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Saturday, September 14, 2013

70s Films Are Overrated

"I made about a dozen masterpieces before this one!"

 Assuring that no one will ever go to this blog again, I'd like to make a final point about the 70s movies...they're overrated...but they are also some of the best movies ever made...does that mean that they still can't be overrated?

But how can the best be overrated? 

When we act as if the film is an other worldly substance...or one all-too-worldly: "A Decade Under The Influence", the three-part smooch fest of 70s films, featured stars of the time gushing over theirs and their buddies' performances and "the experience" in a way normally reserved for the dry-mouthed club-goer at 1am.

But like cocaine,  we wake and need more...or we need to be left to our own devices, but we can't...

The love of 70s films overwhelms us and brings us back outside the liquor store acting like whores in need of a fix.

Bert Sugar said the "super fight" killed boxing; everyone's dad talks about how much better boxing was when there was fight on every friday night. Hagler/Hearns was one of the best three rounds in boxing history, and its hype contributed to making it a spectacle, right? (hype=accentuate...overrate)

But still, there were great fights every friday night in the 50s! 

Now, we wait a year or two (some say a decade) before we get another good one. How could any fight purist call that good for boxing?

Though 70s films were more minimalist than previous decades, they were more iconic- Serpico, Godfather, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Next, etc- ...there can only be one Godfather and how dare anyone ever not have it in their top ten!

Like boxing, the impact on movies has been that people are bored, and as my buddy who won the Oscar for Best Student Film said of pitching to production houses, all producers are bored: "heard it."

Film is near dead. Boxing is near dead. In the 50s there was not the need to declare a handful films and fights "the best", and people stayed hungry and interested in the simple, basic story-line.

Anyone who believes 70s hype is good for film should be forced to do likewise with sports and sit next to someone at a bar talk "No one will ever be better than Tiger Woods..." and see if golf doesn't go the way of film and die of boredom.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

UFC 148: Silva-Sonnen II


       This Saturday, Chael Sonnen hopes that opportunity breaks its dogged pattern of avoiding those who don't answer the first time, and knocks at his door once again.

  One hundred seconds shy of a convincing- check that: undeniable and thorough ground and pound beating, Sonnen fell into an Anderson Silva triangle choke (and ultimately, armbar) and was done.

Silva, widely regarded as the best fighter in MMA history, almost saw his amazing win-streak (11) fall by the solid but inconsistent Sonnen.

For the first twenty three minutes of the fight, Sonnen evaded the seam-splitting accuracy of Silva's boxing attack, the sudden explosion of a knee from the clinch (where Sonnen frequently engaged Silva) and spending much of the fight on the mat, he postured out of Silva's jiu jitsu attack.

To put himself back in the position to beat Silva- a task unlikely to be done by a Sonnen submission with     a grappling game not strong enough to justify opening up to Silva on the mat, and striking not powerful enough to knock out even the likes of Michael Bisping, never mind Silva - he must play it the same way as UFC 117: Solid, aggressive strike game holds Silva at bay just long enough and Sonnen powers a single or double leg and holds a somewhat-distanced ground and pound.

That, and that Silva's imperceptibly dangerous strikes (See: Forest Griffin, etc, etc, etc. fights) remains on  vacation through the post-holiday weekend.

The outcome will do little to dethrone Silva from the consensus "Pound for Pound Best Fighter." It will, however, do even less to put Sonnen in consideration for the unofficial title.

Sonnen, who has eleven losses, will be a journeyman, no matter the title he holds or who he beats.

He is a ground and pounder; more, he is a wrestler, and though wrestlers have made a convincing argument that they bring a skill set and experience that best serves the game, the losses of Severin and Coleman and Randleman in the early days of the UFC to a slight Brazilian man named Royce and others  hold a deeper truth in the minds of the UFC faithful.

The UFC was made on big wrestlers being locked or knocked out by those half their size.  And though, a field of former wrestlers have topped the ranks of the UFC against the best, to give them (at last) the ultimate due- the best- would be a sacrilege.

This said, wrestlers must come to terms with Jiujitsu and when they do...

Sonnen's triangle submission of an impressive Brian Stann in his last fight suggests that he takes the BJJ game a bit more seriously than he had- a point of concern for Silva...

Silva has worked on his wrestling game with Mark Munoz. But Sonnen's having immersed himself in the study of BJJ, even if he could never think of rolling in a GI with Silva,  might supersede that and be the key to the fight:

What will Munoz teach Silva about wrestling? What secrets are there to the double, the single or the wrestling scramble? Sonnen or most All American wrestlers can say to the untrained fighter on his feet "my double leg is coming...stop it."

Sonnen, on the other hand, with the same amount of practice at BJJ might manage to stay safe in Silva's half-guard and feel a bit sooner when things are going bad (Frankie Edgar's fight with BJ Penn suggests that the wrestler can do just that).

