugging at my shoe; it was my trusty secretary Tessie giving me the usual 1:30 pm wake-up call.

"Time to get up, Charlie," Tessie said with a graceful urgency that betrayed her Roslindale hairdo. "You've got a client. Hand me the bottle of Kappy's vodka and watch your head as you get up. You managed to get yourself under your chair again, too."

I slowly extricated myself from underneath the chair and its treacherous casters. Staggering to my knees, I found the task of standing fully up too much for my dehydrated, hungover senses and after a few failed attempts, slipping on the slick linoleum floor, I managed to grip the edge of my desk and slowly pull myself up to a near-standing position. Tessie helpfully wheeled the chair out of my way and then pushed it back just in time for me to collapse in it and sprawl over the desk. My arms flopped down first, scattering pens and paperwork about; my blotto head second, making a forehead-shaped imprint on the cushy blotter.

I blearily saw her as I finally worked up the strength to hold my head up. The sight was definitely energizing. The dame was gorgeous: an amazing blonde in a black dress, black stockings, black shoes I think I saw on Sex And The City and a black veiled hat to match. Definitely Newbury Street. Not a hint of Filene's Basement about her. She looked across the office at me, perched as she was on the red naughahyde couch, keeping a cigarette smoldering simply by holding it close to her lips. A road sign appeared above her that read "CAUTION: LEGS CROSSING." She gazed into my bloodshot eyes with a predatory look of vulnerability. She was all over the map, and her topography was breathtaking.

"Mr. Kendall?" she asked. )
spatch: (HAMBONE)
Ever have one of those mornings that start off so well that you think "Well, the only thing that could make this morning complete is an ice cream sandwich" and what do you know, there's ice cream sandwiches in the freezer?! Nrom nrom nrom. Friday started off that way. Quite nice.

Friday was a very long day. I took the Acela into New York for an evening of musical theater and then a late-late-late night bus ride back. Earlier this autumn I picked up one of the last few remaining face value tix for a Friday night performance of Young Frankenstein, currently in previews at the Hilton Theatre. Was pretty excited to get the tick (er, ticket) because hey, Mel Brooks and his creative team did a good job out with The Producers; hey, Andrea Martin is in it; hey, Sutton Foster too; and hey, Young Frankenstein was a funny film to begin with so if it gets the Producers treatment and goes all bigtime and stuff, I can boast and brag that I saw it before you did neener neener neener (with the exception of katre and some Seattle people, apparently.)

By the way, I finally discovered the beauty and glory that is the Acela train's Quiet Car. No cellphone conversations, no loud yammering, no screaming kids, just blessed quietness, all politely and quietly enforced. I mean, the loudest noises in the car, besides station announcements, were tiny things such as someone went rustling through a bag or an occasional "hrumph" from the older businessman seated next to me (he had a throat-clearing tic, apparently, or he just constantly did not like what he was reading.) All in all well worth the C-note you gotta drop for Business Class. I'm not sure if the Quiet Car only exists on the Express trains; there certainly wasn't one the last time I rode biz class on the Acela's local service, sitting in the Kiddie Business Class car and stopping at every station stop, it felt like, in Connecticut.

I arrived in NYC with the express intent of visiting the Museum of Television and Radio first, then dinner at a favorite restaurant, and then the show. It was a one-man trip, a solo venture, and I was glad to enjoy my solitude in the midst of the most crowdedest city in this time zone. And while I handily accomplished all three tasks, hooray hooray, I was not prepared for the insane humidity. God damn! The rain I was ready for but the humidity played hopscotch with my internal thermostat. I waited for my E train on the 42nd Street platform, amazed at the humid blech that hung over everything, in October, even! Whenever the A express stopped on the other side of the platform, I rushed over and hung out by the open doors of the blessedly air-conditioned train, then hustled back over to the E side. When I got to 53rd and emerged from the underground into the rain, my hair was already soaked and I hadn't even been aboveground yet.

1. In Which Pooh Bear Visits The Museum of Television and Radio )

I had to cut my time at the museum short for dinner. I still had some time left; your $10.00 admission allows you an hour's worth of viewing though they gave me nearly two (must've been a slow day) but I'd seen all I could see at that point. I'd definitely return with the list of flops I'd been working on.

Bidding Sandy and Fred adieu, I stepped back outside into the humidity, ambled over to a 6 train, and rumbled down to the 20s for some food.
spatch: (Spike Dancing The Hula)
I've noticed a curious callous on the side of my left index finger, just below the second knuckle. I couldn't figure out how in the world I could have gotten such a callous, until last night when I reached for the freshly opened two-liter bottle of soda on my computer desk, grabbing it by the neck for to take a healthy swig.

