Sunday, August 27, 2006

Damn Yankees - Baseball '06 Quarterly Report

This just in… Disney has just announced that Pluto will no longer be considered a dog! All references to Pluto as a dog will now be removed from all Disney movies.. Which means we no longer have to wonder about why Goofy speaks but Pluto doesn’t!

This column had already been written early in the week and would have been timelier had it been posted as scheduled on Thursday.. However, I delayed it due to Thursday’s fire… (See Diary of a Crummy Day in the archives.) Just to update you, the blaze started due to electrical wiring in the area between the ceiling of the basement and the floor above it. The synagogue is set up in such a way that there is a sanctuary and immediately behind that is a social hall. Due to the synagogue’s popularity, they have overflow crowds each week so a divider is opened up and chairs are placed out in the social hall making it one huge room. According to an eyewitness, there is now a 25 foot hole in the floor of the social hall, and extensive smoke and water damage to the sanctuary. The rest of the ground floor and the second floor have lesser damage.

As for the baseball column…. we start with a note to the Red Sox fans…. those annoying Yankee fans may be celebrating all they want after their five game sweep last weekend in Fenway Park... but no matter how you slice it.. a five game sweep in August is nowhere as bad as losing 4 in a row after leading 3-0 in the best of 7 LCS like the Yankees did in 2004.

Greetings folks.. from Red Sox country.. The central point of baseball last wknd.. (although the Mets ‘86 reunion at Shea was also kind of exciting)... Boston, MA is the site where today’s column was conceived.. along with the baby by the couple in the next room in our hotel with the wafer thin walls! . Boston baseball has been the hub of all excitement since last week when thousands of people started downloading the You Tube video of Denis Leary in the Red Sox TV booth totally ripping into Mel Gibson as Jewish ballplayer Kevin Youkilis, made some sparkling defensive plays. Now, the Mets have traded for Youkilis’ fellow Yid…. OF Shawn Green. The marketing tie-ins are endless… there aren’t any games scheduled for Yom Kippur (its the day after the regular season ends) so I’m sure local synagogues will clamor to get Green to attend as was the case for Sandy Koufax when he pitched for the Dodgers. He can even attend synagogue with me.. I’m still not sure where our services will be held... but I’ll happily buy him a seat even though I may have to have a talk with him about his 2004 season long slump which totally messed up my rotisserie team! The Florida Marlins even scheduled a Jewish day in honor of first baseman Mike Jacobs only to later find out that Jacobs isn’t Jewish… they just assumed it..

Trophy Wife and I ventured off to Beantown last wknd for a very quick 24 hour trip to attend a party for one of her friends.  By the way if you have a Tom Tom GPS device… it doesn’t work in Boston… It appears to be reading maps that were drawn before the massive Big Dig that moved the highway system underground. After spending a lot of time lost, we left there Sunday evening just before the ESPN Game 4 began.. but not before a quick stop at Ruben’s Kosher Deli in Brookline for an artery clogging deli sandwich... We also ran into my friend Jeff there, which is funny because he lives in Hillside, NJ! I snuck up on him and asked him how to get to Union County and when he turned around to see where this bizarre question was coming from... he was quite stunned to see me!

We also spent some time at Faneuil Hall on Sunday... we got a nice free parking spot outside a bar filled with Yankee fans that was right in front of the Holocaust Memorial.  At Faneuil Hall there was this silent woman who paints herself red and does some kind of act, and then expects you to leave a tip.  I like those wacky "silent performance artists" because its an opportunity to rip off a funny joke to see if they will laugh or maybe chortle.  Instead I pulled Trophy Wife over and bellowed to the Silent Red Woman.. "This is my wife and she told me it was ok if you would be my celebrity affair!"...  Silent Red Woman looked at me and then retorted.. "Yeah but the silver guy might kick your ass!"... at which point she blew me a good natured kiss.. and made me realize that I would have something funny for the 6th paragraph of today's column as long as something interesting would happen later that day at Ruben's Deli to give me an amusing 5th paragraph.

I dislike the Yankees more and more each day.  In the old days, I never had an issue with them.. I even liked listening to their games on WABC with Phil Rizzuto, Frank Messer and Bill White… and I was happy for them when they won the World Series in 96, 98 and 99.  But after 2000 when they had the audacity to beat the Mets and party at Shea like it was 1999.. .I started to dislike them, and the sheer enjoyment of watching them lose in '01 to Arizona made me realize that 2001 could not get any better.  Of course I later met Trophy Wife on 12-29-01 at The Highland Park Conservative Temple and Center while I was talking to my pal Carrie, and in my love at first sight moment I bellowed "Wow... and I thought the Yankees losing the World Series was the highlight of my year".. What a great pickup line. Unfortunately she is a Yankee fan.. And I’m not sure how much Shalom in the Home we’ll have if there is a Subway Series this year!

