Hooray for Captain Spaulding

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Happy 2003!!!!!! I'm such a dope that I'm still writing 5762 on my checks.

# | |

Monday, December 30, 2002

The new Dumbledore and his credits.

# | |

Sunday, December 29, 2002

Another place I visited was the Smithsonian American History museum. They still had a large exhibit about the First Ladies that was there when I last visited the museum 5-6 years ago. I was more disappointed to learn that the exhibit still contains a gross fabrication to prove an urban legend.

An explanation is in order. Most people when asked for the origin of the name of the Baby Ruth candy bar would say Babe Ruth. Many have probably read in a "Exciting True Facts!" book that the candy bar was named after Ruth Cleveland, President Grover Cleveland's daughter, in honor of a tour she made of the company (Baby Ruth being her nickname). This is the official explanantion of the Curtiss Candy Company, makers of Baby Ruth. It is also not true as snopes shows. Snopes's main points are:
  1. The candy bar came out in 1921 when Babe Ruth was very famous. A kooky coincidence, you'd agree
  2. Ruth Cleveland died of dyptheria in 1904. Naming a candy bar after a 17-year-dead President's child is an odd choice. (I don't recall seeing a "Patrick Bouvier Kennedy" candy bar in 1980.)
  3. Ruth Cleveland died 12 years before the Curtiss Candy Company existed so she couldn't have toured the company.
So anyhoo, the Smithsonian in a display about Presidential children tells the Baby Ruth urban legend. To illustrate the point, they wanted a Baby Ruth ad or packages showing the connection between Baby Ruth and Ruth Cleveland. Such an item does not exist (or, at least, the official site* doesn't show such an item). So what the Smithsonian did was take a circa-early-70's box** and pasted a picture of Ruth Cleveland on the box.

*For some reason, this same site has the Babe Ruth candy bar that probably inspired this made-up story.
**I say early 70's becuase it did not have metric measurements (Hence not after the mid-70's) but did have the modern font of the Baby Ruth name.

# | |

Thursday, December 26, 2002

The light posting will probably be made up by heavier posting as I catch up on my movie going on the 29th through the 1st. Not only have I not seen the new Lord of the Rings, I've even missed the Star Trek Nemesis flick. I'm sure my geek credentials will be taken away from me at some point.

# | |

I'm visiting my brother in Washington DC (or technically in Virginia, near, I'm sure, many a street and what-not named after Confederate "heroes") so posting will be lightish.

I visited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum today. One of the more touching exhibits is a wall of the Righteous Amongst Nations, non-Jews honored by Yad Vashem for their efforts in rescuing Jews during the Holocaust. I lingered at that wall and read all the biographies; if they can risk their lives, the very, very least I can do is read the parapgraph each was given.

Two that especially stuck out for me were Paul Gruninger, a Swiss border guard who ignored the Swiss government's instructions not to allow Jewish refugees to enter Switzerland and got fined and fired for his trouble, and Bishop Chrysostomos.
In 1944 Mayor [Loukas] Carrer was ordered at gunpoint to hand over a list of Jews residing on the island [of Zakyntho]. The list was presented to the Germans by Bishop Chrysostomos containing only two names: Mayor Carrer and Bishop Chrysostomos. The Bishop bravely told the Germans, "Here are your Jews. If you choose to deport the Jews of Zakynthos, you must also take me and I will share their fate." In the interim, all the Jews of the island were safely hidden in the mountainous villages.
(I note that I only learned of Carrer's part in this through the website. While I'm sure his name was on the wall, his equally brave help in the matter was not mentioned in the display's tale about Chrysostomos.) The display does renew one's faith in humanity, especially as one is about to see the display of shoes stolen from the victims of the camps.

# | |

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

A few years back, I came home from a Christmas Eve party. I had made a little too much merry if you catch my drift. I had a few cups too many of Christmas cheer if you know what I mean. I had decked a couple of halls too many if my metaphor is not too obscure.

Anyway, it's 3:30 AM and to stop the room from spinning, I tune in to Cartoon Network. What was broadcast, I felt at the time, illustrated the true meaning of Christmas, regardless of one's faith. It touched me so much that I immediately recorded the plot. This is what I've been able to interpret from my drunken scribblings:
This story is not my own. It came from some nature of a Pac-Man Christmas special (called "The Pac-Man Christmas Special" or "How Pac-Man Saved Christmas" or "The First Pac-Man Christmas").

