Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Trotters Win! The Trrrrrrrrrotters Win!

Yes, I saw the Harlem Globetrotters tonight; yes, the whole experience sucked just as much as I assume it ever has. And yes, you're probably correct to note a bit of snobbiness in my assumption about the whole, sorry business but, really, shouldn't entertainment be entertaining? This wasn't. It was utterly lame and even more boring than the real NBA. The tickets cost $27 apiece, and there were nine of us. I'm no mathematician, but doing the numbers in my head, I'm pretty sure it all adds up to a shitload.

I'm watching the news as I write this, and the doofus anchorman is reporting on the Globetrotters "game" as if it were a real sporting event. Suddenly, I'm no longer angry at the glorified sideshow for emptying my wallet. Instead, I'm more than a bit irritated this pandering, inept journalism, yet strangely comforted by the fact the local newscasts everywhere - from Steubenville to Cincinnati to Chicago -- they all stink. Now I feel pretty good. Ah, the great circle of life, huh? Goodnight!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays.

It's about 12:15 Christmas morning, and I'm sitting here waiting to make sure my kids are sleeping upstairs before I put their presents under our Christmas tree. I don't feel the same sense of anticipation about the holidays that I used to, not even as a I did when I was a in my twenties but, on the other hand, I look forward to it more than ever. I think what's really going on it that I look forward to seeing my children so excited, which is plenty.

Our oldest, who's 12 years old, doesn't believe in Santa. I'd thought the middle one, our 9-year-0ld daughter, was on the fence, but it became pretty obvious over the weekend that she still believes. The 6-year-old, of course, is an immensely enthusiastic believer, making sure the cookies and milk are placed in just the right spot (I always left cookies and a martini when I was his age) and generously sprinkling our yard with carrot pieces for the reindeer.

What I'm thinking about as I write this is that one of the cliches about parenthood that I always heard but never believed is true -- once you have kids, time just flies. Weren't they just born?

Anyway, they're asleep now, so I'm off. Next time I post, one of them will probably be graduating from college.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Girl in the Picture.

I guess I'm the last person on earth to learn this, but I just read today that Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford and company are making another Indiana Jones movie. Indiana Jones and the Bingo Night Mystery? Indiana Jones and the Quest for the Golden Dentures? [Insert your own lame geriatric joke here.]

What's really meaningful to me about this piece of entertainment news is that Karen Allen will be in the new film, reprising her role as Marion Ravenwood from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Ah, Karen Allen, how I've missed you.

Her first film role was Katy in 1978's Animal House. I can't imagine there was another movie from the era that had a bigger impact on me than this one. I'm not necessarily saying that was a good thing, but that combination of obnoxious guy behavior ("See if you can guess what I am now") and Katy's sexy flirtatiousness with her boyfriend, Boon (played by Peter Reigert) . . . well, let's just say my 15-year-old hormones were ripe for Animal House.

After a few appearances in tv shows and minor movies, she hit it big, or so it seemed, with her co-starring role in Raiders. The two Indiana Jones sequels that followed were nowhere near as entertaining, and while I'm sure a number of factors beyond her absence contributed to that, she was really good in the first one. And remember her in that silky negligee/nightgown thing?

Then came 1984's Starman. It was a vaguely ET-like movie co-starring Jeff Bridges as an alien who crashes to earth near Allen's remote Wisconsin house. By means I can no longer recall, the alien takes human form and looks exactly like Allen's husband, who died a couple of years earlier. He gets her to drive him across country -- to meet his alien rescuers, I think -- and while she's terrified at first, she comes to trust him and helps him avoid capture. I loved it. (Yeah, I know, I know. Shut up.)

In my memory, she looks just fantastic in Starman, and I believe the stills from the movie prove me right. I'm feeling pretty self-congratulatory about this, much as I do when I reminisce about how I dug WKRP in Cincinnati's Jan Smithers when every other teenaged boy was hot for Loni Anderson. Karen Allen's looks really hold up; maybe I'm finding I like wholesomeness more than I ever thought I did.

Her career never really hit the big time, I guess, but she's worked steadily since then. Now, she's back with Indy but she's not the leading lady. In keeping with time-honored Hollywood tradition, Spielberg has cast a lead actress who's at least a generation younger than the leading man. This time, it's Cate Blanchett sparring with the Metamucil-swilling Harrison Ford. She's great, actually, but come on -- whoever she plays, she won't be any match for Marion.

Finally, here's the thing that really got me as I did a little research on Allen: She's 56 years old. Holy shit! as Katy's old acquaintance Bluto said. It seems impossible but of course it isn't. Among other things, it means I must be older than I feel, but I don't care. In fact, maybe I'm Spielberg's target audience this time, because I know I'll go see his movie, and there's only one reason for that.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I am not Leo Kottke. Don't Talk to Me Like I'm Leo Kottke.

One morning before school, when I was a teenager, I sat in our family room watching the Today show (god, Jane Pauley, you were so hot). After the news, the guest was a guitar player named Leo Kottke. I don't really remember much about his performance other than that my mother said she liked the music and voila, a Christmas gift dilemma was solved.

My mother listened to the record I bought her a few times, but I think it probably wasn't Sinatra-esque enough for her. So, it seemed like the right thing to do when I "adopted" it. That album came with me to college, then to Chicago and, I think -- although I can't find it now -- back to Cincinnati. Sorry, Mom. I wonder if karma's going to get me for that?