With a Sonnen win, the future of MMA might be sobering for those still in love with the UFC as they first met it: a game of secret holds and a single hero.

Keep in mind: Sonnen never placed higher than fifth in the NCAA Wrestling Tournament.

Coming into the ranks of MMA fighters are a steady stream of dominating multi-time champs- Ben Askren, Steve Mocco, Johnny Hendricks, Darrion Caldwell and on...

If Sonnen's ground and pound game proves enough to beat the "best of all-time", one can only imagine what those wrestlers who held the likes of Sonnen down all throughout college will do to the rest of the UFC.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Flintstones Over The Simpsons

" And I'm a helluva dancer, ya know..."

I. The Weigh-In

No, there can't be two winners. Or a tie. A line needs to be drawn and people need to hop on their side with their people.

There are plenty of precedents- Ginger and Mary Ann; Lennon or McCartney; T or A.

Freud called such petty divisions "The Narcissism of Minor Differences" and thought it healthy.

So, it is high time you choose: Flintstones or Simpsons?

But before you do, it's only fair that an argument be made for The Flintstones, whose original series run ended in 1966.


A friend told me of when Ben of Ben&Jerry's came to his college economics class to pitch an approach to socially conscious business.

At the end of the class, they rolled in standing freezers and the students were given a free pint. I hadn't yet tried the brand and I asked him how it was. "The best ice cream I've ever had."

"You liked it that much?" I asked.
"No, I fucking hated it."
After Ben's two hours of self-congratulation, each bite he took, along with a peanut butter cup, he was swallowing Ben's inflated sense of his own done-goodery.

Well-intentioned or not; important for the future of the planet or not; deftly economical and yet, responsible or not, this shit don't belong in a pint of Cherry Garcia.

In mucky terrain, nothing is more indispensable than a good pair of boots. However, you might find that they sour your pot of beef stew.

But man, Ben&Jerry's is good and don't I buy it two times or more a week.

But on the occasion I crave a little more or less, I get in my car and drive to the other side of town and get some Brigham's.

Brigham's is local to the Greater Boston area.

Old School:Raspberry Lime Rickey, Soda Fountains, Brownies wrapped in Cellophane, the trail on the counter of hardened marshmallow from the last sundae snags the five dollar bill you push towards the pleasantly plump (and even pimplish) teenager, and melted whipped cream spots the faux-linoleum floor.

Selling quarts of simple pistachio, strawberry, vanilla in plain blue containers and stamped with the most generic ice cream logo. I take it home and spoon out a bowl that doesn't speak to me while I watch TV.

Places like Brigham's are few and dying, and while I'm thankful for all Ben&Jerry's has done for me, if one had to perish, I think the world would be fine with the Vermont-based creamery running head first into  a moose on the I-89.

Brigham's on the other hand...

If the aim of B&J is to imagine a world without war, then I can think of no better way than not being reminded of it while I eat my ice cream and collect my strength to fight the good fight.

Industrialists who love Phish pop up like fruit flies and soon we will have someone replace Ben and friend.

I'm not sure what we'll do without Brigham's or its memory.

The Simpsons, like Ben&Jerry's, is an overload of delightful indulgence, yes, but along the way they kinda let it be known that it was "more than just entertainment."

And like Ben&Jerry's, it is probably best enjoyed by those stoned, soon-to-be-stoned, and stoned-not-so-long-ago.

Fred Flintstone was every bit the moody, selfish, deluded lout that Homer is.

He hates his job, loves his wife, loves and hates his best friend, and abuses the occasional moment of power and glory he gets to the annoyance of all.

I can't take Homer seriously, and in the same way, when someone says "ice cream", I don't think of it as filled with chocolate-covered pretzels (though, fine ice cream can contain it), no matter how hilarious and buffoonish, I can't bring myself to give up Fred for the cartoonish cartoonery of Homer.


Superstar shortstop, Ozzie Smith would perform a cartwheel to a back handspring when he took the field each game. It delighted fans and made weekly appearances on This Week In Baseball.  However, he never hit one in a game and I'm sure had he, it would've made the season highlight reel of This Week In Fuckheads.

To that end, having read Robert Caro or being versed in '70s film might wow those wowed by such things, especially when watching an animated show ("It is just so smart!"), but do you have to jam it down our fucking throats at every turn?

We get it, Simpsons' Staff!  You're smart! Sure, Ozzie Smith wasn't just a guy who could gobble a mean grounder, he could do a back-flip- he could be a gymnast. Similarly, those Simpsons writers aren't just wise-asses, they're political theorists.

Hedging their bets, aren't they? The joke doesn't work- well, you're dumb! You better read Caro, shit-for -brains!

That's a thing we Americans have: I'm not just the thing I dreamed of being, worked my ass off to be and  now that I've attained it should be counting my blessings I've done it...I'm a little more...

No, I'm not a father was a teacher...I'm also a novelist...

I'm not a comedian, I'm a senator from Minnesota.