As we head to the final quarter of the '06 campaign, the Evil Empire in Yankeeland is gearing up for a matchup with the Mets in what looks to be a replay of that 2000 Series.. a big media event in the NY Metropolitan Area.. but a yawner for fans in the rest of the country… It’s also an opportunity for Fox Sports On Air Hog Joe Buck to try to squeeze in a Sunday Giants Stadium game… AND an 8pm World Series game for a Deion Sanders type marathon day. That could happen October 22nd because Fox will broadcast the 1pm Jets-Lions in NJ, and then it could also take place on October 29th if there is a Game 7 and if he calls the Giants-Tampa 1pm game at Giants Stadium. The Yankees theft of Bobby Abreu and the pick up of Cory Lidle as the 5th starter has them on their way.  Nifty move on the Yankees part sneaking Lidle on the bereavement list so they could add a reliever for the 4 games in 3 days at Fenway.. Lidle wasn’t gonna miss a start anyway but the Yanks took full advantage of a loophole in the rule that should be changed to "the family leave" rule since it also allowed Richie Sexson to leave his team last wk while his wife had a baby. I also must eat crow and admit I was wrong at the All Star break for picking the Yankees not to make the wild card because they were too far back in the standings.

The Yankees really made their big move in the off season when they signed former Red Sox CF Johnny Damon as a free agent.  That started a chain reaction where the Red Sox traded for Indians CF Coco Crisp and neither team has been the same ever since.  The Indians got Guilermo Mota for their hideous bullpen and they just traded him to the Mets for a bag of baseballs, some cracker jacks and a copy of the dvd of the William Shatner Comedy Central Roast.  I guess nothing beats sex jokes tossed at good ol’ Betty White!

The A’s look like they’re gonna take the West.. but the Angels and Rangers are hanging tough, and the Angels have a deep Bartolo Colon-less rotation with young rookie superstuds Jered Weaver and John Saunders trying to lead them to the top of the division.. Colon’s total of 1 win not only hurt the Angels in ’06 but totally killed my rotisserie team! Is Colon Jewish? I may have to have a Yom Kippur chat with him also! The offense is a bit lacking though.. and they haven’t done anything to improve it.. while the Rangers pitching is quite mediocre.. but they improved their offense by trading for Carlos Lee who once again is showing that he can’t maintain his first half pace after the All Star Break. Did anyone realize how good Mark DeRosa would be? Was he actually drafted by any rotisserie teams?

The wild card is either going to be the Red Sox or the 2nd place team in the Central.  Are the Red Sox finished after last weekend’s total destruction? More than likely the Central holds the wild card team.  The Tigers have faded a bit and the pitching has dropped a notch but if they can keep from plummeting to 3rd, a playoff spot will be theirs for the taking.  I was not really sure if the Twins had enough to beat out Chicago, .. especially after the injury to Fransisco Liriano, but they are now the Wild Card leaders........ but between those 3 central teams and the Red Sox.. 2 of 'em are headed home in October and when all is said and done I think it’s going to be the Twins and Red Sox...just because Chicago has a deeper more experienced offense and starting rotation.  I think the Twins have some fantastic young players such as M and M boys Justin Morneau and catcher Joe Mauer whose batting average has slipped into the 350s… Maybe those Red Sox fans should rethink the idea that trading Bronson Arroyo for Willy Mo Pena was a good idea?

In the National League the teams there are lining up for a chance to lose to the Mets.  The question is which Wild Card loses in the 1st round and which division winner will make it just to lose in the 2nd round to the Mets? Although if the Phillies are the wild card.. they will get a break and probably face St. Louis instead. The Mets took a brilliant strategic approach during the off season by making their bullpen the priority, and building up an insurmountable lead in April and May and then cruising to the finish line while all the other mediocre teams beat each other up. Ultimately if the Mets face the Cards in the post season.. lets hope John Maine just walks Albert Pujols each time,… but then again even if he gives up a bunch of Pujols round trippers… you know the Cardinal bullpen will just cough up the lead…Don’t be surprised if Oliver Perez turns out to be a valuable situational lefty coming out of the bullpen during the post season.

The Cards and Reds look to be the Central Winner and Wild Card respectively... The Cards have had 2 8 game losing streaks, but thanks to the Reds (and Astros) incompetence, the Cards still maintain a slim lead.  All the Central bullpens are just awful and the Reds have been trying every possible reliever they can find to help them stumble into a first round loss to the Mets.  Over in the West each month a different team takes the lead.. The Dodgers had been hot the last few weeks before being swept by the Padres, but aside from Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra, they have no steady bats, although Wilson Betemit and Andre Ethier have the potential to become solid young ballplayers. They already have traded away Dennys Baez and Duaner Sanchez and their best reliever Eric Gagne is again out with an injury so who knows how long the starters can survive their lengthy 100+ pitch outings.. not to mention Greg Maddux pitching like he is 10 years younger. If they clinch the division, they will probably go down meekly to the Cards in the first round.. but strangely enough, on paper The Padres and Rockies still appear to have more talent, but they all look like pretenders as evidenced by their sweeps at the hands of the Mets these past couple of wks.. and Mike Piazza went 0-28 and has had just 2 hits in the 2 and a half weeks wks since the game he hit those 2 hrs off Pedro Martinez! Not that Pedro has done much since then, but he will be back for some tune-ups in September before the playoffs.

