Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Lisa No Moore

Greetings from the NWOW sukkah where we will be pecking away from the laptop through next wk!! A Wednesday afternoon at the end of September and it is 85 degrees! What more could you ask for??

Years ago, when I was a teenager, there used to be this goofy comic strip called "John Darling". The comic strip was about a character who was a talk show host for a local TV station. Originally like the crabby bus driver "Crankshaft", he was a character in "Funky Winkerbean" a onetime very funny strip about two high school characters named Les Moore and Funky Winkerbean. The strip featured an ancient talking computer, a talking Space Invaders game that was at the local pizzeria back in the day when those establishments had video games, and amusing John Darling TV segments. The feature became so popular that cartoonist Tom Batiuk decided to turn him into his own strip Then one day in August of 1991 as another week was wrapping up, Darling was shot dead by an unknown gunman.... and the following day another strip had replaced it in the paper. In Batiuk's creepy mind, he decided to end the strip by just shooting the character!

Batiuk is also the same guy whose onetime funny Funky strip featured a Redd Foxx joke on the very same day that Foxx died. That was just bad timing... and I was thinking about that Sunday Night while watching the brilliant Star Wars spoof on "The Family Guy" where Foxx was one of the good guys on the Red team trying to defeat the Death Star. Good thing I saw the movies in '05 and '06.... otherwise I would not have gotten half the jokes. The Funky strip originally featured high school teens, abruptly changed format in 1992 when the characters started to age in normal time just like the people in For Better or For Worse. FBOFW and its natural aging found itself with a problem when the family dog Farley got incredibly old... so ultimately ol' Farley was sent off with John Darling to Comics Heaven. Most strip characters are frozen at the same age like The Family Circus and the legendary Peanuts... and the old funny Funky. In Funky II, Les became a teacher... and Funky kept getting drunky,... but then he joined AA and bought the pizzeria that used to house the talking Space Invaders game. Les became friendly with and ultimately married a girl named Lisa who was impregnated in the original Funky as a teenager, and decided to give the kid up for adoption... Her son was adopted by the local high school principal and as a teenager is now dating the daughter of.... believe it or not.. slain TV Man John Darling!

This is pretty heady stuff for a newspaper comic strip.. but Batiuk's mind gets stranger!! Back in the days when a woman named Susan Smith killed her kids and blamed it on an imaginary black man... Funky had a teenaged character, also coincidentally named Susan Smith, who attempted suicide only to be saved by Les Moore! Speaking of the real Susan Smith, her name came up in the news recently with all this talk about the Jena 6! Let's get this straight.. this juvenile delinquent thug beat the living crap out of a kid at school to the point where he was knocked unconscious! Yet these civil rights protestors led by self proclaimed righteous men Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson claim that this thug is being treated unfairly and they are painting Jena as some racist town because the kid whose butt got kicked made a rather dopey gesture to the black kids. Gimme a freakin' break.. an unjust trial? According to the newspaper, the all white jury was all white because none of the blacks summoned for jury duty bothered to show up. And is attempted murder too strong a charge when the victim is beaten so badly that he is knocked unconscious to the point he had a concussion? And all these people march to support a juvenile delinquent with a lengthy criminal record?

Getting back to Funky... I brought my big gripe up back on July 4th when I said newspapers should drop the strip (in a column about free speech by the way) because the character of Lisa is suffering a losing battle against cancer. Lisa's fate has already been determined because over the next few weeks, Batiuk is publishing another book of his strip collections,... this time all about Lisa who with hubby Les now has a kid who is about 5 or 6. It's nice Batiuk is writing a book, but killing off a character in such a tortuous way and showing this horribly sad story in a comic strip is an absolute disgrace. I have boycotted the strip since July and if I had kids who read the comics, I couldnt get my scissors out fast enought to cut the strip out before their little eyes saw this waste of newspaper ink. The only reason I know what is going on is through the very well done Stuck Funky Blog which has been taking each days strip and analyzing each panel to find the humor! The anonymous writer pokes fun at Batiuk for the sheer absurdity that he has chosen to put this in the newspaper funny pages. (The blog also links to a cancer fundrasing site) The blog is actually very entertaining, and the recent speculations about which of Lisa's friends is going to end up in bed with the future widower Les Moore are just one example of its dark humor... but remember,... comic strips are supposed to be funny! The comments are also quite amusing. Check it out starting from the beginning through the archives and you will find a parallel universe of Funky comic strips which totally defeats the purpose of the dreary deathwatch that has been created by Mister Morbid Tom Batiuk!