(I go through so much Diets Coke and Pepper that buying it by the two liter is cheaper than buying it by the six-pack. And I only swig out of my own bottles. Anything stored in public spaces gets poured into a glass in a most genteel and seemly fashion. Honest.)

I had a night of vaudeville last night and I was happy to have it. To celebrate the 80th anniversary of the release of The Jazz Singer and the first feature-length "talkie", TCM played the film and then followed up with an hour and a half of ancient Vitaphone shorts from Warner Bros. The shorts, all filmed with sound around 1929, weren't actual storytelling motion pictures, but of actual vaudeville acts which performed around the country then. Wowee!

I hadn't realized there were such abundant records of vaudeville, which has since passed into legend as one of the truly great American forms of entertainment. Yes, England had its music halls which featured a variety of billed acts just like American variety theater, but there was something about the American vaudevillian's itinerant lifestyle that gave the artform a unique image almost romantic in its nostalgia: enterainers schlepping from town to town, often bringing with their entire worldly possessions in one case, performing in horribly maintaned theaters to indifferent -- or worse, hostile -- audiences, sleeping in fleabag hotels and receiving numerous bedbug bites (a bedbug often feeds in three bites clustered around the same spot on the body, which became known as "Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner"), honing their act, perfecting their craft, and all the while hoping to Be Noticed and move from one of the small-time circuits to the Big Time, performing in the Keith's chain of theatres or, dare we dream, the biggest of all Big Time prizes, the sign that you'd finally Made It, playing the Palace in New York City. The Palace! The acts were wide and varied, from two-man comedy teams to singers both comic and serious to dancers to acrobats, jugglers, revue companies, and of course, trained animals.

The genre spawned its own slang. Some of the more colorful phrases are still in use today: "the big time", "second banana", "bombed", "schtick", "knocked 'em dead", "went over", "headliner" and, in the case of poor amateur acts, "getting the hook."

Ah, yes, vaudeville. )

This was not high art. Heck, some of it wasn't even particularly good. But you must know by now that I'm a sucker for entertainment for entertainment's sake, as well as any evidence of how generations before mine enjoyed their particular kinds of entertainment, and it was all the more fascinating to me since I realized I wasn't watching the cream of the crop. Sure, the acts I saw must've been well-known in their time; they were definitely good enough to be deemed worthy of filming, but they never broke into the new Big Time (films and radio) as far as I know. These were the acting stiffs, the very same who schlepped from city to city, performing these same routines over and over again to a new audience every few weeks. These weren't recreations or parodies of routines that we'd see years later on television; this was the real thing, baby. This was vaudeville! God, it was fascinating!

There are a few groups that are dedicated to restoring the Vitaphone shorts, some of which are available online if you know where to look, and I suggest you do. If only to see the lady with the cello suddenly stop her song and, with a crazed comic look on her face, frantically pound a maniacal boom-tiddy-boom-tiddy-boom-tiddy-boom beat on the darn thing with her bow, then continue on as if nothing had happened. She must've been a gas to hang out with on the train.
spatch: (Cyclone)
Coney Island 2000 - Cyclone
The Coney Island Cyclone is 80 years old today.


The Cyclone is my absolute favorite roller coaster. And not just for the coaster, which is an incredible ride, but for what it represents: the entire Coney Island "Nickel Empire" experience and how closely it's all tied to American pop culture. There are many places in this country where hot dogs are still called "Coney Islands" thanks to Coney establishments such as Feltman's Restaurant and Nathan's. Feltman's is long gone (it was next door to the Cyclone where Astroland is today -- for now, anyway) but Nathan's survives. And so does the Cyclone.

Riding the Cyclone is a ritual. )
spatch: (Pronoun Bus)
I seem to have found myself watching Bob Barker's last turn on The Price Is Right.

So I can say I was there, man.


The first contestant won a Corvette, and then they played Plinko. The place is going nuts.

(LIVE BLOGGINGING!!!1 updates in comments)
spatch: (Triplets)
Frank Zappa once appeared on Steve Allen's Tonight Show as a clean-cut young lad from Southern California (hard to believe, but he once was) to show how he could play a bicycle. His proto-Blue Man Group sound stylings, involving banging on the frame, brushing things against the spokes and blowing over open tubes, did not visibly amuse Steve Allen, who thanked Mr. "Za-pah" for doing "whatever it is you do" and then invited him never to return again. (Inwardly, though, I believe Mr. Allen, a musical experimenter himself, was impressed.) Now the point of this experimental exercise was to show that music can come from anything, the bicycle just being handy with lots of pieces to noodle with as well as ranking high on the non-sequitur scale (just below 'fish'.) Mr. Za-pah did not need to prove that a bicycle itself can make music -- we all know it can. In fact, I gave quite a concert on one yesterday.