As for the Mets, kudos to Omar Minaya to building a winner.. but lets hope we don’t have to witness another Yankee celebration at Shea where Games 3, 4 and 5 will be held because of that ridiculous rule that awards home field to the league that wins the All Star game.  Now if the Red Sox could only get their act together and face the Yankees in the playoffs.. we know the Yankees can beat them in the regular season.. but we also know that in the post season the Boys in Beantown can win 4 in a row! Actually, I don’t know if the Mets really want to face the Red Sox, or the Tigers, or the White Sox, or the Angels nor any of those teams in the American League! Have the Royals been mathematically eliminated from the Wild Card yet?

Enjoy the rest of the summer.. Coming Soon: Another movie club column with The Godfather II and our NFL weekly picks!!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Diary of a Crummy Day

Wednesday was just such a lousy day,.. I have a client who is driving me nuts... another one who didnt get paid money that was rightfully his, and another one in FL has an appraisor who is up to some kind of monkey business that transcends the lunacy of hanging chads. All I do is put out fires..

Last night I went to sleep and I said.. Thursday will be a better day... So far.. not the case.

My Wife called me this morning to tell me that the Temple is on fire. According to the latest news reports.. the blaze started in the basement and a major part of the building has smoke damage. Most importantly nobody was in the building at the time so there are no injuries or deaths.. and the sacred Torah scrolls including the ones salvaged from the Holocaust after World War II have also been safely removed.

As you know I met my wife there in that very building on December 29, 2001.. I was speaking to my friend Carrie there after services one day (and she just got engaged last week!) and this cute girl came walking over to us... You gotta like a synagogue that helps you meet your wife!! Everytime we drive by or walk by.. I always say to her.. "I met the most beautiful girl in the world in that building"... at which point she runs down a list of every woman in Sisterhood and/or Haddasah in a goofy attempt to guess which woman I am referring to.

During lunch today I drove over to see the building. I had to park a few blocks away because the road was closed off. I passed some of the older members who were sitting on a bench looking at the building. Today, I didn't make any comment about meeting the most beautiful girl there... but silently stood there as the stench of smoke was very obvious. The building is still there.. the stained glass windows in the sanctuary are still there.. but there is a lot of smoke damage in the back of the building. Later tonight there will be a temple meeting at the local Y and I am sure we will hear the battle plan of what will be happening.

I had seen the early media reports about the blaze and the Rabbi has already done what he should... he announced that we will bounce back. And we will.. I dont know if that is a Jewish thing.. but its a human thing. We're like weebles.. we wobble but we dont fall down.. and if we do.. we get right back up. We survived Pogroms, The Holocaust and terror in NY and Israel. 3 heroic Israeli soldiers remain missing probably in Iran, and Israel fights to get them back.. yet misguided liberals who are more concerned with the Plight of the Hezbollah cause us to fight an unnecesary PR war.. . Do we let that get us down? No... we dont. We always recover after we fall!

I originally started going to the Highland Park Conservative Temple and Center in 1997 so I am relatively new to the Temple family. My mom had moved to Edison, after living in Roselle for 30 years. A few weeks after the move, it was time for the Yizkor Memorial Services so it was time to find a new synagogue. The first place I went to didnt have services so I x'ed that one out... and I decided to venture off to HP. Amazingly it was a weekday and the place was full! After that... that was where I would go for services.. including the High Holy Days..

Just before the 1999 Holy Days.... which were a bit too soon after Labor Day... (unlike 1994 when they started labor day night.. and jerry Lewis sang "You will never walk alone... to shul!"), I went to purchase tickets and politely asked if I could not be seated behind an extremely tall gentleman who had blocked my view the year before. On the first day of the Holy days.. I turn around to leave my seat and there approaching me was the same very tall guy! As he walked right to me, I froze in fear wondering if the woman in the office repeated my seating request to him. "Hey".. he said.. "that was fun playing frisbee last wknd at the Y Camps!".. It turned out he had been at a singles weekend at the Y Camps and we had tossed a frisbee around... I didnt realize that this tall dude at the singles wknd was the same view blocker from 1998.. These tall people all look the same to me.. and as it turns out we have been good buddies ever since!

I started going there with more regularity in 2001. My mother died that August and I moved into her condo in October. I was saying kaddish on a daily basis and started to go to their nightly services where I became friendly with the gang of regulars at the nightly minyan. It was only because I was saying Kaddish that i went to services that fateful December 29th.. We know another couple that is getting married later this year.. and they also met at the Temple.

We have also made a lot of terrific friends there.. and as was the case with my prior synagogue in Linden... you start to form a lot of happy memories.. I always think of Saturday morning services as a long running musical.. it takes place each and every weekend and even if you attend services in LA or FL or Mexico or Israel,... the songs are the same and you form a comfort level with those familiar tunes.

Tonight a temple-wide meeting was held at the local Y... and thanks to Channel 7 for realizing that this is an important news story... and we were updated on the status of the building. According to the engineer who toured the scene.. structurally the building is still very sound so we don't have to worry about that. However, the interior in the area of the sanctuary sustained major damage. The Temple President got an early morning call from the alarm company and when he stepped into the sanctuary to see what was going on... he could see the flames shooting up through the floor from the basement below. Kudos to the heroic firefighters.. many who were at the Y tonight... for a job well done.. According to those on the scene, they did everything they could to keep the stained glass windows intact.. But as the Rabbi said when the media interviewed him in the early morning hours.. it is time now to rebuild and one day down the road the building will be back to its old self.

