Entries from December 2004 ↓

Karsh Takes Manhattan

A rare face-to-face with a fellow blogger (actually, bloggers) occurred today. Karsh is taking his vacation in the Big Apple and we met up around Columbus Circle for a few hours, enabling us both to attach a live body to the weblogs weve been reading (he actually designed mine, so weve at least spoken by phone).

A pleasant enough visit, we didnt do much except wander around the area and window shop in the posh, upscale (read: grossly overpriced) shops of the spanking new Time Warner Center.

We also had the pleasure of meeting and seeing (again) Rocka and Lynne, who were both out enjoying the unseasonably balmy weather. My first time meeting Rocka, a recent transplant to the city, and second time in the company of Lynne; Karsh met them both for the first time.

In his remaining days in town, he hopes to meet some of the other New York folks (hint, hint).

Who knew that offline, real time meetings could be so interesting. Totally different experience from blogging, emailing and IMing. More people ought to try it. It might even catch on.

Goodbye, Old Friends

Some of those who left us in 2004:

Ann Miller One of a long line of MGM triple threats, she acted, sang and tap danced her way through some of the great Hollywood musicals of the post- war years – Easter Parade, On the Town and Kiss Me, Kate among them.

Bob Keeshan As the walrus-mustached, bowl-haircut Captain Kangeroo, he was one of the inventors of early childrens television, and the reason many of us late baby boomer kids got up in the morning. The show ran on CBS from 1955 to 1985, and then moved to public television for six more years and won six Emmys and three Peabody Awards.

Jack Paar.jpgJack Paar Host of NBCs Tonight Show pre-Johnny Carson, he popularized the late night talk show format, then told his viewers farewell when still in his prime. Leno, Letterman, Conan and all the others owe a debt of gratitude to him.

Mercedes McCambridge Powerful and commanding actress with a very distinctive voice, she won an Academy Award for her 1949 film debut in “All the King’s Men,” and also was the volatile nemesis of Joan Crawford in the western “Johnny Guitar” (1954).

Paul Winfield Strong character actor who in 1972 became the third African-American to be nominated for an Oscar. It was for his role as Nathan Morgan in the critically acclaimed Sounder. His partner of many years, Charles Gillian Jr, predeceased him.

Robert Pastorelli He played housepainter Eldin on “Murphy Brown.” He was heading for a career as a truck driver or a boxer when a serious car accident on his 19th birthday made him re-think his goals and enter acting. He was found dead in his apartment of an apparent drug overdose.

Sir Peter Ustinov Distinguished British actor on stage, screen and television, he appeared in such films as Quo Vadis and Spartacus. Also enjoyed a successful career as journalist, actor, playwright and author.

Alistair Cooke Esteemed writer and BBC broadcaster famed for his program Letter From America, he was best known to American audiences as host of the PBS series Masterpiece Theatre.

Alan King Brooklyn-born standup comedian, actor, writer and producer, he often opened for Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, and Judy Garland, with whom he had a record-breaking run at New York’s Palace Theatre. When marriage took him from Manhattan to a house in Queens, his humor focused on being a displaced Jew in suburbia.

Tony Randall His portrayal of Felix Unger on The Odd Couple endeared him to television audiences. Before that he had a long movie career often playing the fussy foil in many Rock Hudson and Doris Day films. Later in life, he founded and ran the National Actors Theatre in New York, devoted to classic plays.

President Ronald Reagan 40th President of the United States. Former Governor of Californa, and before that an actor and GE spokesman. His administration made widespread cuts in federal aid to poor people, ignored the growing AIDS epidemic, and grew the largest federal deficit in history (since surpassed by both Presidents Bush). Good riddance.

Ray Charles.jpgRay Charles Innovative singer and musician who combined blues and gospel music to form a unique blend of soul music. Hit the Road Jack, Georgia on My Mind, I Can’t Stop Loving You” and “Busted” were some of my personal favorites.