I got to thinking about this last week when I heard the sad news about Brett Somers and her death from cancer. Today as part of our Clip of the Week we will have some of Brett's finest work. Brett had apparently been sick for years, I had heard rumors about her cancer some years back.. yet she was doing a cabaret show a few years back and looked pretty good for her age. Jack Klugman who she split with in the 70s but never divorced also beat cancer and the list goes on. Even Laura Ingraham who I dont like.... beat it, and I am happy to hear that she is doing ok!! (Althought it was odd that she was on CNN's Reliable Sources Sunday Morning talking about how Katie Couric had been dating her ex fiancee) It is a tough disease and a lot of brave people are kicking cancer's ass. And there are a lot of people besides myself who are ticked off at what Batiuk has been tossing into the funny pages. There was a furious grandmother who wrote to her local paper totally furious at Batiuk because her daughter is fighting cancer... and her daughter's young daughter started to read the strip and thought that her mommy was going to be another Lisa Moore!

At some point soon the Funky strip will fast forward ten years, and oddly enough For Better or For Worse is also changing formats and all the characters are now frozen at the same age and won't get any older!! The cartoonist Lynn Johnston announced she was scaling back to spend more time with her husband so some strips would be repeats and the rest would be new... but a few months ago she and her husband split up.

I hope the Lisa book does well, and I understand that the proceeds go to cancer research so go ahead and buy the book.. .. and although the strips showing Lisa's friends being extremely supportive have been quite sweet.... the horrible suffering of a young 30 something year old woman has absolutely no business in the funny pages. We will have more about the newspaper comics in an upcoming column - The Top 14 Newspaper Comic Strips.

I remember when I was a kid they had a cartoon show called Casper The Friendly Ghost... but until The Family Guy episiode where Stewie's wayward football toss to his friend Casper ended up in the path of a speeding car, I never really thought of how Casper went from being a kid to a ghost. And that is the way it is supposed to be!! The Lisa Moore character will probably pass on in the next week or so... rumor has it Farley the dog is going to start barking and lead her to John Darling....but even though she is not a real person, it might be a good idea for parents of young ones to screen the comics in the coming days just in case this is something you dont want your kids little eyes to see.

PUMPSTRADAMUS NFL PICK OF THE WEEK - The Amazing Pump is incredibly 3-0. This week we go to Cleveland, the home of "Funky Winkerbean"... The Browns are 4 1/2 point doggies to the Baltimore Ravens. The Pump looks to extend his streak with the following brilliance - "As Edgar Allen Poe's raven used to say, "Nevermore!" so I'd never go with the Ravens - Take the Browns!"

THE UNBIASED GIANTS FAN PICKS OF THE WEEK - Last week we went 1-2 (The Giants were the only correct pick) for a season record of 3-5-1.. Here are the picks -

Giants 2 1/2 doggies over the Eagles - The Giant D is back.. this is the wk Big Blue gets right back in it!

Rams 12 1/2 doggies over Dallas - Time for the Cowboys to taste defeat!

Bengals 7 points doggies to New England - Go with Cincy! Home Dogs on Monday Night!

CLIPS OF THE WEEK - This week we salute the late great Brett Somers!! First we begin with a clip from The Odd Couple where her character Blanche has to pretend that she is still married to Oscar when Oscar's mom comes for a visit...

Next, here is a clip from Match game where Brett and Charles do a song for fellow late panelist DebraLee Scott

Here is another Match Game clip featuring Brett: (I think this is from the glitchy dvd, but the glitchiness only lasts a second of two)

And finally.... here is Brett being Brett!