Good old fashioned father hate here.

Speaking of fathers...ever play Trivia Pursuit with your Old man? Pretty impressive wasn't it? And not half as belittling as that smart ass on your Trivia Team at the local bar.

That's the Flintstones.

It surprises you: There's the episode where Fred saves the drowning guy who becomes a pain in the ass (Renoir's "Boudu Saved From Drowning"); There's the take-off on the Orson Welles' staged "War of the Worlds"; There's plays on words from Psych 101 and history galore.

And it never detracts from the flat-out silliness- like Fred and Barney compromising on a name for a boat, Fred wanted Nautical Queen, Barney-Sea Bound (or something), they settled on: Nau-sea.

And like the cod-liver oil your dad dumped in your orange juice, you didn't know all that smart stuff was there...but it still did you good.

The Simpsons, like the Grape Flavored Flu Remedy, sticks with you in ways that you might not want...

Do you want to be pining for a spoonful of dextromethorphane?

Should you be buying Krusty the Klown phones or, God Help Us, doing that awful Mr. Burns imitation just because everyone else did?

Like the smart father he was, Fred Flintstone shows his love and doesn't pander so you stick around; he shoves a five in your pocket and sends you on your way to live your life.


I watched a re-run of The Simpsons lately at my gym. The sound was down, so I was especially aware the visuals: The credits ran for minutes and minutes, listing producer after producer after associate producer and on.

It went on quite aways into the action and story.

Once Fred puts that clam-shell speaker to the roof of family wagon, it is all Bedrock.

I know life is more complicated than this, that the machinations and inner-workings of comedy writing is like the gang from the Alan Brady show, Morrie Amsterdam pacing the wall-to-wall carpeting thinking of the perfect play on words...

Carl Reiner created the show because, well, that is how he wrote comedy for Sid Caesar...along with Mel Brooks and others.

I like to believe that the laugh is the brainchild of several of a like-mind.

This said, I have appreciated the new world with its mass emails and voicemail jokes, it's you-gotta-see-this video and some the stuff is the funniest shit I've seen or heard...

As was Smithers fantasizing about Monty Burns popping out of a cake delivering a sultry (and naked) "Happy Birthday, Dear Smithers...."

Like a mouthful of Ben and Jerry's, I'm thankful at that moment...

But I feel bad for the new generation that has never known the simple joy of Neapolitan.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Nutty Comments From People I Like By Varying Degrees

And never enough cashews...

There is a Youtube video featuring Tina Fey called "Ham Monologue." During an Improv show, Amy Poehler asks the Black Box audience to say any word and Fey would riff on it...

"Ham!" The audience member called.

First Fey talks about the meat product, its use in an unfortunate salad bearing its name, etc. Then, she discusses the other kind of ham; the guy who has to take center stage, mugging and overplaying everything. 

She scoffs at the kids back in school who hammed it up.

"They'd say about him, 'Oh, he's such a performer...'...And I've just never been that type of person...I never believe in performing for people who weren't asking for it."

There: F'n nuts.

For the record, those are some of the best, most pure and funniest moments I've witnessed in my life; the moments I "wasn't asking for." And I think the majority of the people who witnessed them felt the same way.

What happened to Fey as a child? One too many kids squeeze an armpit fart out in the middle of her Flute Solo?

What does she want, the voice of only the SAG eligible?

In fifth grade, during a history review, the teacher asked the class if anyone knew what explorer set out for The Fountain of Youth:

"My Grandmother!" My buddy called out, "She wears a mask of the stuff every night before bed!"

Funny as hell, I thought. Delightful. Made my ten year old day. And guess what? I didn't ask for it.

Fey's position, especially as a comedy writer, is like a Soul Singer whining "I was never big on that singing in church it for Community Auditions."

Fey's reasoning is surprisingly backward for a person with normally keen insights...or kinda keen, I guess.

She has a disdain for the Class Clown, whose death is to the detriment of the comedy business...

In the video, look around at Fey's fellow players: they look as if they used to apologize to the Substitute Teacher for the unruly behavior of their classmates.

Man, I miss the Class Clown. Who knew the Apple-shiners in the front row were planning a takeover?


Louis CK has a bit where he trashes his daughter for complaining about taking Bubble Gum-flavored cough syrup.

"White people...Rich...spoiled" He says somewhere in a tirade about those who should be thankful they're not "eaten by bears."

For one thing, I just came from a convenience store which people of color frequent, and to the right of the register is a wall of single-pack flavored cough suppressants, flu medicine, etc. Most were seventy-five cents.

 Is he trying to say that the over-the-counter drug industry has been kept out of reach of poor minorities? Ridiculous.

But more importantly: It's a child.

You could be saving a child from drowning and they will claw your face like a cat. It's their instinct to dislike.

Raising a child, making  use of anything that makes it easier, is not "spoiling."

For God's Sake, this is a guy whose TV show illuminates how difficult raising a child can be, despite the love and efforts and luxuries one possesses.