The ghost monsters accidentally scare Santa's reindeer causing him to crash. The Pac-Man family and a couple of supporting players (a Pac-Man-esque policeman and so forth) help out Santa. They've never heard of X-Mas what with the light of Jesus Christ never reaching Pac-Land (or Pac-adonia or Pac-istan or whatever the $@%! they call that city). They help repair the sleigh and find lost toys. It still seems like it's too late to save X-Mas. But then Pac-Man comes up with a plan to save X-Mas. He's nearly stopped by the ghost monsters but Pac-Man convinces them to let him help Santa. The ghosts recognize the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Pac-Man takes Santa to the Power Pellet forest and feeds the reindeer power pelllets thus saving X-Mas. Everyone then goes to convert Q-Bert.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a Shalom Aleichem.

# | |

Monday, December 23, 2002

To save a friend of mine the trouble of a google search, here are the In 'n' Out secret menu codes. For those outside California unfamiliar with In 'n' Out, here's a New York Times article on the burger chain. Even Eric Schlosser likes them!

In said article, In 'n' Out denies that the secret menu exists (despite this receipt with the secret code printed on it). (Thanks to Max Power for both). When I told my friend about the codes, he was all "I'm uncomfortable with a corporation doing one thing and saying another." I replied "Why does everything have to be an object lesson on stuff?"

A less conspiratorial explanation could be that the main office doesn't have a secret menu policy but individual stores have the autonomy to create cash register keys for the codes if they want.

# | |

Sunday, December 22, 2002

Reader J McConel sent me a link to the picture by Auschwitz victim Petr Ginz that will be taken into space.

# | |

Saturday, December 21, 2002

LA Times story of the first Israeli to orbit the Earth (login: cptspaulding/cptspaulding). Particularly touching part:
Shuttle crew members are allowed to carry a small bag of personal items into space, and in his, Ramon will include a simple black-and-white drawing borrowed from the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. It is the haunting work of a 14-year-old boy from Czechoslovakia, Petr Ginz, who died at Auschwitz in 1944. Ramon's mother lived to be liberated by the Russians but other family members perished in the Nazis' campaign against the Jews.

"The picture is a drawing of Petr as he imagined himself looking at Earth from the moon," Ramon said. "I really feel I'm taking his imagination and fulfilling his wish of being there, of being his eyes."

# | |

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Did you know the Dreydel song has two verses? Here's proof.

# | |

Someone also gave me at the gift bag the Ray Stevens Live video they picked up. Here's the lyrics to the new Ray Stevens hit "Osama - Yo' Mama!"

# | |

I received as part of an Open Mike's XMas grab bag a CD called "I Saw Hanukkah Harry Beat Up Santa" (Actually someone else picked it but gave it to me.) This song is literally the worst Christmas novelty song I've ever heard. Also the worst Chanukah song ever (and considering its competition is the Dreydel Song, that's saying something).

Here's merchandise of that "humorous" album cover. For some reason, Hanukkah Harry is portrayed as injured even though he's the one who beat up somebody. It may be a case of "You should see the other guy." And this page has an MP3 sample.

# | |

A Slate slideshow shows Ten Commandment displays that are and are not violations of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. My objection to Ten Commandment displays are that they leave out 603 commandments.

# | |

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Madonna's bizarre plot to destroy the film career of her husband Guy Ritchie continues. Ritchie's next film is going to be about the Kabbalah (story here). A sort of Jewish-themed Omega Code, I guess.

Perhaps the plot isn't so bizarre. Had Guy Ritchie stuck to making funny comedies about British lowlifes, he might have been successful to the point where Madonna would have been known as Guy Ritchie's wife, rather than the reverse.

# | |

Tonight's episode of Buffy was really good as it ramps up the apocalypse against the First Evil. Buffy's speech at the end where she says she's through running and will take the fight directly to the First was particularly great.

Presumably in the next episode, Buffy's first strike policy will be called inhumane. Protestors will demand that she work through the UN and perhaps try to understand the root causes of the First Evil. Maybe Mike Farrell will hold an anti-apocalypse press conference and Sean Penn will visit the First Evil and the Ubervamp.

# | |

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

I will be appearing Saturday at 9:30 pm as a contestant on Joke Machine, a nutsy stand-up comedy game show. The show is at the Comedy Underground at 320 Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica. Cover is $5.