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Week For Juice to Repent

Hello folks... Next week we will be coming to you from our new sukkah!! Trophy Wife and I put one up in honor of the holiday so weather permitting, I will be pecking away at my laptop there next week... The Mrs. will also be happy that next week marks the end of Rotiserrie Baseball Season. This year my team has been in contention all season requiring plenty of TLC... usually I am pretty much out of it by Memorial Day.. but we go into the Yom Kippur games tonight just one measly point out of first place! And Met fans must be stunned that the actual notion of Shawn Green playing on Yom Kippur has achieved some type of relevance... Weeks ago it looked like Green was at the very end of his career, and the Mets would already be NL East Champions. I hear that Green is going to sit out Friday night but he will play the Saturday afternoon game... obviously during the break from the services he will be attending in nearby Miami.

This also marks the week between Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur... when we repent for our sins so we can make it back for another year in The Book of Life. There have been 2 big news stories this week... first was the death of Brett Somers and secondly the absurd return of OJ Simpson to the Mass Media. There are 3 of my fellow Jews whose faces have popped up repeatedly during all of this media coverage... Harvey Levin from, Stacey Honowitz the FL lawyer who has been hitting all the talk shows this week...(and maybe even attending Kol Nidre with Shawn Green) and The Goldman Family.


Most of us thought we had heard the end of OJ after we saw the inexplicable media coverage of roomfuls of people cheering his acquittal. Yeah he lost a civil suit against Ron Goldman's family, but it was made pretty clear that he wasn't going to pay back any of it. Then last year, OJ was back - when it was revealed that he wrote a hypothetical confessional that got star book publisher Judith Regan tossed out on her tuchis. Now here we are in 2007 and The Goldmans... (or are they Goldmen?) fly out to Oprah's Tom Cruise dancing couch on Rosh Hashana to discuss the book that they now own the rights to.... all they changed was the title display so that the word "If" in "If I Did It" was extemely teeny. Heck, the "confessional" was supposed to be published later ths year... but once the publishers got word that the Goldmen had their ticket to Oprah, the book was published early to coincide with the Oprah appearance.


Before bleary eyed revelers had the chance to welcome in 5768,.... here comes OJ, obviously inspired with the child molestor stings on Dateline NBC with a brilliant idea of his own... It was almost as if he was starting his own franchise,... instead of Oceans 11.... it was OJ's 11... which is the average IQ of all the parties involved in this heist. It was almost as bizarre as Oceans 12 where Julia Roberts character posed as Julia Roberts... maybe Juice should have taken a page out of the "Police Squad" gamebook by showing up as Detective Nordberg, his character from The Naked Gun Movies.

Of course one of his classy compatriots slips a little tape recorder in the room and the next thing you know Harvey Levin gets his mitts on it. Levin was a virtual nobody when he covered the OJ trial on Channel 2 in the mid 1990s during the Jim Jensen days.. He parlayed that into a gig with "The People's Court" as a sideline reporter where he talks to fans on the street about whatever trial is on... and now folks - he has become a star with the launch of his website and related TV show ---- Monday, I celebrated my 30 somethingth birthday and I must admit that I am the only one in my age group who knows that TMZ stands for thirty mile zone... the coverage area around Beverly Hills where his website provides its breathless reporting of all the crazy shenanigans that go on there!


This past week.. my evenings have been watching the Mets, and then flipping over to see the Phillies games, as the Mets try to hold on.. Then from 12am -2am. its the replays of Larry King and Greta von Susterin.. the only time you will ever catch me watching Fox News. Here's the one who boggles my mind... Stacey Honowitz.. the Florida lawyer.. The more I look at her.. the better looking she is... although maybe my brain function starts to drop during that 12 midnight Larry King replay. But then Stacy opens that mouth of hers and starts yapping..... and you just want to throw your TV out the window... Honowitz reminds me of the "fun" girl you used to meet in sleep away camp because she knew how and where to sneak into the woods.. but when visiting day arrived, she expected you to meet her family so they could meet her "new camp boyfriend" and you just prayed she would just shut her mouth so you could go back to your bunk and read all the new comic books that your own mom brought for you on Visiting Day!! Incidentally, on one of those Hollywood Squares-esque panel shows one of the other lawyers asked her why there was some edginess when she appeared on a panel with OJ Lawyer Yale Galanter and she politely took the 5th and you wonder if Yale had hooked up with her at one point.