Spend some time around children who "aren't spoiled" and you will see that it's not from a lack of yummy-flavored cough medicine, but an evasion of the challenges he understates.

Come on, Louie.


David Mamet said in an interview with Playboy that he didn't believe in TV watching as a worthwhile exercise for children.

What did the Pulitzer Prize-winner, sensational theorist/essayist and definitely the nicest celebrity I've ever met suggest instead?

"Woodworking." Yes, he also meant "anything", but woodworking?

Okay, here's a self-described "besotted movie lover" who has made a fine living and reputation, become an outstanding learned man, through the dissection, analysis and recreation of film and TV.

It's certainly proven a worthwhile exercise for him?

I get the violence, sex and just plain bad material, but was he as a child exempt from those possibilities?

And before we say "hypocrite", let us just dismiss it to wackiness very busy and successful people tend to spew occasionally.

Hanging in my shower is a garish blow-up kiddie tubby, covered with cartoon fish, octopi and lobsters playing instruments, waiting to be filled.

It's not consistent with the color scheme and our drapes, I assure you. It smells like Wal-Mart, also. Just an attack on our senses.

But after dinner time, it's the place to be. Splashing. Singing.

"Time to get out..." I say.
"In! In!" Is the protest.

Mamet, as the artist, is concerned that society will swallow the individuality of the child. As a parent, I'm worried that I will pass on my hang-ups or she will like Brecht just because I do.

"Doesn't interact well with others..."

Holy shit!

There'll be time for Brecht, if she chooses, but there's something to a childhood of moderate TV and other silly stuff.

I've given Mamet's books on Art- "True and False," "Three Uses of the Knife" and "Writing in Restaurants"- to friends as a grassroots effort to get the world thinking with such clarity.

I've been very frustrated that more weren't reading them.

This comment, perhaps the singular such one by Mamet, offers me the rare occasion to be thankful that not everyone puts the same stock I do into what he says.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Reading, Rejection and The Blog

A Finer Way To Hook Your Readers, You Will Not Find

According to his biographers, LBJ took counsel while sitting on the toilet.

Evidently, President Johnson was a multi-tasker. And this long before the term and notion became a necessity or virtue, depending upon how you look at it.

Or: Perhaps this was where he felt he listened best to the ideas and ruminations of others. Lyndon would not have been alone in this. In fact, there are many who can't get the most of the relief without it:

I recall my father complaining one morning about the state of affairs in my house before disappearing into the commode where he continued his rant behind the closed door.

"...And Goddamn! There's nothing to read in here!" He yelled.

To the writer, this is a golden moment...someone craves something to read? -- here's a manuscript, my good man!

Sure, part of the President's taking meetings while he crapped was to let Mr. Smarty Pants know that his Harvard-educated notions could be flushed, or that while for the moment he was deferential to counsel, he was also deferential to the passing of last night's meatloaf. But... an audience is an audience...

And anyone who has had a meeting with a production team, who has put aside a generous half-hour to rip apart your six months of work on a script with "I get it" or "heard it," knows that having someone's full and undivided attention comes at an enormously steep price.

Getting someone between flights, waiting for the doctor, sitting while they have a little taken off the top or when they need a moment away from TPS reports is the way to go.

Jeff Goldblum's character in "The Big Chill" says that the only editorial parameters set for writers at his hipster magazine are that "you are not allowed to write any piece longer than the average person can read during the average crap."

"Tolstoy can be read on the toilet." One of the mourners replies.

"Yes, but they can't finish it." Goldblum shoots back.

Ah! Short (or short enough), self-contained pieces? An easily accessed catalogue of ramblings on every subject? Reading that doesn't require sifting through indexes and magazine racks but can be recalled with a title, line or subject?

Technology and the blog has given us the Utopia of readers reading and writers giving the people what they want.


At one time, the best a writer could hope for with a script or several finished chapters was that it could get in the hands of "someone."

What exactly were those undefined wishes? God knows or, rather,  I'd be too embarrassed to admit: A casual voice I don't recognize, slightly blurred with the surf and hum of the PCH, with a 310 area code introduces himself and says "Really good..." and that my voice "needs to be heard" (trust me, I just cringed, too; it's okay).

And when it wasn't the mysterious benefactor, it is the friend-of-a-friend, cousin of a co-worker, Godson of a neighbor who went to law school with so-and-so who worked directly with __________ (Popular and Successful Person). But before they got your script to the Big Guy, they were going to have an underling -- someone of taste and in-the-know -- who sees if it's quality is at least worth looking at.

You are told to give the guy a couple of weeks to "get to it." You send out the script in a manilla envelope with a handwritten cover letter -- "Hey Jim, Thanks for taking a look at it. And we'll have to grab that beer. - P"

Was that too casual? Did it lack something, like a joke? 

You seal it and send it out with two hopes...