I'd stopped by L's to pick up a free bike which she promised me in a fit of housecleaning mania, holding her equivalent of a Fire Sale EVERYTHING MUST GO!! She put a bike up for grabs and I said hey sure, why not, I've needed a bike, so I went over and picked it up. I've dubbed it The White Elephant, even though there is nothing white nor excessively bulky about it. According to L. I am the third owner of the bicycle and, apparently, the first to actually take it out and ride it. It came complete with a helmet which just fit and an air pump and an ancient headlight. It first belonged to a gentleman who purchased a Volkswagen during a special promotion a few years back wherein if you bought a Jetta, you got a bike to put on top of it. The bike was passed along to L, who did not have a Jetta to put the bike on, but nonetheless she kept it as a showpiece in her living room until she got tired of vaccuuming around it. There is where I stepped in to take it off her hands and happily pedal off into the sunset.

Now, I am not a Bike Person. )
spatch: (K9)
So I put the Mighty Spatchel Art Players together and we are now proud to present our spoiler-filled version (so don't look if you haven't seen the latest Season 3 episode!) of

DOCTOR WHO: THE SHAKESPEARE CODE )
spatch: (RKO Radio Pictures)
"Be careful, Roxy, [the] Shuberts will want to build a theater there."
Producer and playwright Arthur Hopkins, upon viewing the cavernous orchestra pit at the Roxy

MOTION PICTURES WERE FIRST EXHIBITED IN THE UNITED STATES as acts on a vaudeville bill, in the midst of acrobats, balladeers, and ethnic comedians. The first theater devoted entirely to movies opened on Canal Street in New Orleans in 1896. Rothafel enjoyed a mixture of both, and in his first theater outside Scranton, Pennsylvania, incorporated both moving pictures and live entertainment into a full show. Along with other showmen, he elevated the movies beyond mere vaudeville novelty status, giving them equal billing with live acts or sometimes even better. While he was a stage showman first and foremost, with grand visions of orchestras, dance corps and elaborate production numbers filling his head, he was also a shameless sentimentalist, and knew that while his bally could bring the audience in, what really counted was the human connection. These melodramatic films, fraught with human emotion and displayed on a giant screen, could tell a story to those in the balcony in a far more intimate fashion than a hundred dancers or actors could ever hope to accomplish onstage -- but still, those dancers and all their hoopla couldn't hurt.

So it was with the Roxy Theatre. Cathedral of the Motion Picture it may be, its main attraction would always be heralded by spectacle. Take, for example, the opening night on March 11, 1927. The house lights were already down; Roxy's ushers had led the audience to their seats in almost total darkness.

Those filling the house that night included Charlie Chaplin, Irving Berlin, Harold Lloyd, Will Hays (whose notorious code of morality would dictate Hollywood's content from 1930 until the adoption of the MPAA Ratings system in 1965) and New York's favorite speakeasy owner and hostess extraordinare, Texas Guinan. The program began with a single spot focused on a lone figure center stage. It was not Roxy, it was not Gloria Swanson, it was not a tuxedoed emcee. It was a robed monk with a scroll, who intoned a florid, extravagant benediction:

Ye portals bright, high and majestic,
open to our gaze the path to Wonderland,
and show us the realm
where fantasy reigns,
where romance and adventure flourish.

Let every day's toil be forgotten
under thy sheltering roof:
O glorious, mighty hall,
thy magic and thy charm unite us all
To worship at Beauty's throne.


Then, after an undoubtedly dramatic pause, one final phrase: "Let there be light."

And there was light, and the audience saw it, and it was good. )

Next: The Boys and the Girls of the Roxy
spatch: (RKO Radio Pictures)
Picture 'bout a Minnesota man so in love with a Mississippi girl that he sacrifices everything and moves to Biloxi...
IN THE EARLY WINTER OF 1927, silent film star Gloria Swanson travelled to West 50th and 7th Avenue in New York City to visit Samuel L. Rothafel, powerhouse showman, tireless promoter, and theater manager since "the days when pianists trebled 'Hearts and Flowers' whenever a Sousa march didn't fit."