Ultimately, this is going to be much ado about nothing. Even though OJ shouldn't be stealing stuff.. apparently the stuff was stolen from him. And if these legal eagles are right that the smoking gun tape will be inadmissible, OJ will hopefully disappear into the woodwork never to be heard from again. And will all due respect to The Goldmen, although it's important to "never forget", it seems to me that their constant talk show appearances are torturing them.... and now with the Brown family ticked off at them for publishing the book, maybe it's time that they stop doing all the media tours so this story goes away once and for all...

PUMPSTRADAMUS PICK OF THE WEEK - This week in honor of OJ we go to Buffalo where the Bills are huge 16 1/2 point doggies to the Bills. Pumpy is off to an amazing 2-0 start! Sayeth the Pump: Hmmmm, this is a tough one.... you'd think I'd be tempted to go with Buffallo, bcause of my favorite "Bills" -- Clinton, Gates, O'Reilly, Shatner, Bixby, etc. But I'm a fan of New England in general, and "Patriot Games" is one of my all-time favorite movies, so because of that, and because Brett Somers grew up in New England... I'll go with The Patriots.

UNBIASED GIANTS FAN PICKS OF THE WEEK - Last week we went 1-2 for a season record of 2-3-1.

GIANTS 3 1/2 doggies to Washington - hey, dont give up yet.. take the Giants to get their first win of the year

Detroit 6 1/2 doggies to The Eagles - Take the 2-0 Lions to sink the Philly fans into a week of despair as the Eagles lose, and the Phillies get eliminated.

NEW ORLEANS 4 1/2 faves over Tennesee - Heck the only game I got right last week was on Monday Night.. so lets take the Saints to get in the win column, since so far this season they have looked as bad as The Giants.

NEXT WEEK: We will have a salute to Brett Somers!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Thoughts for 5768: Ham Sales??!!

Last year right before Rosh Hashana, I did a column about a High Holiday sermon that no Rabbi would ever deliver... about lust and nudity and all those other things Southwest Airlines doesn't tolerate from its passengers. Heck my fellow Hebrews and Shebrews are a very loving bunch. Back in 1992, when I was at the movie theater watching the Sidney Lumet classic, "A Stranger Among Us" there was the famous scene when the undercover cop asks the Rabbinical student about what he was reading, as he was studying from the Kaballah. The student finally fessed up that he was reading about how to "take care of a woman!". From that moment on, I didn't have to be a psychic to know that Kaballah was going to become quite popular!! Speaking of movies, our next Movie Club series is the 007 in 07 6-pack with 6 different Bonds. The movies were picked by my pal Steve. First up: Goldfinger with Sean Connery.

Today we present more thoughts for the new year.. this time the topic involves selling ham. Huh?

If you read last week's column about Short Cuts, there seems to be some debate if the person I described as a slick vacuum cleaner salesman was actually a salesman or worked for a carpet cleaning company. He knocked on the door and told Peter Gallagher that he needed to see the lady of the house because she was the winner of a free carpet cleaning. He quickly entered the house and announced he was ready to present a clean carpet!! While some online commentators refer to the character as a carpet cleaner fulfilling the rules for a contest winner, my impression was that this was a very slick salesman who was using the free carpet cleaning as a ruse to get in the house and show off the amazing powers of his vacuum cleaner.

I know someone whose goal in life was to be the best salesman alive... He had heard legendary tales about a salesman who was so good that he could sell ham to an Orthodox Rabbi. My friend was not one to back down from a challenge or a double dog dare.... (now that we are past Labor Day, it's time for A Christmas Story analogies - did you notice I slipped in a reference to Gene Shepherd last week?) He decided that he would hook up with a food distribution company and attempt to sell hams to Orthodox Rabbis.

And it was quite an adventure. Door to door he went, and the reactions were quite interesting. One quoted from the "Curb Your Enthusiasm" ski lift episode with a "Are you f---'ing nuts?".. Another gave him a wink and handed him the business card of the nearby Reform Rabbi. But on he went.. and ultimately, he sold nothing.