# | |

Sunday, December 15, 2002

Saturday Night Live is running a Christmas clip show on Tuesday. The commercial featured a half-second clip from the "controversial" "So This Is Chanukah" sketch that was supposedly shelved and then not going to be shelved. The clip was Tracy Morgan as Lou Begla so that's not any indication if they'll show the part that got the ADL's ire.

# | |

Friday, December 13, 2002

An article about a lost comedy album by Phil Hartman now available, thanks to the good folks of laugh.com, who I already praised for releasing great old comedy albums on CD.

# | |

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Turner Classic Movies as part of their tribute to Ealing Studios is running a marathon of great Alec Guiness movies tomorrow. Most are terrific comedies (or at least the two of the four I've seen were). If you miss them, you can buy The Alec Guinness Collection on DVD which includes a movie that ran last week Kind Hearts and Coronets. In that movie, Guiness plays eight roles, a record I believe for a non-sketch-troupe movie. (I'm sure I'll be corrected if I'm mistaken.)

Tom Hanks is set to star in a Coen brothers' remake of The Ladykillers (article here) if that helps the films' case any.

# | |

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

I neglected to say in my review of Adaptation that you should stay until the end of the credits for additional nutsiness.

Also a couple of years ago, I was at a presentation honoring Get a Life. Kaufmann was there as he was a writer for the show. An audience member asked him about the circumstances of the death of his brother Donald. Charlie mumbled "I don't wanna talk about it."

# | |

Monday, December 09, 2002

I've updated my permalink to the as lovely as she is talented Rachel Arieff who got herself a domain name and didn't bother to tell anybody.

I found through Rachel a nifty blog by the name of Media Yenta. Here Media Yenta gives a theory of ABC's long-term strategy with Jimmy Kimmel and here Media Yenta states what Hollywood could learn from the success of the Jackass movie (and if Hollywood learned said lesson, it would be good news for film lovers regardless of what you think of Jackass).

# | |

And speaking of the Rat Pack, the CD played during the last episode of the Sopranos was The Rat Pack Live at the Sands, a great album that recorded a Dean Martin show at the Sands where Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. dropped by, sang and did shtick. No Joey Bishop alas.

# | |

Sunday, December 08, 2002

For the first time ever, a Joey Bishop biography has been published. Joey Bishop is the last living member of the Rat Pack. He wrote most of the group's comedic material. I was initially excited upon seeing the title Mouse in the Rat Pack as this was what Bishop used to joke would be the title of his memoirs. Alas, these are not those promised memoirs. The book itself is a little slim for its price tag and considering I'm one of three or four who'd want such a book, I don't know how well it'll sell.

# | |

I did find time to see Adaptation, the second of Charlie Kaufmann's three legendary "great but unmakeable" screenplays. (The first was Being John Malkovich; the third is Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (the film based on Chuck Barris's autobiography). I liked it a lot. I'm almost prepared to say "movie of the year".) The real-life Charlie Kaufmann signed to write an adaptation of the book The Orchid Thief and instead turned in a screenplay about the trouble he had writing the adaptation. In it, he mocks Hollywood convention through the character of his identical twin brother Donald who takes Robert McKee's story seminar and successfully writes a hack screenplay. When in the story Charlie in desperation turns to Donald for help, the movie itself gets a hackneyed third act with suspenseful chases, sex, violence, and a character learning a lesson. The most meta-meta-meta-movie made ever.

# | |

Posting was nonexistant this weekend as I was purchasing Christmas presents for underprivileged children on Saturday and minding said kids today while their abused and/or homeless Moms got a makeover. Some things I noticed while toy-shopping:
  • LucasFilms has broken down Star Wars merchandising to the fine point where even Playskool has a line of Star Wars toys for the toddler set that come with Playskool figures of Star Wars characters. They look like mutant manga-influenced Star Wars.
  • There's a Spiderman dump truck toy. While I understand that children love dump trucks and children love Spiderman, I don't buy that they'll gravitate to the Spidey dump truck. At least have Spidey drive a dump truck in a comic book somewhere (like when they tried to merchandise the Spidermobile).
  • Remember that Play-Doh barber set where Play-Doh hair would shoot out of this guy's head and you'd cut it? They still make those.
  • You don't 100% realize what a priviliged childhood you had until you're shopping for kids who ask for clothes for XMas. They got toys, too; don't worry.
  • Have you ever been shopping downtown and you end up returning to the wrong parking structure and so you walk up and down a few levels wondering if your car has been stolen until you figure out that your in the wrong parking structure? If not, don't; it's not as much fun as it sounds.