It was there that Roxy, as he was known to his friends ("...and you may call me that, too, when you write," he would later advise his radio audience) eagerly gave Swanson a tour of his nearly-completed prize: an enormous, outlandishly rococo movie palace capable of seating almost 6000 people. The actual auditorium number was around 5900, but in Roxy's inimitable fashion, he upped it to 6200 in the press by counting all the chairs in the offices, lounges, and even the maintenance rooms.

Gloria walked with Roxy up to the upper balcony, where workmen were busy plastering the ceiling. Impetuously, she grabbed a trowel and inscribed "ROXY - I LOVE YOU - GLORIA" in one corner. Roxy ordered that it stay on the ceiling forever. The Roxy Theater opened on March 11, 1927 with Gloria Swanson's latest film, "The Love of Sunya", as one of the features and Swanson herself in attendance. The Cathedral of the Motion Picture had arrived.

In 1961, after years of declining attendance, failed revitalization attempts and numerous protests, the Roxy was closed and demolished. Roxy himself was long gone, but Gloria Swanson paid one last visit to W. 50th and 7th, accompanied by a Life Magazine photographer. There, in evening gown and boa, she posed amidst the ruins. Swanson was photographed in several poses -- one echoed the glamour and beauty of the old palace in stark contrast to its reality. But the most enduring image is her pose to the left, arms outstretched in one final gesture of exaltation and praise to the treasure that was; Gloria triumphant.

The corner of W. 50th and 7th in Manhattan is now home to The World's Largest T.G.I. Friday's.

Next: Let There Be Light
spatch: (Rocket Man!)
LISA NOWAK GOES TO WAL-MART
By R. Noyes, age 32

INT. WAL-MART CHECKOUT COUNTER - DAY

(LISA NOWAK dumps the contents of her shopping basket on the checkout conveyor belt in front of the BORED TEENAGED CASHIER.)

TEENAGED CASHIER
(mumbling to himself as he scans each item)
Lessee... one wig... paira sunglasses... pepper spray... trench coat... steel mallet... 4-foot length of rubber tubing... Camper's Choice 4-inch folding knife... Lil' Oswald BB pistol... box of 30-gallon garbage bags... and one pack of Depends.

(The TEENAGED CASHIER finishes the order, looks over the items, and then stares dully at LISA NOWAK. There is an AWKWARD PAUSE.)

LISA NOWAK
(nervously glancing around)
Is there something wrong?

(The TEENAGED CASHIER sighs.)

LISA NOWAK
What?!

TEENAGED CASHIER
(perfunctorily)
Would-you-like-to-make-a-$1-donation-to-the-Helping-Hearts-Children's-Fund?

LISA NOWAK
(quickly)
No! No.

TEENAGED CASHIER
Then the total is $389.32.

(LISA NOWAK hands TEENAGED CASHIER a credit card. TEENAGED CASHIER stares dully at the credit card, then back at LISA NOWAK. There is another AWKWARD PAUSE as his eyes meet hers.)

LISA NOWAK
Oh god, now what?!

(The TEENAGED CASHIER sighs again.)

TEENAGED CASHIER
Credit or debit?

LISA NOWAK
Debit.


fin
spatch: (Default)
Here it is, folks, your Moment of Denouement.
Music, Maestro? *ahem*

You and I in our little workshop
Making LED lights from the money we got
Hanging glowies before dawn
Til one by one, they're all done
Three weeks later, MBTA subway
Worker sees one, he goes "Oh hey,
Better call the bomb squad by
Cause ninety-nine Mooninites have arrived"

Ninety-nine Mooninites
Hanging from the overpass
With their middle fingers high
As if to say "Hub, kiss my ass"
Here's Ignignokt, that one's Err
But Boston does not know for sure
The Aqua Teens are advertised
By ninety-nine Mooninites in the sky

Ninety-nine cops on the scene
Can't believe what they've just seen
There's batteries and wires, too
And no one knows just what to do
They look explosive, clench your fists
They must be from terrorists!
We better blast them to the sky
Cause ninety-nine Mooninites must die

Ninety-nine white vans arrive
All with TV crews inside
Everyone's a news reporter
Everyone's a Chet or Nat
Breathlessly they cause a panic
Are these bombs or just Satanic?
Suddenly the bloggers cry
"Wait a minute, those are Mooninites!"

Ninety-nine lulz we have had
And all because of Pete and Sean
It's all over, but Menino's mumbling
Words like "hoax" to hide his bumbling
Folks are selling souvenirs
To commemorate our Day of Fear
And here is a Mooninite
I check eBay and make my bid...

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spatch: (Default)
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