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Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the we find out that Stephenie Meyer's newest novel will get published in June.


I should say here that I am a diehard Anne Rice fanatic. Now those are true vampire chronicles -- rich, dense stories with plot twists and a lush language that ensnares you into reading through the dark nights of the blood drinkers. Rice manages to convince you that joining Lestat and company wouldn't  be a bad gig at all -- as a matter of fact, she makes it sound downright fun. 

Meyer, however, is another story.

Dreck, pure dreck. All of it printed in a big, fat books with a font large enough to almost qualify for LARGE PRINT tomes for those with vision problems. But I'm remiss -- they always publish books for young children using large print.

Sophomoric is the word for Stephenie Meyer's work -- aimed, clearly, at female teenagers of the junior high kind. I realized this when I set out to read one of the books (found, incidentally, in the dollar pile).  Worst thing about it is she's raking in money hand over fist and is laughing all the way, along with the hordes of her teenybopper fans.

I was a scant few chapters into the first book of the series, Twilight, when the drudge factor kicked in -- I had to literally force myself to read the book page by painful page. The heroine -- Bella Swan -- in addition to having a really stupid name is also one of the dumbest broads I've read about in years.

Since I had purchased the first two books together, I sifted through the second one, New Moon, literally reading a couple of pages here and there so I can get a sense of what was going on in Bella's life. In Twilight, Bella falls for a vampire (Edward), and manages to survive a hellraising experience as a result.

In New Moon, bimbo Bella is stringing Jacob along because she's pining for Edward who went to splitsville. Now that's really showing some smarts, Bella -- toy with a boy that when angered will blow up three times your size and swat you with his paws. Among other inane behavior, Bella at hurls herself off a cliff into the ocean at one point.

All this for "love." That's where I stopped sifting and began rereading Interview With A Vampire to clear my head.

I gave the Twilight to a friend of mine, Mary, who is an excellent writer and my cohort in The Oscar Run. She sent me the following email: "318 pages in and suddenly I don't care if I read another page. The sophomoric writing and teenage angst have bored...If I read one more angelic adjective about Edward's astounding beauty I may puke."

I could not have said it better. I can't give Mary the second book to sift through because I got exasperated with the whole mess and did the only thing any cogent person should do with the blasted thing-- threw it in the trash.

Amen, and pass the mustard.

Friday, March 26, 2010


Peter Palumbo wants welfare recipients to take regular drug tests if they want to keep their benefits.

Representative Palumbo, a conservative Democrat in the Rhode Island General Assembly, has created a bill that would require testing of all adults in the household as well. Palumbo claims to have heard stories about people who trade food stamps or other such funding for street drugs. Regular testing, he believes, would remove users from welfare and ultimately, save the state money.

Palumbo and fellow state reps Robert Jacquard, Charlene Lima and Arthur Corvese have inked a bill to that effect. Curiously, Palumbo was noticeably absent from a recent hearing during which civil libertarians and community groups blasted the proposal. 

Constitutional issues aside, what's disturbing about such a measure is the precedent that would be set -- would people receiving unemployment benefits be his next targets? How about social security payments?

And, Representative Palumbo, who is going to pay for this?

There are about 7,000 Rhode Islanders on welfare -- to search out a few individuals who potentially could be abusing drugs and the system would cost more than what would be saved.

About 12.7 percent of the slightly over 1 million Rhode Islanders are out of work, and 14 percent are living at the poverty level. One community tried to deal with its economic mess by firing all the teachers. Foreclosures are through the roof.

You would think that Palumbo and all the rest of his cohorts might better spend their time trying to figure out solutions to those huge issues instead of sweating the small stuff. 

Amen, and pass the mustard.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


I want to live in a yurt.

There's a lot of talk lately about being green – and not green like Kermit the Frog but a life that conserves resources and leaves a minimal footprint on Planet Earth.