Next weekend is Labor Day... and we are all going to go away and have fun. Every weekend my wife and I go to the ATM and take out "weekend fun money". Maybe just maybe the readers of this blog might want to consider setting aside some of that "fun money".. maybe the cost of a few drinks.. maybe the amount they would spend on a dinner out, maybe they spend for funnel cakes at Point Pleasant, or even the cost of a new frisbee. Or we just might want to match that "Labor Day weekend fun money" with money that can go to another good cause.. Operation Temple Restoration. Maybe one day a goofy guy like me can go there for services and end up meeting his wife.

Y'know they say a synagogue is a house of worship.. but in reality.. it is a Home for Worshippers. It is a structure that protects us from the pouring rain storms, and is there for us when someone dies and you must say Kaddish even though you are a mourner and don't want to deal with people.. but you go and see the familiar friendly smiling faces of people greeting you because they are happy to see you.. Its there for us for celebrations, the bar-mitzvahs, My Auf Ruf was there where I was called up to the Torah before my wedding.. and holidays. and landmark events. Its a home away from home for a lot of the little kids whose parents see to it that the Temple is part of their regular event schedule.

Tonight after posting this column I will go to bed and I hope Friday will be a better day.. I actually look forward to my annoying client, and the guy who didn't get his check yet and the Florida appraisor who is up to monkey business. I hope Friday is a better day.

The Highland Park Temple Restoration Fund.

If friends want to make contributions, they may send them to The Temple's regular address:
201 South Third Avenue
Highland Park, NJ 08904

Thursday, August 17, 2006

More Fair-y Tales - Homer's Show

Last weekend Trophy Wife and I jumped in the car and headed out to our not so annual pilgrimage to The Sussex County Fair. We met up with my buddy Paul and his lovely wife and their cute little baby boy. Since Paul is a big shot in the local media, and a former radio coworker of mine, I tagged along while he went off to cover the Talent Show. While he shot some footage in the hours before the show, I struck up a conversation with an old friend of mine - the talent agent who actually books the acts.

Homer IV, or as the kids call him on their MySpace sites… H4... is the third generation in his family to book talent at The Sussex County Fair‘s talent show. His great grandfather Homer I actually won the lumberjack competition in the early days of The Fair. His grandfather Homer II started the talent show many years back, and after a brief conversion to Judaism, his dad Moshe Yankel was in charge and now its Homer IV at the controls. The stories involving the talent show always impressed me from the days that I worked in local radio in Northwest NJ in the early 1990’s.

While we were chatting a few hours prior to the big show, a middle age man who resembled John Cleese with the manic urgency of Matthew Lesko breathlessly barged in carrying an unusually large suitcase… “Excuse me”, he exclaimed…”but we traveled a long distance by bus and I was hoping.. just hoping I would be allowed to audition for tonight’s Talent Show”. Homer IV was used to last minute audition requests, but there was something about this guy’s passion and desperate eagerness that intrigued him yet scared him. Homer happened to know that a local teen baton twirler was possibly going to drop out of the talent show after she sustained a hand injury and rumor had it, it wasn’t because she was milking cows with the 4h club.. “Homer IV“, said the gentleman, “My family and I have an act that is so unusual we want to be considered for any open slot you might still have“. Homer IV had heard all the stories already, but he leaned forward, took a puff on his corn cob pipe and we listened intently to what this well traveled man had to say..

“Y’see” said the gentleman to Homer IV as he drew in a deep breath and started his pitch, “my family and I have fine tuned our act and we think you will like it…. Its my wife, my paw and my five daughters…. and our ventriloquism act,…. We have puppets and we try our very best not to move our lips…but we always end up moving ’em anyway… oh and some of us are mimes too. We all play a game... Kind of like a cross between “Hollywood Squares” and “Make Me Laugh“ but there isn’t any tic tac toe involved.…The object of the game is my puppet Yasser tries to make the other puppets laugh. Plus, we also have a Paul LoDuca puppet… he takes bets from the audience on which puppet will win plus he flirts with my 19 year old daughter using double entendres involving the words hand and puppet. That’s not be confused with my 17 year old daughter who usually ends up at every county fair naked behind the counter with some toothless Carny worker who has spent 14 straight hours at the water pistol horse race.”