He did learn a valuable lesson however... from his last customer... This orthodox rabbi.. we'll call him "Rabbi McLovin" sat him down and asked him why he was chosen to be a potential ham buyer. My friend was quite exasperated, and calling an audbile decided to go for the pity sale.. It was a ruse he used to try to hook up with ladies, so he figured that maybe, just maybe it would work for sales too. He proceeded to tell Rabbi McLovin about his misadventures after he felt compelled to answer the challenge of the great salesman who could sell ham to a rabbi. The Rabbi very patiently sat my friend down and told him... he did not need a Masters degree in marketing to realize that when you try to sell a product.. it is very important to KNOW your audience! The Rabbi politely explained that if he had taken the time to do proper research he would have realized that he was selling to an audience that has no need for a ham, and at that same time he very likely would have made a ton of commissions targeting the ham eating audience instead!".

The salesman couldn't get out of there quick enough to start trying to sell his new audience... but before he could depart, Rabbi McLovin gave him one more nugget of wisdom,.... "This is not a reflection on you; you are probably a very good salesman...but keep in mind that before you can sell someone on buying a ham, you need to sell someone on the concept of having ham be a part of their life. And before that little lightbulb goes off that you should try to sell me on the concept of a life filled with ham... that time could be better spent on selling ham to someone who already has a life of ham. Y'see before you came here, and to all the other Rabbis, we were already sold on the concept of a life without ham. The salesman who sold us that concept was a good salesman.. the ham-less lifestyle is part of our day to day lifestyle and we aren't changing.. because no matter how good a salesman you are... the prior salesman was that much better!"

After that, the ham salesman went on to have a very lucrative career....

Somewhere there is a moral to that story... but I am not one of these people who prosletyzes, so this is not a column about Jews keeping kosher. If you want to eat ham... hey it's your business, it gives the pork farmers some extra shekels in their pockets. However, today I want to talk about another concept that you may want to think about for 5758 - tossing some money to a charity.

Giving charity has been around forever. Just last week, I was watching the amazing Jerry Lewis rack up millions of dollars at his telethon and it amazes me how much stamina 84 year old Ed McMahon has to stand up there announcing for 21 hours without even loosening his tie. The telethon has been around for more than 40 years...but charity has been around much longer. As a matter of fact during the High Holy Days, we Jews say a prayer about how God uses the time between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur to decide who will be inscribed in the Book of Life during the upcoming year. And one way to enhance your chances of being around for 5769? According to the Prayer Book - giving charity!

Why not get one of those little charity boxes and start dropping in loose change or spare singles in there at the end of the day and at the end of the week? It makes you feel better about yourself that the little box holds something that used to be yours, but will one day make someone else's life that much better. And if you feel good that you were able to save 500 bucks... what makes you feel better about yourself?? Saving 500 bucks... Or saving 450 bucks and helping out another person (or animal if you are Bob Barkeristically inclined) by donating 50 bucks to charity? Heck, the US tax codes are written that people who itemize actually pay less taxes by sending some money to charity.. It doesn't get any easier than that!!. So why not toss in a few bucks on a regular basis to a worthwhile cause? I promise you that not only will it help others.... but it will make you a happier person!

One day you might hear a knock on the door... and you might find a very slick salesman. He might not be offering carpet cleaning or selling hams, but it might be even worse... He might be selling you on the concept of being miserly and NOT giving charity but keeping all of your money for yourself. I hope that as Dick Clark counts down the arrival of 5768 that you will be able to say an emphatic "NO" to that sales pitch because you have already committed yourself to a lifestyle of being charitable.

Shana Tova to my Jewish amigos!!

PUMPSTRADAMUS NFL PICK OF THE WEEK: We're doing the picks early this week due to Rosh Hashana.... The Pump is 1-0, and this week, TV Land was honoring "The Bob Newhart Show", so we travel to Chicago.. home of The Hartleys and Howard Borden where the Bears take on the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bears are favored by 12... Sayeth the Pump: "Since my former Cantor moved to Kansas City... I'm taking The Chiefs!"

By the way... did you ever realize how Seinfeld is very similar to The Bob Newhart Show... Bob is Jerry.... Jerry (the dentist) is George... Howard is Kramer... and Elaine is a hybrid of Emily and Carol!

THE UNBIASED GIANTS FAN PICKS OF THE WEEK: Last week this new feature premiered to a 1-1-1 record. This week's picks:

Dolphins 3 and a half home doggies to the Cowboys - Miami is ready for a big win in their home opener
Redskins 7 point doggies to Philadelphia - We're taking the Skins to knock the Eagles into an 0-2 stupor on MNF!!
Giants pick 'em against Green Bay - Injuries shminjuries.. its part of the game.. Let's take The Giants.. no matter what the spread...