Marlon Brando Stage and screen legend, he was arguably one of the greatest actors of our time. His 1947 Broadway performance as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire made him a star. Movie roles in Streetcar, On the Waterfront and The Wild One made him an icon of the 1950s. His portrayal of mafia don Vito Corleone in The Godfather won him renewed acclaim.

Isabel Sanford As Louise Weezy Jefferson on the long-running sitcom The Jeffersons she traded sharp-tongued wisecracks with husband George (Sherman Hemsley). Her biggest movie role was in Stanley Kramer’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (1967) where she stole every scene she was in. She played the maid, Tillie, who disapproved of the interracial love match between Sidney Poitier and Katharine Houghton.

Rick James.jpgRick James His1981 funk hit Super Freak might well have been used to describe James himself. He worked hard and partied even harder, often enjoying drugs and sex to excess, resulting in stints in jail. He had a comeback of sorts just before his death, thanks to a parody done by comedian Dave Chappelle.

Julia Child An early television superstar and bestselling cookbook author, she helped a generation of Americans to master the art of French cooking.

Elmer Bernstein The consummate Hollywood film composer, he was classically trained and capable of doing a wide variety of assignments. His scores for the movies The Man with the Golden Arm, The Magnificent Seven, and To Kill A Mockingbird are considered some of his finest work.

Fred Ebb Lyricist who, with partner John Kander, penned some of Broadway’s most memorable scores, including Cabaret, Woman of the Year, and Kiss of the Spider Woman, all of which earned the pair Tony Awards.

Geoffrey Beene New York designer whose fashions ranged from suits and coats as sleek as modern sculpture to evening dresses as colorful and frothy as wedding cakes. Beene was among the first designers of his level to use fine-quality rayon and other synthetic fabrics for his collections, partly because they resisted wrinkles.

Richard Avedon One of the most influential fashion photographers of the post-war era, Avedon created an extraordinary portfolio which documented the gamut of American public life, from Ike Eisenhower to Andy Warhol and from Marilyn Monroe to Nastassja Kinski.

Janet Leigh Her Oscar-nominated role as the victim of a shower stabbing in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho became iconic in the film world. Also starred in The Manchurian Candidate and Touch of Evil and along with ex-husband Tony Curtis, gave birth to actress Jamie Lee Curtis.

Gordon Cooper One of the Original Seven astronauts, he flew the sixth and final Mercury space mission in 1963 and later commanded Gemini 5. To a generation of young boys like myself who dreamed of exciting space adventures, he was a hero.

Rodney Dangerfield A comedian who always made me laugh, he used self-deprecating humor as his schtick. His line I dont get no respect was his trademark. Regular appearances with Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show led to success in movies and his own NYC comedy club Dangerfields.

Christopher Reeve Strapping six-foot-four actor who would rise to fame in the 1978 movie Superman, he would devote his life to a search for a cure for paralysis following a 1995 horse riding accident that left him in a wheelchair.

Pierre Salinger A witty, debonair bon vivant, he rose from a newspaper reporter in San Francisco to a top position at the White House before he was 40. Press secretary to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and later chief European foreign correspondent for ABC News.

Howard Keel Stage and screen actor with a powerful baritone voice, he starred in such musicals and Showboat, Kiss Me Kate and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. His career was rejuvenated when he took on the role of Clayton Farlow on tvs Dallas.

Yasser Arafat Since the late 1960s, the living symbol of the Palestinian cause. Arafat was Chairman of al-Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization and elected President of the Palestinian Authority. Known for his trademark black-and-white checkered kuffiyah draped carefully over his shoulder so as to assume the proportions and shape of the map of Palestine.

Susan Sontag Novelist, essayist and critic whose impassioned advocacy of the avant-garde and equally impassioned political pronouncements made her one of the most lionized presences – and one of the most polarizing – in 20th-century letters. She wrote four novels, dozens of essays and a volume of short stories and was also an occasional filmmaker, playwright and theater director.