Oh, there was more…“Maw’s puppet is Wayland Flowers….. my wife's puppet is Shari Lewis... get it.. puppets of dead puppetteers.... Oh, and my daughter’s puppet is Brooke Astor. That works out well because they are mime ventriloquists and they can’t throw their voices too well anyway… There is also a Fidel Castro puppet…and he tends to win. . But of course he is competing against 2 dead puppets… and the Castro puppet doesn’t laugh much anyway… So after the Paul LoDuca puppet takes the bets… Yasser Puppet comes out and he reads Doonesbury cartoons to the other puppets but with a Russian accent, and a bit of a lisp… . Like Yaakov Smirnoff.. And with a Mel Tillis stammer.. With a little Mel Brooks thrown in…

“Then we go to the next round… and that’s where it gets kind of uh sexy. If nobody laughs, Yasser has to smear apple jam on the other puppets feet and then he has to lick the puppet’s toes until they giggle…. If that doesn’t work… we unscrew their heads and switch them around to the other puppets…gosh you oughta see Fidel Castro’s head on Brooke Astor’s body… its like a transvestite! And if those damn puppets still don’t giggle, I prick the other puppeteers with little pins until they make those Goddamn puppets laugh. Then we come out take a bow and throw the dead puppets into the audience.. But my brother and sister, who happen to be married to each other actually stand in the audience so they can retrieve the puppets for our next show…”

At this point Homer IV’s corn cob pipe was pretty much out of his mouth as his jaw had dropped open hearing about this family…. He straightened up, collected his thoughts and looked at the gentleman and asked…. “And what pray tell do you call this act?”

Ok folks… did you catch on yet? Today’s column is about ….“The Aristocrats”... the oddest documentary of 2005.

Here’s an old joke.. a man goes on a prison tour and as he is being shown around he hears one inmate yell out 30.. and all the other prisoners start laughing.. Another prisoner yells out 47.. and they all laugh.. a 3rd one yells out 225 and they all laugh.  The man on the tour asks the tour guide why all the prisoners keep laughing at these numbers.  "well", explains the tour guide, "these people have been stuck here in prison for so many years that they know each and every joke known to mankind.  Therefore, each joke is simply assigned a number so instead of going to the trouble of telling the whole joke.. the inmates simply yell out the number".  

Moments later a prisoner yells out 325.  And there’s dead silence.  The tourist asks the guide.. "Why didnt anybody laugh"... "oh".. said the tour guide.. ."that's Griffin.. he just doesnt know how to tell a joke!"  

With that in mind.. take "The Aristocrats", a lame-o joke used for years by comedians as a mental exercise to keep their storytelling skills sharp.  The premise is the same... A man walks into a talent agency and tells the talent agent his family has a great act.... the end of the joke is always... What is this act called.. and the person tells the talent agent.. "the aristocrats".  Its the body of the joke that is always different as comedians throw in any kind of combination of body fluids, sexual position and animal sexual position combined with animal body fluids and vice versa to make it extremely unlikely that such a crazed act would ever be called "The Aristrocrats".  In the context of the movie.. you know what’s coming.. but in the context of this blog by segueing into it from a SC Fair anecdote you may not have immediately realized where the Homer story was going.  Its all about context.. 100 short movies about a comedian telling the same joke is funny.. One movie with 100 comedians telling the joke can get a bit cumbersome despite some nifty direction and well directed camerawork.  

One of the best parts of the film appears near the end of the movie, and maybe should be where the movie should have started.  Comedy Central is filming The Friars Club Roast of Hugh Hefner just weeks after 9-11 and Gilbert Gottfried is trying to be funny but his jokes are falling flat.  So he calls an audible and goes for the Aristocrats joke.. but in the process of telling it (it may not have been as popular back then) cracks up the audience with his incredible delivery.  From there on.. about 100 different comedians tell the same joke with some others notably Robin Williams and Drew Carey telling a different much funnier joke about a piano player at a jazz bar. Oddly enough in the closing credits Comedy Central is thanked for providing that clip and another one featuring the cast of South Park telling the joke.. Yet both scenes are too vulgar to have ever seen the light of day on Comedy Central.  

Some of the comedians versions are downright hysterical.  I’m not a big fan of Judy Gold.. (She went to high school with my buddy Mike), but while pregnant, she tells an outrageous version from the perspective of a pregnant woman involving her unborn fetus.  Likewise Sarah Silverman... the object of lust for every nice Jewish boy (except the married ones like myself) injects herself into the joke and injects talk show legend Joe Franklin into herself... (Poor Joe doesn’t seem to be in on the joke and probably thinks Sarah Silverman is the matriarch of the Silverman hotel in the Catskills.. kind of like Jennie Grossinger from Grossinger’s... hey its time for Simon Says with Lou Goldstein!) Bob Saget who is really a vulgar comedian despite his Full House fame has an amusing take on it and Jon Ross is hysterical telling the joke in a men’s room.  Reportedly comedy legends Rodney Dangerfield and Buddy Hackett had to bow out of the movie because they were too ill when it was being filmed.  

Nonetheless, you have to give the producers credit for originality and for being able to maintain the pace for more than an hour. It also gives you insight into what makes comedians click as they attempt to fill that act with the most vulgar ideas they can think of.  I thought about the idea for this column early on in the film and prayed that nobody would inject puppets into it...  There is a mime .. and his performance is un-mime-ingly amusing, considering he is acting out graphic sexual movements as innocent people stroll by on a beach boardwalk.  