I wish I could say my desire to live in a yurt stems from such a lofty aspiration, but frankly it's mostly because I'm completely bored with conventional houses.

And I'm tired of cleaning them.

Living in New England you are surrounded by Colonial and Victorian era homes. For the most part they are a rabbit warren of ooky little rooms unless owners do something to change that, like throw in the occasional larger windows or skylights.

These homes, albeit lovely, are a pain in the neck to clean unless rooms like the kitchen and bathroom have been completely renovated using modern materials.

That's why a yurt is so appealing right now.

After years of living in boxes and squares, I like their roundness.

I'm digging the notion of a house that I can just pick up and move if the mood strikes.

Never mind that you can take the thing apart, shake out the dust and cobwebs and put it back up again.

I could say goodbye forever to that most detested item in my household, the vacuum cleaner.

Life would be simpler.

Except for the yak I would need to lug around the yurt. Somehow an SUV wouldn't have the same feel.

I may need more than one yak, now that I think about it.

And I am not entirely sure that a yak would like the tropics, which is where I would ultimately move my yurt.

I need some suggestions here.

I'm yakless and yurtless.

Amen, and pass the mustard.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


First of all, this in NO way, shape or form is intended as a slam against the Irish. Happy Saint Partrick's Day to all of you -- and may there be many, many more.

What I am slamming is the hordes of amateurs that will flock to the bars and taverns tonight, to carry out a misguided celebration of the occasion.

At another time in my life I joined some of these people, unintentionally, when I walked into my favorite watering hole on St. Paddy's and likewise, New Year's Eve or Cinco de Mayo (which by the way is my birthday but that's another story).

It's plain annoying to have my evening ruined when someone throws up next to me or sloshes a glass of green beer on my clothes. Never mind getting iced by a Margarita (my middle name but then again that's another story).

The highlight -- or the lowlight depending on your perspective -- was the evening when the owner of a pub swaggered up to me, swaying and with a precarious hold on a half-empty pitcher of beer.  To be fair, he was just in the spirit of things.

In truth, he grabbed me with his free arm and proceeded to plant one on -- my nose. And there he stayed for several seconds, long enough for me to look over at a friend of mine who was laughing himself silly. 

I still recall the experience, and I sincerely hope he does not.

For this evening, I've every intention of staying home. I like a good time as much as the next person, but I'm at a stage of my life when standing around a crowded, smelly roomful of belching, farting hordes is not my concept of a good time.

Tonight I may light a springtime fire in his honor.  Those of you going out, be careful, and sing a chorus of Wild Rover for me.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Some recent developments should give pause to anyone who may visit a foreign country soon.

The setting is Dubai, one of seven members of the United Arab Emirates. In recent times Dubai has attracted a lot of world attention because of spectacular construction projects, a whopping oil industry and a per-capital income ranking 18th in the world.

It's a place that does things in a big way, including building palm-tree shaped islands to increase the waterfront real estate. You can see these things from orbit.

Very hot and very cool.

Not as cool is the kissing incident, at least by Western standards.

Two British citizens face a month in jail and deportation from Dubai because they were spotted kissing and drinking at a public restaurant there by a local.

Charlotte Lewis and Ayman Najafi were arrested in November.  The whole thing has been in a legal limbo since. They admit to the drinking but claim the kiss was just a peck on the cheek.

Whatever -- Dubai is hanging on to their passports, just to make sure, while their appeal is being reviewed.

As residents of the United States, we take a certain amount of civil liberties for granted; a smooch in a public place between apparently consenting adults is one of them.  We forget that other societies have different points of view on such things, and hold to their standards even if the situation involves someone who is not a native, someone who just may not know the rules.

Whether one agrees with those stipulations or not, it's reasonable to think that the old adage still applies, you know, the one about when in Rome.

So a cautious reminder to anyone planning to travel to Dubai (or other similar nations) anytime soon -- if life there gives you lemons, don't pucker up.