Reggie White A two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and ordained minister who was known as the “Minister of Defense,” White played a total of 15 years with Philadelphia, Green Bay and Carolina. He retired after the 2000 season as the NFL’s all-time leader in sacks with 198. The mark has since been passed by Bruce Smith.

Jerry Orbach Known to tv audiences as Lennie Briscoe on Law & Order, he was a veteran actor of both the stage and the big screen. Orbach won a Tony award for Best Actor in a Musical for “Promises, Promises” in 1969 and was nominated for Tonys for his performances in “Guys and Dolls” in 1965 and “Chicago” in 1976. Orbach starred in other hit Broadway musicals, including “Carnival” and “42nd Street.” He played Baby Houseman’s father in 1987′s cult classic, “Dirty Dancing.” He also appeared on film in “Prince of the City” and “Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Artie Shaw A clarinetist and bandleader who recorded the Big Band hit “Begin the Beguine,” “Dancing in the Dark,” “Accent-tchu-ate the Positive,” “Moonglow” and “Stardust.” Performers who worked with Shaw include drummer Buddy Rich, singers Mel Torm and Billie Holiday. Shaw also married four times, to among others Lana Turner and Ava Gardner.

Aaron Hawkins.jpgAaron Hawkins One of the first Black bloggers, at Uppity-Negro.com, he wrote with great wit, intellect, insight and sarcasm to comment on politics, race, gender and other issues. His presence in the blogosphere will be greatly missed. Where ever you are Aaron, I hope you are at peace.

Lethargy is my middle name

Ive been off from work almost a week now and will be out until January 3. Tonight is my last class for the year, and even though I have lots of reading to do, I have no energy or enthusiasm for any of it.

Ive been sleeping late and staying up late, but otherwise not doing a damn thing! Watching tv, surfing the net, managed to get to the gym yesterday, but other than that, nothing.

Its sad. Ive got time and money but no great desire to even get dressed. My apartment has been an absolute mess since I started this work/school marathon and I keep meaning to clean, but….

Because of my schedule, Ive lost touch with many of my friends (especially those who still insist on using a telephone) and promised Id try to reconnect, but thus far I havent moved an inch in that direction.

The worst part is, Im enjoying doing absolutely nothing. I almost dont want to go home for Christmas this weekend, because that will mean I have to get up, dress, pack, travel and all that other stuff.

I could get use to this. Both the New York State Lottery and Mega Millions jackpots are at $40 million this week. If I won any part of either one, doing nothing would be my regular routine.

I must admit, Ive always been reclusive. I have tried to be more outgoing and sociable and at times, in the right company, I do genuinely enjoy myself. But I also know that most of the time I dont feel like making small talk with total strangers, or dealing with that one person who insists on turning every event into their personal showcase, or laughing at some joke that wasnt really all that funny just to keep the evening light. I could be home in my underwear watching TCM .

Which of course makes it difficult to meet anyone and create that elusive long-term committed relationship. Most guys dont understand this need for personal space. They take it as a rejection of them, which it isnt. A lot of it is just about decompression and re-energizing. I cant do that if Im out running around.

On other matters. The Wire had its final episode this week and Im already missing it. I do hope HBO comes to its senses and renews it for a fourth season. Im also feeling those of us who love the show need to start a letter writing campaign to help that process. Regular letters make a bigger impact than emails when you are lobbying. If anyone has the snail mail address for whomever is in charge of programming, pass it along.

The finale took us full circle. We know drug dealing will continue out on the street corners, probably with violent turf wars, because the politicians gave up on Hamsterdam. Controversial as it was, it reduced crime. Avon realized immediately his mistake in killing Stringer. Without him, he lost his best sounding board and advisor. Stringer didnt really need Avon to run the empire, but Avon definitely needed Stringer.

Kima has become another McNulty, cheating on her spouse. And did anyone else see how erect the nipples were on the woman she was sexing? Wooo!

And whats Omar going to do now with no Barksdale crews to rob?