On a scale of 1 to 4 bladders meaning how less likely you would be to leave in the middle to go to the bathroom.. The Aristocrats gets 2 and a half bladders which will be removed from the performers daughters, mixed with a pile of horse poopie, passed in a liquidy goo by the horse that won the Lou Dobbs Grand Prix at last weeks Sussex County Fair, and then mixed with lemonade from the lemonade buckets that the carny workers used as their own personal urinal.. the contents of which is mixed in with a funnel cake and served a la mode to some unsuspecting snobby ventriloquist mime.. Now how aristocratic can you get?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Fair-y Tales - A Multimedia Extravaganza

This Just In...

As we go to press we are just getting word here that good ol' Mike Douglas who recently was #7 on The Top 14 Talk Show Host list died today on his birthday! Technically, blogs really don't go to press... Actually, it's just as we were about to click the "Publish Post" button on Blogspot.

Well folks.. August is here and in just a few weeks the summer will be over!! That's a wake-up call to party it up before its too late. Last weekend we celebrated Trophy Wife's birthday with a bbq where we had 54 people gobbling down a yummy variety of hot dogs and hamburgers. Unfortunately we had some electrical problems which really sucks when you are using an electric barbecue. Nonetheless, we were able to get the power back on after realizing the central AC was draining the rest of the electric supply. Word out to my fellow blogger Neil for helping to get the grill running! Apologies to my pals at Target because I went and bought the grill at blech.. Walmart.. I hope Target doesn't feel betrayed... but they already cleared all the summer stuff out to get the Santa displays ready! Nonetheless I ducked my head and ran in and out of Walmart trying to avoid being seen.. just like a chusid who stops at McDonalds for a quick pish, but worries that some Rabbi may find him in the background of little Jimmy's b'day party pics taken on his cousin's cellphone that now circulate on his myspace website!

One other August tradition that I kicked off back in 1990 was - The Sussex County Farm and Horse Show.. Aka the Sussex County Fair. It was either like it or hate it. My former radio colleagues, Dangerspouse and another AM weekend DJ, a fine fella by the name of Bart despised the Fair with all their hearts. Yet because they were AM DJs they were sent out there for live remotes during Fair Weeks where they talked about Pig races from an un air conditioned trailer. The FM DJs however got the opportunity to broadcast from this beastly looking bus like vehicle called The Super Roving Radio.. A giant truck sized contraption on wheels that resembled a big ugly boom box and was towed around Northwest NJ by an equally tacky looking van. Dangerspouse and I were always amazed that the station's owners claimed they couldn't afford to pay us more than a mere pittance but had enough money to waste on that eyesore. I think the Super Roving Radio is now used as the trailer for the MTV show "Next".

As a newsman it was my job to find stuff to cover at the Fair. This was a lot easier than the early radio news days of Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer. In his book "This Just In", the 2nd book on my summer reading list (Jacquie Jordan's book "Get on TV" was the first) he tells about ducking bullets during riots at The University of Mississippi when black college student James Meredith attempted to break the color barrier by enrolling there. Oddly enough Meredith went on to become a Right Wing Republican and actually endorsed David Duke when he ran for President!

Here is my disclaimer... I liked the Fair! There were more Gentiles there than I had ever seen in my whole life, and even though I moved out of Northwest NJ 12 years ago, I still have made a few pilgrimages to the fair in the ensuing years... usually to buy a nice handcrafted leather wallet.. that I ultimately end up forgetting to purchase! Back in 1990 it started when I wandered into the 4H club tent and interviewed a girl who had been crowned the Swine Queen. Joe Tolleson who was the Mud Bug announcer and is now the Rangers PA Announcer... (he went from messy to Messier!) was quite amused that when I went to a pig auction, I was stunned to find that the man who won the auction... NJ State Senator Bob Littell (who still holds the post) bought it to cut it up and eat it!! What did I know about eating pigs.. I grew up in a kosher home and watched Green Acres. I just assumed it was supposed to be a pet! That poor little piggy.. All this taking place so soon after the crowning of the Swine Queen!!

Other annual highlights were The Queen of the Fair Pageant, and a few things I used to announce for.. The Turtle Races.. a scheduling oddity since its actually illegal to own a turtle in NJ. I also used to announce the Saturday Night ATV Races.. And up to that point growing up in a rather suburban area I had no idea what an All Terrain Vehicle was. Our station also sponsored The Mud Bog.. A truck pulling event in mud that seemed to be very popular; halftime featured a radio contest called the Dash for Cash.. where scantily clad women in strapless tank tops would feel their way in the mud to find balloons filled with money. Im curious what would have happened if their tops came off while they were blindfolded? Would they know? Would they be able to find their tops? Would they be groped by the blindfolded guys? There also was the odd tradition of having one of the Fair Bigshots open the Fair with a traditional rooster crow.. This elderly fellow actually stood there and bellowed out cock a doodle-doo like a rooster.. I swear I'm not making this up! You will see more of this in today's multimedia presentation!