Amen, and pass the mustard.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


The internet is buzzing with a story about high school girl who was told that she couldn't go to the prom because her date was inappropriate -- as in, the wrong gender.

Constance McMillen of Jackson, Mississippi wanted to go to the prom -- an event that is already fraught with all kinds of angst for any teenager.

Who do I ask? What do I wear? Those are the questions that any normal teenager would ask, and Constance asked them, too.

But apparently the 18 year old came up with what others thought were the wrong answers.

Constance wanted take her girlfriend, and wear a tuxedo instead of a dress.

It seems the folks who run the school system were so freaked out that they decided to cancel the prom altogether.

Now not only is Constance's dance card wrecked, so is the culmination of a four year stretch for an entire group of kids.

I didn't go to my high school prom. By the time I got to college, however, I'd met a bunch of people who also missed out on that, so we vowed to attend our college senior dance together. But by then we were older, obviously, and the experience was totally different, albeit fun.

You can't go back, as we all know.

Constance is about to lose out on one of those experiences that every American kid should enjoy if they want to, at a time in her life when it means so incredibly much.

Never mind that fashionistas would completely approve of a tuxedo on a woman. Many celebrities have worn such a garment to important occasions.

In fact, there's a vintage tuxedo from Lord & Taylor in my wardrobe -- tails and all. Felt very elegant in it.

The ACLU has gone to bat for Constance, and she has filed a lawsuit against the school. She wants the prom reinstated, and she wants to go with her chosen date in her chosen clothing.

I'm with her.

And if she hasn't got a tux yet, she can call me.

I'd be honored to let her wear mine.

Amen, and pass the mustard.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Leave it to the Jamaicans to do it again.

Newton Marshall, a 27 year old tour guide, is trying to be come the first black man to complete in the Iditarod.

Three things stand out here to me.

That anyone should want to compete (never mind complete) in a race that requires participants to ride a dog sled through some of the most remote areas of Alaska's wilderness in late winter is admirable to say the least.

That a black dude from a nation where many are descendants of slaves should want to do it is very cool in my book. African Americans have been tearing down some incredible glass ceilings recently, most notably one in D.C. (I'm still waiting for a woman to do the same. Sigh.)

But what really stands out here is -- Marshall hails from tropical Jamaica, where not a single flake of snow has ever made landfall.

Everybody knows about the Jamaican bobsled team, whose exploits inspired the film Cool Runnings.

Last month Jamaica sent Errol Kerr to the Olympics. 

Both of these sports, however, pale in comparison when it comes to the sheer grit that it takes to finish the 1,150 mile course through desolate frozen country.

Marshall thinks he's got it. The idea hatched when his boss asked him to train dogs to pull sleds over sand dunes. Snow wasn't far behind.

Even if he doesn't make it all the way, Marshall, and in a sense once again the Jamaicans, have showed us all something about the pursuit of the crazy impossible.

Mush, Newton, mush. A lot of us with crazy dreams are with you.

Amen, and pass the mustard.

Monday, March 8, 2010


The Oscar Run is over, the votes were tabulated and a whole bunch of brand new gold statuettes are shining on the mantelpieces of last night's winners.

While some may be analyzing the incredible upset for Best Director and Best Film -- the victorious Katherine Bigelow (Hurt Locker) versus her ex-husband James Cameron (Avatar) -- for the foreseable future, I'm planting this one right out there today while the memory is fresh.

What was up with those pouffy dresses?

I mean, Vera Farmiga looked like she was being attacked by giant, undulating fuschia mushrooms. They began at her feet and stopped somewhere along her clavicle, and I was on pins and needles because I thought it wouldn't be long before they devoured her arms and head, too.

As if Farmiga's dress wasn't cartoonish enough,  Zoe Saldana looked like the creators of her ensemble ran out of fabric dye somewhere in the process.  And what was going on around the hemline, if you can find the hemline? The only thing missing in the whole shebang is a hat with fruit piled on top.  This was, by the way, from the creative director of Givenchy, who once dressed the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Jackie-O. Brrrr.