# | |

Friday, December 06, 2002

A very odd quote from Trent Lott wishes that Strom Thurmond had been elected President in 1948.

# | |

A reader sent me this link of an article from the National Post about how the creator of the Love Boat, Gordon Farr, is a gen-u-wine Canadian.

Farr also produced The Bob Newhart Show and adds an interesting element to a classic Newhart story. Newhart often tells of getting a script where Emily (his wife on the show) is pregnant. His response was "That's a great script. Who are you going to get to play Bob?" What isn't mentioned is that the reason they wrote that script was Newhart was making noises about it being his last season. The script was intended for the last show.

# | |

Hello, everyone who's coming here from Mark Evanier's POV, (specifically this article). I too figured that the visible stuntmen was a function of seeing the picture a hundred times. In fact, part of the passage Mark quoted was supposed to acknowledge that (it's my fault that it didn't and I have since corrected the entry). It was genuinely the first time I noticed that, say, the Ethel Mermen falling on her ass in the prison hospital scene (SPOILER WARNING: At the end of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Ethel Merman's character falls on her ass in a prison hospital. Jesus, it's a forty-year-old movie!) was not Ethel Mermen. No, I'm not an idiot and don't think they threw comedians in their forties or older into buildings. It just surprised me that said stunt men would face the camera. It was particularly funny when the stuntman at the post-discussion told of putting on masks so that they were unnoticeable. My friend and I humorously shrugged at each other in slight disbelief.

It didn't ruin my enjoyment of the picture at all. For me, it was just another fun thing to do: pretend to be outraged that that ain't Jonathan Winters or whoever.

# | |

I will be reprising my role as Sheldon Leonard on Sunday, December 15th at 8 pm at the Fake Gallery at 4319 Melrose Ave. Specifically, I will be playing Nick the Bartender ("Out you two pixies go, out the door!") in a radio play version of It's a Wonderful Life.

And they said impersonating Sheldon Leonard was an unmarketable skill.

# | |

Ray Wallace, the creator of the Bigfoot hoax, died a couple of weeks ago. His children reveal the hoax.

# | |

Did you know AMC is only AMC and no longer stands for American Movie Classics? A TV critic suggests that the reason for the name change is the same as the old urban legend of why Kentucky Fried Chicken is now KFC.

AMC does have a show on Saturdays at 8 PM EST/PST called "Movies at Our House" starring Jimmy Pardo, a very funny comedian that, unjustly, you've probably not heard of.

# | |

My entry on It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World got its HTML screwed up and was jumbled. Fixed now.

A tale I forgot to tell was the friend I was with complained that they weren't opening up the curtains for the screen wide enough for the movie. I said to him, "Didn't you hear? They're showing the pan-and-scan version."

Another discussion Mark Evanier and I had was when I asked for confirmation that in the lengthy road show version the Three Stooges only had the very brief cameo that they have in the current version (inspired by a vague memory of a still of them doing more shtick as firemen). He confirmed it and commented that it was the biggest laugh they got in their career and they didn't really do anything. I pointed out that it took the credibility of their thirty-year career to get that laugh.

Certainly if you've seen Stooge movies from that time period, probably Kramer's best decision was to only have them do the cameo as nothing they could do would equal the audience's imagination of "here comes trouble."

# | |

Thursday, December 05, 2002

DC and New Line are reportedly inking a deal to do a Shazam movie. I offer my services in the role of Fat Billy Batson (scroll down to Lieutenant Marvels).

(I was going to throw in an Uncle Marvel joke but there isn't an Uncle Marvel page. Damn you, Internet!)

# | |

Yesterday's eventful evening also included a stop at the Golden Apple funny-book shop picking up this and last week's new comix (The fact that I waited a week to get new comics probably will get my geek membership card revoked). A person from a marketing company asked me if I would be willing to pose for a picture with Kevin Smith. I foolishly said yes, not realizing that by "Kevin Smith", they meant a cardboard picture of him. For my trouble, I got a wool-knit hat with "An Evening with Kevin Smith" patch on it; it looks just like the wool hat Silent Bob would wear if he'd had a hat that says "An Evening with Kevin Smith".

# | |

I went to yesterday's big screening and post-screening discussion of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World at the Egyptian Theatre. The joint was packed. Sid Caesar, Jonathan Winters and Peter Falk were there but unfortunately could not hang around for the post-screening discussion. Just before the movie when someone was asking everyone to take their seat, Winters was standing and appeared to be doing shtick; alas, no one thought to put a mike on him.