But there was a lot of interesting stuff going on... I liked the 4h kids.. We didn't have that in "the city" when I was growing up and these were good young kids. The equestrian competition was also a lot of fun. In 1994, Jacquie Jordan, a recent NWOW Podcast guest, was my cohost on a five part 30 minute nightly program called "The Sussex County Fair on TV", a wild and wooly show we taped daily during a week that also consisted of full time radio broadcasts plus a side PT job led to a week filled with 20 hour work days! That program aired from August 8 through August 12, 1994 on a couple of local cable stations. Last year my buddy Paul was producing a show for the local cable station and just for fun I did a couple of stories including the Pie Eating Contest and an equestrian competition where one of the participants was Mayor Bloomberg's daughter Georgina. That competition was sponsored by CNN's Lou Dobbs and his name was mentioned so often by the PA announcer, that I was thinking of starting a new drinking game! Everytime you hear Lou Dobbs name.. you gotta do a shot!

This weekend I'm going back again, and as always I'll try to buy a nice leather wallet. But I will probably forget... Nonetheless.. here is an audio clip AND a video clip.. We spare no expense nor bandwidth! First we have Kaleidiscope Theater... a chat with Johnny Maestro and a tongue in cheek interview with the man who would open the fair each year with his cock a doodle do! And don't forget we have an audio clip underneath... (also accesible by clicking the title!). Remember this is a Multimedia Extravaganza!!

The audio is from my Radio Entertainment Report in the early 90s featuring interviews with various characters I would run into including the star of the freakshow.. the 800 lb. guy.. and other assorted people who crossed my path. But first, legendary blogger Dangerspouse talks about his memories. Hope you enjoy the Fair!

Friday, August 04, 2006

MTV At 25: Reality Killed The Video Star

Can you believe it… MTV is already at the quarter century mark? Every summer has its pop culture theme. ‘81 was the Summer of MTV.. This summer is “Snakes on a Plane”… Hey has anybody heard anything about what that movie is going to be about?

This past week marked 25 years since the summer of ‘81 when the network launched with "Video Killed the Radio Star" and the oh so hip teenyboppers boldly declared “I want my MTV”. The station which used to consist of music videos has evolved into a lineup of reality shows catering to a younger set. Nowadays, if you want to watch music on TV, you can always tune in to the commercial free music stations on your digital cable/satellite system.

This summer, I have gotten really tired of watching the Middle Eastern coverage on the news, so I have been tuning in to the late night MTV line-up… basically consisting of the dating show Next and the Feel Good makeover program “Why Can’t I Be You?“ Just in case you're not familiar with the premise of WCIBY, it’s a makeover show for the MTV Generation where the teenyboppers point out a peer they envy.. The host Nick Zano barges in on the hero at a very inopportune time.. and offers that person 2k to spend 48 hours with aforementioned person… hoping that in 48 hours the wannabe is more like his hero. But I may have to stop watching it late at night.. because the show has been working its way into my dreams!

In my dream I was driving my car. I was very sober. A policeman’s siren went off behind me and the cop pulled me over. An officer named Levine walked up to me and asked me if I was sober. I said yes. He wished me a good evening. And I very politely asked him.. ,…. “Levine… hmmm.. Are You Jewish?” Just then Nick Zano, the host of Why Can’t I Be You popped out from behind the police car. “Nate”… he exclaimed breathlessly…”There is someone here who wants to be like you…. And if you let that person spend 48 hours with you.. You get 2000 dollars!”. “Wow that‘s a lot of money Nick, .. All I did was drive sober and politely ask a cop if he is Jewish.. Who wants to be like me?”

There from out of the woods emerged Mel Gibson.

His career is like the end of a video game.. Game Over.. And now that his True Colors have come through we all know him for the Jew hater he really is. All his denials that his movie “The Passion of the Christ” was not based on the Anti Semitism of his father obviously show that the apple doesn’t fall from the tree. Nice try by the LAPD to cover it up, but the Career Over light is on.. Now if David Duke needs a producer if he decides to launch another political campaign….

I do like how Melvin is taking the pity party route by checking into a rehab and pleading to the Jewish community that he is not a Jew hater…. Good.. Let the Jewish liberals embrace him and he can be their new cause. … they’re obviously not too concerned with the actions being taken to get back the three heroic Israeli soldiers who were abducted by Hezbollah terrorists.. I had another dream.. This one was about the wacky liberals next convention…”Hey” says the Grand Poo-bah Head Liberal.. “today we must embrace Mel Gibson and encourage everyone to give him another chance.. Of course we won’t forget our poor Hezbollah brothers who are fighting the Israeli occupation”. Just then Nick Zano pops out. “Liberals” he breathlessly announces.. “ There is someone here who wants to be like you… and if you let that person spend 48 hours with you…. You get 2000 dollars!” Wow thinks the liberals as they look behind Zano…. Who wants to be like us??

“But there is nobody standing there Nick“ says the Grand Poo-bah Head Liberal. “I know“ replies the host.. “Y‘see people don’t want to be like you because you guys spend too much time worrying about the terrorists who are trying to kill your own people. Besides I bet most of you people supporting "Operation Restore Mel Gibson's Popularity" know the name of Mel Gibson's agent.. but don't know who Shlomo Goldwasser is. And no cheating by running to google!" See folks.. All we need is Nick Zano to explain these things to us.