One: That two weeks goes by in what seems like a catnap. Two: That Jim never call you on that beer unless it is to speak glowingly about your work (otherwise, your prospective drinking buddy can spontaneously combust for all you care).

The wait for and the arrrival of the word is every bit as soothing as awaiting the results of a home kit early pregnancy test. Either angle you were coming from, should you have been so lucky to experience it, it sucked:

- One line was negative
- Two was positive
- No lines was invalid test and $9.99 down the drain

Hearing the notes on your work that was mailed out is, no matter where you come from, always the worst of all possible outcomes: it's invalid to those who spent their last buck on it; Positive to the 17-year-old, Negative to the 38-year-old praying for a miracle. And it's a dose of the clap for good measure.

With the emergence of the Internet and personal websites years back, you might have gotten story on here and there. But the process of spreading the word (business card, cocktail napkin, friends who stop by to mock your opening line "'This all could've been avoided.' That's trite."), there was never that pay-off you hoped for.

And what was the pay-off? I guess the unspoken one is money. Maybe an unforeseen position with a company needing your talents.

But what would that get? An apartment? A condo? A better job?

But I have a place and a good enough job?

What is it then? What made you want to write this thing?

Maybe it was back in fifth grade when you wrote a song parody of The Beatles' "Help" from the perspective of Lewis and Clark to Sacajawea and they laughed. Yes. That was good. And weird and it touched something that has to have meaning.

Man, you want to do that every day or often enough, ya know?

It didn't get you money (not even a few extra tater tots!). And all the subsequent attempts didn't get you laid (God knows).

But you got a laugh here and there. And sometimes you didn't. Sometimes, like that unscripted play in fourth grade, it fell flat. Still, wow, you'll take those odds, and move on.

So, all you want is to get it out there, something that doesn't cost- money for postage or picking up the tab out of gratitude. Maybe a chuckle here, a comment there or a "like" on Facebook.

You like it? Don't?

Fine, it's gone. Or as Bukowski wrote, "I'm already on the next line."


Arturo Bandini, the John Fante hero of Ask The Dust and others, sends an angry rant of a letter to a publication that has rejected his work.

It returns with a check and a letter from the editor telling Arturo that he'd trimmed the fat off the rant, kept what he liked -- what was good -- and informed the young writer that it would be published.

That is a struggling writer's dream: Don't worry about editing, we got it; Just you being you, is good enough; and acceptance letters dropping from the skies above. More, it declared the existence of anonymous readership who "got" him.

With the exception of the check, the blogger has the good fortune of Bandini: readers stopping in at all hours of the day; happening onto to the site from all around the world, frequently by accident. The reader skims the titles, falls into one and likes it. The fat is naturally trimmed and the writer has gone on, oblivious to the edits and discards and maybe even those "getting him," but he or she sees the "hits" and that's good enough.

That's success according to Fante and so many others.

When receiving notes on a work, the writer often hears from the reader "You lost me here..."

Well, yes, I guess...notwithstanding being lazily unclear, it happens that you lose people; I've never read a novel that didn't do that to me. But unlike the published novel that must be accepted as "it is what it is" and the reader's burden to understand, the unpublished piece must answer for any moment that is unclear.

With the blog, it is what it is. It's there. Within minutes, you have readers; and not those who need to tracked down and haunted.

 Maybe you edit or pull it, but it's there, and, if you're busy enough, it'll get buried in your next posts...

And you're on the next line.

A pretty good place to be.


Anderson Cooper and his show took part in a study examining cell phones for traces of fecal matter.

Cooper, whose antiseptic mien bleeds good grooming, discovered his own phone carried feces.

Poorly washed hands, yes. But also, people simply conducting more business from the toilet. They carry their IPhones and Androids with them to do their thing.

In between calls, they search the 'net as the average American does more than twenty times per day, pumping traffic to all sorts of sites and blogs.

Blog traffic!!!

Maybe a bad thing for hygiene, but a great push for the dirty business of writing.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Mixed-Blessing Of Memory

Sure You Do

I have a good memory. Okay, better than good. All right,  Let me say outright: it's pretty damn good.
Not that I am boasting or anything. And no,  I don't feel endowed with a "specialness" or that I've been stamped by the creator to be recognized by those looking for the chosen one.

It's a quirky trait not unlike sweating a lot. In fact, and ironically, I am a phenomenal sweater, too: During a typical two hour college wrestling practice, I normally lost about twelve pounds, and once, at a tournament, I lost seven pounds in less than an hour to make weight.

Aside from the ephemeral asset to wrestling  or maybe a natural cleansing of my pores, the propensity to sweat a lot really sucks. When I was younger, I sweated profusely only when working out. Now, even on a cold February morning, I am mindful when I get up from seats to make that I have not left a puddle. 

I am no more inclined to boast about my memory than I am my overactive sweat glands. And don't get me wrong, I can see the benefits of it. Perhaps it is sacrilege to toss away one's blessings, but a good memory can be an unwieldy thing; one as socially cumbersome as the onset of a sweating attack in a tuxedo as I usher guests to their seats.