CLIP OF THE WEEK: Speaking of pig products and the Jewish clergy, here is a classic scene from Woody Allen's "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afriad to Ask..." This is a clip that parodies the old panel game shows "What's My Line" and "I've Got a Secret". By the way, the actor who plays the "Bad Rabbi" is the father of Sidney Lumet!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Movie Club: Short Cuts - How Can a 3 Hour Movie Have the Word Short In Its Title??

Now that the summer is over and Jerry Lewis has sung "You Will Never Walk Alone..." .. its time to get back to the ol' blog.. and we begin the fall season with a movie club movie review. Its Part 4 of our 4 part retrospective on Robert Altman and we wrap things up with a look at his 1993 film "Short Cuts", At the end of today's column we will announce the next movie club anthology!

There are 4 people... all dead... who make a major contribution to this movie... Hence a reunion is out of the question! The late Chris Penn and Jack Lemmon stand out among 21+ actors by turning in especially stunning acting performances, especially Lemmon who was such a likeable guy but ended up playing an incredible shmuck in this film....Raymond Carver wrote the short stories that inspired the movie directed by Robert Altman who took several Carver stories and wove them all together in a Nashville-eque series of scenes that turn into an incredibly long 3 hour plus movie! That movie is almost as long as Tuesday night's Nadal Ferrer match at the US Open.. and why oh why do they start matches so late when the last train back to NJ leaves Penn Station at 1:30 AM?

Here is a clip from the trailer

Nowadays, this movie draws a lot of comparisons to last years Oscar winner "Crash" because you meet the characters in the beginning and you think you understand them based on preconcieved notions, but it turns out that those opinions are way off. In "Short Cuts", there are so many people flying by in the 1st half hour that you make mental notes that this person is happy... this one is miserable. It's incredible how the happy people get less happy and the miserable people get less miserable until you realize they are all pretty much the same.

It's kind of like the political landscape of the early 1990s when this movie was made. Not to go on a Dennis Miller rant, but Democrats and Republicans were very similar in their philosophy, as opposed to now where both parties have grown far apart.. yet despite the differences these politicians are still basically the same. Back then, Monica Lewinsky wasn't known to anyone except maybe Matt Drudge. All of a sudden while President Clinton was being questioned under oath about Whitewater, some Republican wiseass drops in a question about extra marital affairs with Lewinsky and the next thing you know the GOP is trying to impeach the guy. Fast forward to 2007, Larry Craig gets caught trying to put the shmaneuver on a male undercover cop. Even though the party dumped him pretty quick, a lot of his Republican supporters say he was framed as part of a big witch hunt. However, as it turns out Craig is just as big a liar as Clinton was when he got before the cameras and and announced "I am not gay and have never been gay". Despite what his right wing supporters say, this was no isolated incident and there have been gay rumors flying about this guy for years.... The "gay code" between toilet stalls involve a complicated series of steps and movements that Debbie Allen couldn't choreograph. And telling a cop his reach to the ground was to grab some toilet paper? This coming from a US Senator who probably has never touched a toilet handle in a public bathroom and likely flushes a urinal with his shoe! He should have said he was reaching to pick up a copy of the Star Tribune to see if Justin Morneau had any homers for his fantasy baseball team. Maybe Craig should take a page out of Jim McGreevey's playbook and came out as a Gay American and this story wouldn't have bumped the absurd NAACP defense of dog killer Michael Vick to the back pages of the paper! But then again, Craig and his GOP buddies have spent years blocking legislation for gay rights that everyone would realize his hypocrisy reaches J Edgar Hoover-ian proportions.

Getting back to the movie, Short Cuts is similar to Altman's M*A*S*H and Nashville as there really is no plot per se.. just a huge cast of characters whose storylines intersect like a Seinfeld episiode, except unlike that legendary sitcom, things dont end wrapped up in a happy ending. The actual plot that runs during the movie involves a young boy who runs into the street and is hit by a car driven by a waitress played by Lily Tomlin. The kid tells Tomlin hes ok and goes home.... but hours later the after effects of the accident start to kick in. Tomlin goes home to her trailer park... while the kid's dad... a local tv editorial commentator... hangs out at the hospital hoping that his kid can pull through in time for his birthday while the local baker sits furious not realizing why the kids mom never picked up or paid for the expensive birthday cake!