It’s the coverage of the war that has driven me to MTV.. I just can’t watch CNN anymore.. plus now I see that Daryn Kagan is leaving to start an "inspirational" website. Of course she's inspired.. she wakes up every morning and that Viagra addict Rush Limbaugh isn't lying next to her! Every night I knock on my screen to see if Larry King is paying attention to some of the absurd things that are said on his airwaves…Have you noticed he rarely takes phone calls on his live shows? Heck, Sunday morning Howard Kurtz had a guy on who writes a column right here on blogspot about life in Lebanon… And when Howard asked him about the terrorists… he looked back at Mr. Kurtz and said.. “You mean the freedom fighters?”. Then Larry had some Rabbi from some magazine debating talk show host Dennis Prager about this stupidity regarding negotiating with these terrorists. Even President Bush who I don’t like has enough brains to say “We will not negotiate with terrorists”. I guess the liberals will.. Good thing they weren't running the show during the terrorist hijacking in Entebbe in 1976.. Those hostages would still be sitting at the airport!

And then there is Her Royal Majesty Queen No’or.of Jordan. . In the 70‘s, she was Lisa Halaby, the young incredibly beautiful wife of King Hussein. She looks fantastic for her age.. She‘s in her early 50s and her birthday is August 23rd… … but I don’t think too many people really listen to her when she speaks... I think a lot of viewers mentally undress her imagining her tied to a canopy bedpost with a turban, while snake charmer music hums in the background as King Hussein has his way with her. Her Royal Majesty then majestically swings her tush with one cheek tattoed PRINCE and the other cheek tattooed TON.. a salute to her alma mater! The left cheek tattoo is not to be confused with her son the Prince who was born in 1981.. The same year as MTV.

I did listen to her the other night… but she lost me with her drivel defending terrorists fighting “The Occupation” and Larry just sat there.. (sorry Larry I like you a lot but I gotta criticize you) as she said this is all Israel's fault because they expelled the Palestinians in 1948. In reality it was just days after Israel became Israel that a bunch of its neighbors launched a well planned invasion, and tipped off the "Palestinians" to get the heck out of Dodge. The Palestinians were promised temp housing in other lands and after a few days they could go home after the "New Israel" was destroyed. They left.. but Israel's new military gave its enemies a can of whoop-ass and lo and behold when things quieted down these "Palestinians" wanted to go home again! Its amazing a beautiful woman can be so ugly… and I am sure readers of this blog will never be able to get the image of the Princeton tattoo out of their minds the next time she pops up on the tube!

Here is what I don’t get about these people who defend terrorists. Timothy McVeigh goes and blows up a building in Oklahoma City killing hundreds of innocent people. That’s terrorism.. And even though I am against the death penalty, there was no choice but to execute him. Likewise with the terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center and killed all of those thousands of innocent people. Catch ‘em… and kill ‘em… that is what we do to terrorists. So why exactly are liberal Jews proposing any other option for Hezbollah? How is it any different than the terrorists who attacked us on 9-11? Or Timothy McVeigh?

One other show I caught was 30 Days on FX. I only saw one episode while ducking CNN…It addressed the immigration debate by having a Cuban immigrant who came here legally many years ago (in the era when MTV played videos) spend 30 days living with a family of about 6 or 7 illegal Mexican immigrants cramped into a tiny 1 bedroom apartment. I’m not too opinionated about the whole immigration debate but what really grinds my gears are the immigrants who don’t speak English. Most of the episode was in subtitles because the illegal aliens hadn’t gotten around to learning English. This was a big issue in a town in NJ where there was an uproar about a billboard written entirely in Spanish. I also raised this point in a Star Wars column when I told about how I wanted to buy a Yoda watch at Burger King, but couldn’t read the sign since it was entirely in Spanish. I recently obtained that display and here it is.... and no, I did not steal it!

Getting back to MTV…. For those of you who don’t skew in that demographic that I know I don’t belong in…Why Cant I Be You.. is a well rehearsed show that looks very spontaneous. The person who leads the venture is well coached off screen as the producers put out a rather heart warming story each week.. It’s a big contrast to the ego hits taken on its dating show Next where rejection is the name of the game and the little bimbettes have to go home wondering why Joe Surfboard nexted them and why they’re not loved despite their fake boobies, and miniskirt covered thongs.

WCIBY is actually a nice little show… One Pointdexter girl who hadn’t realized she was cute moved to a new city, and was led around by another transplanted out of towner social butterfly who had started a Yahoo Groups social organization. The wannabe though needed some refinement.. As all she did was talk about Star Wars…yet her coach helped her hook up with a guy. In this case the Jedi was well trained by Yoda. Another episode featured a snowboarder wannabe who followed around this incredibly narcissistic snowboarder who was such a shmuck that the producers obviously had a little chat with him… because he instantly turned into a sweet guy as the producers dangled a 2000 dollar carrot. Right now I’m watching this socially awkward girl from Seattle named Maddie who idolizes Amy.. her school‘s social butterfly…and you know that by the end of the episode Maddie will look totally hot and have the boys chasing her. Actually Maddie very much resembles Deb in Napolean Dynamite.. You almost expect her to start selling Glamour Shots.

Just keep the young wanna be away from Uncle Rico… or is he too busy going back to 1981 to start his junior year on the football team… the Summer of MTV….