On the bright side,  having a good memory affords me the opportunity to say for this piece: "Not for nothing...", as in: Not for nothing, I have a good memory, bro.

I've always wanted to say that.

"A good memory is a gift," someone once said.

Yeah well, next time I want socks.


When I was 15, I worked in the ticket booth at an amusement park Water Slide. Every day wallets, watches and IDs were found and were then housed in the small booth's lost-and-found. In between ticket sales, I would sift through the IDs that were bundled and rubber-banded.

Around Christmastime that subsequent winter, my father was telling me about a former student who had visited from college. He had a complicated Vietnamese name (H sounding like a W, and ao like ow) and not familiar with such names or never seeing it written on a paper assignment or anything, it took a moment:

"Do you spell that...?" I asked.
"Yes." My father answered.
"He lives at 18 Booth Street in Dorchester." I told him.
"Well, I know he lives in Dorchester..." He replied, going to the cabinet and pulling down the yearbook.

That was his address. And the photo, not unlike the unsmiling one of him before the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicle background I had seen over the summer, was definitely the same person.

And most of my great moments of memory are like that...and then, gone; along with some strange looks.

Of course, there are those moments at reunions and such where I've remembers names, dates, events, etc. and the person shakes their head.

And while it's had some social benefit, it's largely played out as a party game, not unlike a friend who had mastered reciting the fifty states in under five seconds- interesting...entertaining...but odd.

On one of my first forays into the party scene during my senior year of high school, my friends and I drove to a nearby college to hangout with a cousin during a football game.

Tailgating and tickled by the buzzed from a few beers, I approached some alumni football players. I recited back to a group their various statistics; one I recalled from the team program some five years earlier, his favorite movie- "Animal House" (though, one could have guessed that: I think "Animal House" was the favorite movie of most college linebackers in 1986).

" I like this kid." One of the giants said and patted my shoulder.

Yes! It's finally worked out ! The curse has brought me social acclaim and acceptance!

You see, like the Christopher Walken Sketch from SNL where his character has the foresight of the man in "The Dead Zone", but now only for petty and irrelevant things (" will buy a bag of will be very bitter..."), my memory seldom came to my rescue in areas where you most certainly would think it would, namely: school.

You would imagine that if I could recall the complete line-up, records, predictions and quotes from the local paper for 1982 wrestling match between Norwood and Dedham High Schools- teams I had nothing to do with- you'd think that in the three months we covered the Periodic Table in Chemistry, I could have recalled the atomic weight of a even a few of the elements?

A few of these formulas in geometry and algebra should make sense, right?

No: I was a not-so-solid C student.

Yes, memory is quite a different thing from analysis, but you'd hope that by the way I sorted the facts and could on cue employ them that with a little homework I'd have aced it...?

Ooops. Right there: little homework.

That's what was missing! But sit down and go over things? Is that what people do to get the finer points?  Man, I guess I'm no good at the finer points.

A friend once said that I was like Rain Man...except that I "never helped anyone win in poker or get laid".

But good news: Today, I can recall most every symbol from the periodic table when I play Trivial Pursuit.

Is it too late for me to get credit for that?


Countless movies depict a girlfriend opening a present from her side-burned, droop-eyed boyfriend as a success when she exclaims:

"You remembered!"

He was listening during her seemingly insignificant "I don't know why I'm telling you this..." moment and remembered that she loved  Bullseye caramels.

John Cusack remembers lines from Ione Skye's commencement address  and he's a dear.  I do the same and I'm a creep.

That said...

Some years back I was getting my haircut by a woman (and really there was no romantic motivation here) whose name I read off the Board Approved Certificate hanging on the wall struck me as familiar.

" Were you born on September 28th, 1974?" I asked.
She stopped clipping and looked me in the then, then at the certificate. Seeing that there was no mention of it, she asked: "How'd you know that?"

"Oh, I remember I had it in my police notebook...I used to be a cop and I went on a call to Bobby Fowler's house..."


"Oh man," I said, "That's...nine years ago...when I first got on."

My stylist excused herself and pulling one of her neighboring girlfriends away from a dye-job, proceeded to have a whispering session, wherein she said, I imagine: 1. Would it be bad if I left in the middle of this haircut? and 2. Should I call the cops?

Aside the point that it wasn't the most tactful thing to reference a decade-old domestic situation that was probably embarrassing and hurtful, what was I hoping to get from it? A pat on my should like from the football players?

(Incidentally, I don't think the football players outside of a tailgate party in their 20's want to be beholden to some stranger who remembers their freshman nickname; I don't think they want a buddy who does such things).

In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, locking somebody in a cradle a la wrestling often doesn't get you any points, and it is not going to submit them. Simply: it's worth shit. But in wrestling, it's a sign of overpowering your opponent with mite and skill. Sometimes in the middle of training, tired, I can't help but take the open cradle even though it has no value in the current context...and I kinda look like an asshole.