The concept of a local TV channel having an editorial commentator doesnt exist now except for Family Guy's Peter Griffin's brief gig where he talked about what grinds his gears..., Those local editorials were very popular in the early 1990s when this movie was produced along with big klunky cell phones... (as seen when Penn's pool boy character uses an old klunky cell phone while watching the hottie next door neighbor go skinny dipping), and women not getting bikini waxes... (as seen when Penn's pool boy character uses an old klunky cell phone....)

Once you figure out who's who, you start to see how the characters lives interact in a Crash-eque kind of way. The father of the young boy has Penn over to clean his pool and an older woman next door asks him to come to her pool too... One would think that it was the old movie cliche of the older woman who wants to seduce the pool man, but it turns out she just needs her pool worked on... The poolman's wife is a 900 sex operator who nonchalantly huffs and puffs and whines and squeals while she works from home multi tasking (was there such a word back then?) by changing her baby's diapers or feeding her kids or cleaning up or doing a crossword puzzle. The couple is friends with another couple where the woman is the daughter of Tomlin's character. Those two couples go on a picnic near the end of the movie when a bizarre and rather out of left field murder takes place; the killer seems to get away with it when an incredibly timed natural disaster strikes immediately after the crime leading police to think that the victim was not murdered!

While the injured boy's dad, TV Commentator Howard Finnigan maintains a vigil at the hospital, he is reunited with his own dad.. the Jack Lemmon character. It turns out Howard was also hospitalized with an injury as a kid.. it coincided with his mom's discovery that Lemmon was having an affair with her sister, and his being thrown out of the house. Lemmon picks his grandsons hospitalization to finally reappear after all these years, and launches into an absurd monlogue in the hospital cafeteria to explain how the affair (and 40+ year absence) was really not his fault... Lemmons character has a chance later to get on the road to redemption with his son, but once again shows what a true loser he really is. Maybe having Lemmon playing this character wasnt such a great idea because Jack was such a likeable actor, and I found it difficult to dislike him as he so richly deserved!

Other storylines work their way in also... the boy's doctor..Ralph Wyman is married to a painter whose sister is involved in a horrible marriage to a cop, a character named Gene Shepherd.. the same name as one of the greatest storytellers of all time...a great choice for a name in a movie whose strength is in the story telling. He is portrayed by "The Player"s Tim Robbins, and just like in that movie he once again has a rivalry with a character played by The OCs Peter Gallagher. This time Robbins is having an affair with Gallagher's ex wife.. a storyline that provides some of the best scenes in the movie... including Mrs. Shepherd's laughing response to her husband's alibis during his extra marital affairs, her snappy comeback to his alibi of a crack bust, and Gallagher's literary interpretation of his ex's suggestion to take half their stuff. That scene includes an amusing encounter with a very slick vacuum cleaner salesman.

Its interesting to watch the 2 sisters talk about their marital issues... on the surface the happy person may not be as happy as she thinks.. Mrs. Shepherd sheepishly admits her husband will come back to the family once his current honey gets tired of his shenanigans. You start to see Shepherd's method of meeting women when he pulls over a female clown.. and snags her phone number. The clown actually meets Lemmons character Mr. Finnigan at the hospital while she is en route to do something that Lemmon couldnt do... make a child happy Lemmon shows her a magic trip involving an egg and a cup, after which she looks at him like he is a moron and tells him that trick is more appropriate for a bar and not for a child. By the way, another case of a Finnigan-clown connection takes place in the 2005 NBC sitcom Committed when the character of Marnie (played by Jennier Finnigan) has a roommate who is a clown!