What really kills me is that these are very high profile women who because of that profile are sought out by designers to sport their wares. The gowns, the jewelry, the hair and the makekup are carefully thought out by stylists, people like Rachel Zoe who make it their business to make others look good. 

So there you are on the famous red carpet -- surrounded by movie legends now and the ghosts of movie legends of long ago. As an actor this is your moment to shine both professionally and physically.  And this is the best you can do?

It should not take much to figure out how to do the red carpet right.  I have one piece of advice: Helen Mirren. The woman is the bomb, and not the one from the Hurt Locker.

While I am at this, let me say one other thing: what  was Antonio Banderas thinking?

Amen, and pass the mustard.

Friday, March 5, 2010


Sometime in the 1950s a film called "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" made its way onto theater screens all over the United States.

In the sci-fi thriller a small town doctor discovers that all of the citizens of his community are slowly being replaced by zombified aliens.  The demand for such a plot apparently was high enough that in the 1970s a remake of this "classic" was necessary. 

Over 30 years have passed since that remake and today we find ourselves facing as yet another "remake" of this flick, only this time instead of appearing at movie theaters around the country, it's popping up at your local airports.

Yup, it's time for the Invasion of The Body Scanners.

All kidding aside, you are not getting any arguements from me about the necessity for additional security at airports after 9/11. But I'm not entirely convinced that this latest version of a "security measure" isn't going to wind up being more of a liability in the long run.

These gizmos produce ghostly images of airplane passengers taken as they pass through the scanner, a now ubiquitous part of the entire "gotta get on the plane" ritual. It's hoped they will assist authorities in spotting persons who have strapped a bomb onto their bodies.

Reports say that the images will be viewed discreetly and may or may not be kept on file for an indeterminate period of time.

But let's face it: this is the U.S. of A. where all kinds of opportunistic people lurk and it won't be long before ghostly photos of celebrities and even politicians will end up on a Facebook page and on the front cover of The National Enquirer.

Who decides who will get the job of staring at these things all day? What's the job spec going to say, anyway? Who will weed out the perverts who will get off on the whole thing? And what of small children and pedophiles who may nowAlbert Einstein or Stephen Hawking a run for money.

The first scanner is being set up today at Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts. I can't help but wonder what John Adams would have said if such a thing had occurred in his day.

Amen, and pass the mustard.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Everybody wants to get into the act these days.

Sarah Palin, the former Vice Presidential candidate who boggled the minds of many with her pronouncements, wants to be a reality TV star. 

Reports say that Palin and Mark Burnett, the producer who has brought us such gems as "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?" and "How'd You Get So Rich?" have been hawking a new concept around the major networks. The rumor mill says the venue is a docu-reality about Alaska and would include Palin and her family.

I've got a suggestion for a cohost: Dan Quayle, if he would do it. The two would be an excellent pair.

Palin is the woman who flatly stated that she had foreign policy experience because Alaska was very, very close to Russia. In her own words, "As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where– where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border."

Quayle, the guy who served as Vice President for George Bush (the father, not the son for those people under 20 who are historically challenged) was notorious for producing nearly daily bon mots that were regularly harpooned on Saturday Night Live. 

He's the guy who gave us the unforgettable quote, "I love California, I practically grew up in Phoenix" and my personal favorite, "We are ready for any unforeseen event that may or may not occur."

Palin meanwhile once told a moderator of a debate that she might not "answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I'm going to talk straight to the American people and let them know my track record also."

Hmm. Interesting stuff here...

If anybody has a means to contact Mark Burnett, drop me a line. I intend to send my idea to him because I think it's a good one. Sarah Palin and Dan Quayle starring in their own reality TV show.  Oh, it's too good not to happen.
As Quayle once said, "I stand by all the misstatements that I've made."