Similarly, recalling the hairstylist's birthday was out-of-place. And the look of "you're creepy" might be well-deserved. Sure, as a woman who I know first-hand had at least one domestic altercation with a partner who remembers little of anything that hasn't occurred in the last five minutes, I want to say that creeps are like sharks- yes, the prospect of encountering one is overwhelmingly frightening, but the instances so rare.

Stick to worrying about your live-in boyfriend who is an out-and-out lunatic with NO MEMORY.

But how can I? If I was not in the moment and could ask something so stupid, how could I fault her for finding my question more like a cyber-stalker than a customer?

Another misuse of memory was when I bumped into playwright David Mamet and, as he examined a new model of BMW convertible parked outside a bakery, I approached him and though, he was not at all closed off, offered Ricky Roma's first line from "Glengarry Glen Ross":

"All train compartments smell vaguely of shit."

Mamet shrugged and deadpanned: "You're telling me." He then went on to tell me, a nobody in police pants on my way to work, about his current project- a Terence Rattigan play "The Winslow Boy", which he later adapted and made into a movie.

Here I am hoping to become a writer and meet one of my favorites who would have probably answered any question I had about the process or his project, and I'm gaped-mouth, smiling at my own clever recollection.

What I wanted at that time, honestly, was to be thought special: I wanted, in a moment of fantasy, for Mamet, not only to like me, invite me out for a beer to talk shop, but I wanted him to bestow his greatness on me by virtue of my specialness and hand me a Pulitzer Prize for Special Identity.

Like a friend who upon meeting a famous film actor grabbed a bottle of Jack Daniels and a took a gulletless ten-second swig.

Is that what the nameless do, we show off our eccentric talents like it's Community Auditons

And besides these moments that evoke latent shivers of embarrassment, memory has not always made me the most pleasant be or be around.

With no science background (RE: Supra; "C" in Chemistry), I can only speculate that the endorphins that the body normally produces for the average person when they experience a trauma also, like percocet, make the mind a little dull and thus, forgetful.

Good news: They forget the bad and traumatic.

Perhaps those with great memories lack such endorphins and they not only remember the incident vividly but experience the pain of it, as well.

"How can one forgive when still writhing in pain," the Theologian asked. And yes: How can you forgive when you remember the decades old transgression like it was yesterday?

As for others...

And you know, sometimes those who don't quite recall their childhood nicknames or where you last saw them (maybe their guest that night is now an ex, and the incident a "dark moment"), are doing it with some deliberation; moving on is the best course...

Being a walking photo album and scrapbook is not always endearing...

I appreciate a photo album as much as the next guy, but I clearly don't want photos that make me look fat or remind me that I looked like a girl in fifth grade. I'm sure others have the same standards with what they choose to recall.

By asserting what I remember of their life, I am dictating the pages of their albums.


Schools have done their damnedest to hammer home how unimportant remembering anything is...especially, in the inner-city.

In the process of everyone coming together as a village to raise a child, it's clear that some information is best learned at home, e.g.,  your address.

Of a sample of 120 8th graders at a Boston Public School, almost half could not pass the "envelope test":  What goes on the outside of envelope to your house?

-Your mother and/or father's name
-Street, House Number, Unit number
-Zip Code

In defense of an educational approach that discourages "rote" memory, educators claim to foster "deeper thinking and questioning."

I find it ponderous that educated people could believe that a child with no interest in  (and a capacity to block out the meaningfulness of) that number on the place where they live will be "intellectually curious."...Oh yeah, and for those of you gathering air to say "But Einstein couldn't ride a bike or perform menial tasks": Shove it up your ass.

During an eighth grader's presentation on The Constitution, where they spoke of "Freedom of Speech", I asked: "What amendment is that?"

I was chided by a colleague for emphasizing memory, "They can look that up later," She firmly told me.

You mean a student who is encouraged to not ask what amendment Freedom is Speech is during an assignment entitled "The Amendments" will take time out from playing "Call of Duty IV" to google Freedom of Speech?

The fear of urban educators could be well-intentioned: Rote memory will create robots with no independent thought.

Doug Bruce, the subject of the 2003 documentary "Unknown White Male" provided a different view of memory.

Bruce, who suddenly finds himself (or is found) on a NYC subway with no recollection of who he is or where he lives or, for that matter, anything, attempts to piece together his life and relationship after being hit with retrograde amnesia.

Bruce, who was in 30's, had retired from a very successful career in finance, and pursue, again, with great success, a career as a photographer.

His amnesia had impacted a part of his long-term memory. Memory is broken down into three types: Short term ( ex: a present conversation), Sensory (ex: sounds and smells; hot and cold items) and Long term. And from that long term memory are three parts: Semantic ( ex:the president's name, word meanings), Procedural (ex:How to ride a bike or perform tasks) and episodic (ex:Your high school prom).