Seeing Red

In Hamilton County, Ohio, a conservative Cincinnati suburb, last year, more than 21,000 residents purchased 26,000 explicit videos from one of the nation’s largest mail-order companies. In January of this year, 182,000 Greater Cincinnati residents — an estimated 70,000 from Hamilton County — visited an adult Web site at least once. Nielsen – NetRatings found that 21.8 percent of all residents here who went online visited an adult site. The national average for January was 21.4 percent.

Washington Post columnist Terry M. Neal has more on the moral values shaping inhabitants of the red states.

President Bush heads into his second term amid deep and growing public skepticism about the Iraq war, with a solid majority saying for the first time that the war was a mistake and most people believing that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld should lose his job, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Yet, in a study to determine how much the public fears terrorism, almost half of respondents polled nationally said they believe the U.S. government should curtail civil liberties for Muslim Americans. About 27 percent of respondents said that all Muslim Americans should be required to register their location with the federal government, and 26 percent said they think that mosques should be closely monitored by U.S. law enforcement agencies.

Finally, in a story that escaped major media attention, a National Guardsman who pleaded guilty to killing a 17-year-old Iraqi soldier said he shot the youth after they had consensual sex in a guard tower. Pvt. Federico Daniel Merida, 21, pleaded guilty to murder without premeditation and other charges during a court-martial in Iraq in September.

Pop Quiz

We havent had one in awhile and since were nearing the end of the year and folks are about to get away for the holidays, I thought Id throw a short one at you. Show all work and no cheating.

1. What is the one thing you must see or hear or do that tells you in no uncertain terms that its the holiday season?

2. Of the three, which is your favorite: Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years Eve?

3. Is the holiday season typically fun or depressing for you?

4. Have you been good this year? Do you deserve a visit from Santa?

5. How old were you when you figured out there was no Santa Claus?

6. What was the best toy you ever got as a kid?

7. What adult toy would you like someone to give you?

8. What is your fondest memory from 2004?

9. To what are you most looking forward in 2005?

10. Are you optimistic or pessimistic as we enter a new year?

My answers:

1. I have to hear Nat King Coles rendition of The Christmas Song. Not some contemporary version, not some instrumental and certainly not some hip hop version. The classic, one and only original. Then and only then have the holidays begun.

2. Frankly, I like Thanksgiving best. Its all about family and food (and football). No commercialism, like Christmas, nor societally imposed happiness, like New Years Eve. Just gather together people you love and eat a lot.

3. A little of both. Thanksgiving is fun, Christmas a little less so, New Years is totally overblown and meaningless for me. But in the past several years, I have also taken time off from work around this time, so if nothing else its restful.

4. I dont now about good, but Ive worked really hard and been pushed to my limits and survived. I deserve something, dammit. But I doubt if Im getting anything in the way of gifts. In my family were all adults and can pretty much get the things we want ourselves, so weve kinda stopped giving gifts. The things I really want are on the wishlist if anyone cares. But Ill have to be my own Santa to get them.

5. I dont recall, but it was early on. Two and two just kept adding up to five. We didnt have a chimney, so I didnt understand how he could get in. My mother would always circulate the Spiegel Christmas catalog and ask us to make out our lists and I wondered what the connection was. I sat down and figured with all the people in the world, how could one man hit every home in one night. It just didnt make any sense. Then of course there was the time my brothers and I found the toys hidden in my parents closet.

6. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. toy gun. It was so cool. It was an automatic pistol, with a silencer, a shoulder stock extension, a sight, and tripod legs so you could lay on the ground. It fired caps and had a shoulder holster. Yes, guns are what little boys asked for in the 60s.

7. Well, the Segway would be real cool. Id also like a camcorder.

8. Hmmm.maybe starting culinary school, because Id been thinking about doing it for so long. The stars all came into alignment to allow it to happen.

9. Finishing school! The schedule is kicking my ass weekly and Id like to be done already.

10. Optimistic on a personal level, because I feel excited about my future professionally, but pessimistic for the country as a whole because of the dangerous right wing extremists who now occupy the White House and Congress. How we will get through these next four years is anyones guess.