Amen, and pass the mustard

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


If there's an arm of the United States government for which I have nearly complete admiration, it's the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA. These people really are rocket scientists, and they do really, really cool stuff.

That's why I freaked out today when I read that Richard Gross, a researcher at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena said that the earthquake that hit Chile over the weekend may have shortened the earth's day. The 8.8 quake, among the ten strongest in recorded history, could potentially have shifted the earth's axis and thus shortened the day itself.

Now the total amout the day shortened was by 1.26 milliseconds, not anything to write home about. But I cannot help ruminating as to what could be the cumulative effects of these events, which appear to be coming faster and harder in the last few months.

As of this moment, this is what the earth looks like.
People who live nearer to the North Pole walk with their heads pointing up as they should. Those in the vicinity of the Equator point sideways and those down south, well, were it not for gravity they would have really bad hair days constantly.

And if that's not enough to make your head spin, think of what could potentially happen if this recent spate of earthquakes continues onward.

NOTE: There is no joke to the mayhem and death that these cataclysms have caused: witness Haiti and Chile and my heart goes out to these people.

But what if they kept coming and coming? Could the length of the days continue to shorten and shorten? And could it be possible that at some point the earth would tilt on its axis (like a lot of folks believe is going to happen in 2012) and the globe will end up looking like this?

So now your typical afternoon nap might last about three instead of 20 minutes, weekends might shrink to just one day and it's unclear to me what would ensue during leap years.

Never mind that Australians would end up walking upward and the Europeans would be upside down and everybody in the Equator would pretty be much the same except probably all the locals would be incredibly dizzy.

As I am at this point thinking about all of this foolishness.

Amen, and pass the mustard.

Monday, March 1, 2010


Warning: if you think it is okay to watch animals performing "tricks" for your amusement, then don't read this.  You won't like what I have to say.

The attack of 40-year old Dawn Brancheau at Sea World Orlando by a massive whale has left many people stunned. Accounts say that Tilikum, a nearly 23 foot long, 12,000 pound Orca whale, dragged Brancheau, a very experienced trainer, underwater and held her there as hundreds watched helplessly.  She apparently continued to work with the whale in hopes of getting it to calm down. Tilikum did let her go briefly, but went after her again and finished the job. Tilikum has been implicated in at least two other deaths.

It wasn't the first Orca incident at a marine park. In 2006, Kasatka, a 12 foot long 5000 pound female at SeaWorld San Diego, pulled her trainer Ken Peters under the water twice. The experienced Peters managed to get away and survived, but it wasn't the first time Kasatka pulled a similar stunt.

And years ago, a student at Sealand of the Pacific died when three Orcas, working together, drowned her.  Soon as I read this, I thought of a CNN video I saw recently about Orcas working together to force a seal off an ice floe so they could feast on it. WARNING: it's not pretty. CNN Video Smart Orcas Hunting Seal

Orcinus orca belongs in the dolphin family. In the wild they live in matriarchal pods, share lifelong family bonds and form complex communications systems. Their lifespan is as much as 60 years and clearly, they are not stupid.

So why are we surprised when killer whales purposely hunt down prey and dispose of it? It's part of their resume, isn't it?

Tilikum's other trainers say he can't be returned to the wild for a bunch of oddball reasons, such as he lost his teeth and since he spends most of the day floating, he would not be able to swim the long distances needed to find food in the ocean. But the reality is that Tilikum is worth millions because he has sired over a dozen offspring, all born in captivity raking in more money for the park owners. He won't be put out to pasture anytime soon.

I ask you -- who was the idiot that first came up with the notion of putting these magnificent animals into small pools for human entertainment? Let's find him and throw him into a pool, so we can be entertained as he leaps out of the water, flaps his arms and opens his mouth wide for a fishy treat.

I only hope that the whales save the humans, please.

Amen, and pass  the mustard.