The clowns husband goes on a fishing trip with his buddies (and en route drools over Tomlin, the waitress at the local coffee shop), which has another story line involving the dilemma of fishing in a lake that has a dead naked woman in it... The clown and her husband later head over to a bizarre dinner hosted by the doctor and his wife..(the cops sister in law)

The movie at first is just as hard to follow as this review, and a little more complex than Nashville. However the characters fall into place and all of the storylines are adapted from the Carver stories, except for the one about the old bar singer and her classical musician daughter played by Lori Singer. If you watch the dvd, once you realize its Lori Singer, you will start to wonder whatever happened to her since the early 90s until the moment where she strips naked and dives into the pool and then you get too distracted to really care, knowing full well you can always log into IMDB to see her bio after the movie is over. The mother is incredibly selfish, when her daughter tells her about the tragic death of a close acquaintance, she doesn't recognize the name, and doesnt seem to really care about the tragedy. You almost want to set her up on a blind date with Jack Lemmon's character.

There are a couple of things that appear odd about these characters. Tomlin's daughter and her husband house-sit for another couple so they can keep an eye on their exotic fish.. Of course, its very important that they be fed properly and that their water is properly maintained. They seem more concerned with the fish's water, than the fishermen who catch and eat fish caught in the same water that contained a rotting corpse. The fishermen decide to continue on their fishing trip because reporting the dead body will ruin their long awaited fishing trip so they decide to wait till after their fishing trip to contact the police.

And there is something oddly tragic about Penn's character. He is married to the 900 sex line girl yet he develops an odd jealousy towards her callers because she talks dirty to them.... but not to him. How bizarre is that, since he actually gets to do the ol' hocus mcpocus with his wife.... and all these guys get is a higher phone bill after they hear her re-enact dialogue from a poorly produced porn film. Penn seems so happy go lucky in the beginning while ogling a naked Lori Singer, but he really isnt so happy after all... Later in the movie he and his buddy find some young girls and wander away from their wives and kids at a park to share some beers with the chickies... which is the plot of Superbad.. (Although Short Cuts didn't have a scene stealing character named McLovin!) And while Penn's character looks to be normal but ends up far from that.. another character is the exact opposite.. During the movie you think he is an absolute loonie kazoonie, but you later realize he is an incredibly caring and compassionate person, and comes through in the clutch in an unbelievably difficult situation.

Altman uses jazz to thread the storylines together using the over the hill singer's nightclub appearances as a transition between vignettes. However, even though the music is very good, especially Lori Singer's cello playing, it adds even more time on to a very very long movie. But you gotta give those transitions points for style... and the storytelling... is superb! If you watch the dvd, you won't be able to leave in the middle because you will get hooked right into the different storylines. On a scale of one to four bladders meaning how less likely you would be to leave in the middle to go to the bathroom, Short Cuts gets 3 and a half bladders.

Now time to announce our next movie club series... We are doing 007 in '07... four different Bond Movies with four different Bonds. We'll announce the first movie next week.

PUMPSTRADAMUS NFL PICK OF THE WK: Football season is back and so is Pumpy's wkly pick. Last year he went an incredible 10-6-1. This week in honor of wrapping up our Altman 4 pack we return to Nashville for the Tennessee - Jacksonville game.. The Titans are 6 and a half point doggies to the Jaguars. We caught up to Pump as he was leaving the multi-plex after seeing Superbad and after flashing his Hawaiian ID card as the one named Pumpstradamus, The Pump Sayeth: "Take Tennesee because of the first 3 letters of their nickname!!".

THE NON-BIASED GIANTS FAN WEEKLY PICKS - This season, I won't be picking all the games - I didn't follow the NFL over the summer since I got too caught up with my surprisingly good rotisserie baseball team.. (Thank You Carlos Pena!!)... so instead we will pick a few games each week under my alter ego.... The Non-biased Giants Fan... Here are those picks...

The Dolphins 3 point doggies over Washington - The Skins aren't that good.
The Packers 3 point doggies over The Eagles - Is Favre still playing? I havent been paying attention.
Giants 6 point doggies over Dallas - I hope Boomer goes to bed before the game ends because he has to do the 6am WFAN shift Monday and then fly out to Cincy to do the Monday Night Game and fly back after the game to do the Tuesday Morning 6am shift! Oh and the Cowboys are not as good as the Giants!!

THE CLIP OF THE WEEK - Earlier I mentioned Dennis Miller and The Family Guy... here is a very funny clip of Peter Griffin watching a Dennis Miller rant!