I was tempted to get Winter's autograph despite the no autograph policy of the event. I figured that the worst that could happen would be he'd have me thrown out but perhaps he'd do it as a wacky character. Or even better, maybe he'd put on some nature of a hat and throw me out himself.

I had the great pleasure of meeting Mark Evanier during intermission. He introduced me to Chuck McCann and Stan Freberg. Freberg talked to me and Mark of the scene he was in that was in the four-hour road show version but cut from the version we saw.

Freberg at the post-show discussion told a couple of stories of doing advertising for the movie (which can be found in his autobiography). Mickey Rooney rambled on about his life story to the embarassment of the audience. Mark later asked me if he was doing Dana Carvey's impersonation. A fair criticism as he even said Carvey's catch phrase of being the #1 box office star in the world; as Carvey and Rooney did a sitcom together in '82, I wonder if this habit of Rooney dates back to then.

A fun evening at the theater and the prospect of releasing the road show version seems more realistic than I had previously thought. One minor negative note is that (and I don't know if this is a function of the big screen or of seeing the movie a hundred times) the stunt doubles in some scenes were glaringly obvious (as in an actor's face would turn to the camera and was obviously not his face).

I snagged a couple of seating signs: One says "Reserved for Marvin Kaplan" and the other "Reserved for guests of Mr. Rooney". I have no idea what I'm going to do with them. I also now have a print of the Jack Davis poster that I don't have (he made two for the movie).

UPDATE: Mark Evanier writes of the evening here. In this article, Mark tells of the different versions and a great story about Phil Silvers's dedication to funny.

UPDATE 2: I screwed up the HTML of this entry and so it was jumbled. Fixed now. Sorry 'bout dat.

UPDATE 3: Mark replies to my stunt double comment here. I shamefacedly re-edit the post yet again and then reply here.

# | |

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Bravo is running a documentary tomorrow on the Smothers Brothers at 8 (presumably EST and PST). Details here.

When E! reran old Smothers Brothers episodes with accompanying interviews, my favorite soundbite was Jackie Mason: "I was on the show. It didn't help my career. It didn't hurt my career. Not everything has to help or hurt your career."

# | |

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Mark Evanier's telling of a classic Jack Benny-George Burns prank is all the excuse I need to tell my favorite Burns-Benny prank. (BACKGROUND: Jack Benny used to double over in hysterical laughter at George Burns's slightest provocation and would obsess over making Burns reciprocate.)

Burns & Allen were playing the London Palladium. Benny secretly flies to London (even telling his writers only that he'd be gone for a few days) and rents a room next to Burns (with the help of a Palladium executive who is the only one in on the gag). At an after-show party in Burns's room, the hotel operator asks for Burns and says "Please hold the wire. I have a person-to-person call from a Mr. Jack Benny in Beverly Hills, California, U.S.A."

As Burns waits for the call, Benny sneaks into the room, tiptoes behind Burns and says "Hello, George." Burns seeing Benny bursts into tears so touched was he to see his friend. Benny says to the other guests, "How do you like that? I spend thousands of dollars on a practical joke to break him up, and instead of getting a laugh, I make him cry." He turns to Burns and says in mock anger "Why didn't you laugh?"

Burns says "Well, Jack, when you said 'Hello, George,' you read it wrong." Benny has now spent thousands to wind up laughing on the floor due to Burns.

# | |

Slate's Virginia Heffernan writes about the Chevy Chase roast calling it particularly venomous. As I implied in my entry about the roast a couple of months ago, I believe you get the roast you deserve. Roasts work better if the people doing the roasting have genuine affection for the roasted. A bunch of young comics Chevy doesn't know doing the roasting (possibly because he alienated the famous people he did knew) don't have that. I'm reminded of a joke I usually trot out every time I do a roast
Bob Hope once said that you can judge a man by the caliber of people who come out to roast him. I've seen the guest list and if I were you, I'd worry.
Sadly for Chevy Chase, that joke is fairly close to the truth.

Comedy Central apparently hired the same guy who edits Premium Blend to bring his machete to work on the Roast. Here's a hint to tell if something got edited out: If the laugh seems disproportionally high to the funniness of the joke, then a funnier joke was cut out. I'm also pretty sure that there were a few situations where they left in the set-up but cut out the punchline which is also not unusual for Comedy Central editing of joke-telling.

# | |

An LA Times article about It's a Mad, Mad, Mad World and the screening tomorrow.

# | |