Bruce's amnesia impacted his episodic long-term memory alone. He quickly regained his skills working a camera and analyzing the market, but couldn't recall any event from his life.

According to the thinking of many educators, this is no great loss to the person. One's skill-set and their education is their person.

Bruce's family feels differently. His humor has changed, they say. He's a different emotional animal. He doesn't have the same interpersonal effects or momentary values. And at times, he seems to have a robotic way about him.

This observation suggests that it is important to make mental note and remember things as they happen. Bruce has been informed of his history- from most minute detail- and yet, they don't register the same way; they're not emotional, but historical. One recalling how they got a scar on their elbow, rather than being told how they got  it, will be a more textured emotional being.

If the concern be not turning us into robots, educators need to consider the damage done to those, even the well-educated or "highly skilled", with no interest in or memory of their experiences.


As evidenced by their hilarious distortion of their pasts, the rich and famous don't appreciate that which suggests they were anything else than ultra-achieving super- beings we all know them to be.

Sean "Puffy" Combs insists that he was champion in the 100 meter dash on the indoor track team in high school. An interviewer informed Combs that High School Indoor Track has no 100 Meter Dash, just a 55 meter.

Combs joked that he was so fast he chose to run the extra forty-five meters and still won.

Truth be told, I wish I had a little more of that: the ability to strike out and forget about it before he sat back down on the bench.

The problem with an unshakeable memory is that it puts faith only in what has happened. Not just the memory itself, but it's ramifications echo in the current and, unfortunately, the future.

A philosopher once wrote that " A man who can't forget will never amount to anything."

Thankfully, I can't remember who the hell that was.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Don't Buy The Emmy Solidarity

"And Cut! ...Let's Try This One More Time!"

I'm sure I'm not the first, and actually, I really hope I'm not the only:

I call bullshit.

Sure there's a lot of that on TV and everywhere, but enough is enough: When the most ambitious people on Earth put on a front that they are not, that's is simply PR and somebody has to say something before this takes even a greater psychic toll than it already has.

In fact, as a friend recently pointed out, the main job of PR is to make very ambitious types look less ambitious: To take the burgeoning starlet who gave favors (of all degrees) to bring producers and others to their showcases while struggling in oblivion, and make them seem on the Letterman couch that they'd rather be with the girls back in high school.

 "Oh, this Hollywood thing..."

The only truth that can gleaned from the moment is that some of the ladies on stage wanted to share the moment with the winner.


Martha Plimpton is said to have spread the word via Twitter. "Amy has an idea..." From there, they decided to do it.

So which is it? A brilliant moment of inspiration or a rehearsed bit?

 Being an awards show, where writers stand backstage scribbling jokes and moments later are sputtered by host, this twittering is only a degree less coordinated than the dance numbers.

I have seen less choreographed Wrestlemanias.

And the shot when Poehler stood up? Where was the camera, in Will Arnett's bow-tie?

Where did that tiara come from? How did that pageant theme evolve from such a moment of a spontaneity?

I believe one actress can have a moment of inspiration. I even believe two actresses can talk about doing something for years and at the moment they say "fuck it" and do it.

I don't believe six actresses nominated for the same Emmy category without the intervention of God or even Oprah could agree on the same wine for the sangria never mind this bit.

If it be inspiration, then do it, but don't pass off a staged event as something other than that. Why is Martha Plimpton twittering about the "idea" again, (I can't resist), this is more preparation than most TV shows put into the series finale?

They twittered each other, yes, but you better believe that they called their agents, their PR person and the producers of the show to make sure that this wouldn't be construed as anything but positive.

Had Poehler gone up and stayed on stage by herself, putting herself out there to be judged by some as "stealing the winner's thunder" or "weird" or as a performer "Okay, that bit went on too much"; if she and the other brilliant ladies of solidarity, had individually made a statement a la Jim Carrey- he lampoons the event, his fellow nominees like Nick Nolte grit their teeth or feign an approving laugh- then join the chorus of "brilliant!"

But this is only a shade less severe and manipulative than someone going up to the podium and saying "We're all winners...Women of comedy unite!" and calling them all on stage to hold hands.

This is marketing for these individuals' future films and shows and award nominations.


And when people call upon PR what does that say about their cause?

If they think Emmys are bullshit, then insist by contract that the networks never mention the nominations when advertising the show; insist when giving a commencement address that the College Dean not call them "three-time Emmy nominee."

And what does it say about comediennes who would hold hands with the others? They love "Mike and Molly"?  Whatever happened to shitting on each other and mocking their work but privately love it? What has now emerged is " I love this woman, my peer..."...but (behind a hand) "her show sucks."

"But it's about supporting other women..."

Yes, five other women. The 3.1 billion others, I think, like everyone else is no better because of this display of horseshit...

Make the scripted look spontaneous, the insincere as austere and rivalry as solidarity.

Ah, TV...