I wonder if karma is real at all. A friend and I used to mock a certain tv show. Looking back on it, I'm so appalled that I can't get myself to reveal the name of the show, or the name of its central character. I don't remember now if I shared this with my friend, but back then I kind of worried about whether my making fun of this particular program would somehow come back to haunt me. It didn't -- at least, I think it didn't.

Who knows, though, when it might strike? Earlier this week, I flew to Phoenix for a meeting. I took the latest flight, so by the time I got to the rental car place, it was nearly deserted. The tired clerk checked my driver's license and directed me to my waiting car. "Number two thirty-eight," he growled.

I trudged out to the lot and when I arrived at my car, my name was not on the lit sign above it. Instead, the sign read, LEO KOTTKE.

I hesitated. Had fate handed me the chance to make something right? Could I wipe this small transgression off my slate by just walking back to the counter and telling the clerk he had directed me to the wrong car? One regret erased with one small admission.

You know what? Screw it. It was 12:30 in the morning, and I got in the car and drove off. I'm back home now, unscathed. Take that, karma. Up yours, Guitar Boy.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Even Though You Know What You Know.

When I woke up on December 9, 1980, I saw the newspaper on the kitchen counter. Odd, that, because my father, who rode the bus to work, always took the paper with him. Of course, he'd left it for a reason: he knew I'd want to read the previous night's big story.

I'd loved the Beatles since I was a little kid, when my cousins played the White Album over and over again. It was "Piggies," a George Harrison song, that first drew me in (he said "damn"!) but I quickly became a Lennon and McCartney guy. As I grew up, I'd waver over whose songs were better, John's or Paul's. I still waver over that today, and I've decided that I'll never decide. I do think they each had a special kind of genius that required the presence of the other, even though they didn't really write songs together after their early days. Neither ever did solo work approaching the quality of the work they did as Beatles.

But you could always count on Lennon's music to tell you exactly what was going on in his life. Even as a teenager, I admired that. He was honest in a way that most pop stars never are.

I was 17 when he was killed. As a fan I was sad, of course, but I wasn't part of the generation that grew up with the Beatles. I was only 7 when they broke up in 1970. That morning, after I read the paper, I didn't cry or walk around feeling stunned. I went to school and talked about it with my friends, but I'm sure we talked about a dozen other things, too. We didn't attend vigils or lose sleep.

Now, though -- well, the memory of Lennon's murder moves me more than I can describe. I'm not sure why that is, why I should be more affected by it today than I was when it happened. Maybe it's because I have a greater appreciation of how much he meant to so many people. I wonder, too, if it has something to do with the fact that I'm older now than he was when he died. Plus, he left behind two children; I'm sure that didn't even register with me in 1980. Twenty-seven years later, with kids of my own, "registers" is a drastic understatement. Such a shame they never got to know their father.

This morning I listened to Lennon's songs from Revolver. So amazing. I hope his sons and widow have taken some comfort over the last 27 years in knowing how much joy his gift has brought to so many.

A Sorry Tale.

Here's a lesson in the pitfalls of procrastination.

From the day I started this blog, I'd saved up an amusing little story. Here's the set-up: My wife Red (god, how she loves being called that) and I know a couple - J and C - who'd planned for months to take a week-long trip to Paris. They arranged it so that J's frequent flyer miles would cover the flights for both of them, and he did everything he needed to do at work to be able to take the time off. Meanwhile, C arranged the childcare for their four kids -- no easy task, considering that three of them were at two different schools, and the youngest was only a couple of years old.

They did it, though, and on the day of their flight to France, they left early for the airport, so they could relax and have a pre-boarding cocktail. And so they did, sipping their drinks and talking about how they looked forward to spending some time together, just the two of them, in the City of Light.

When the time came to board, they gathered their things and headed toward the gate. They'd checked almost all of their bags, so they anticipated an easy trip through security, but guess what they discovered -- C's passport had expired a year earlier. Disaster, right? I mean, ugly-public-argument-level disaster. But no. J, being a kind, loving and romantic husband and all that sort of thing, basically said, "That's okay, honey. We'll find something else to do." With that, they left the airport and drove to Paris, Kentucky.

Now, the joke: Last summer, my wife suggested we go to Paris (France, that is) to visit friends. I wasn't totally on board at first, mostly because of the expense, but Red found a direct flight that I could cover with my frequent flier miles. Once that sunk in, I started getting excited about the idea. She didn't have a passport, though, and I kept reminding her about our friends, just to set up the punch line, which was that if we got to that day and she didn't have her passport, I'd be off to Paris on my own; I wouldn't be speaking to her for about a week anyway, so I might as well be in Europe.

The problem: She got her passport and killed the joke, and now we're going to Paris. What a buzzkill.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Governor of Ohio Forces Teenagers to Have Sex!

Or so local columnist hack Peter Bronson would have you believe. He visits the "Voice Your Choice" abstinence rally (an abstinence rally? really?) quotes a handful of rightwing crackpot anti-sex freaks, cites bogus studies and pulls lame anecdotes out of thin air, then concludes by quoting a slogan he claims to have read on a t-shirt at the rally: Manhood is proven by a person's ability to control his passions - not his ability to satisfy them.

(Just as an aside . . . huh? Also, how does all that fit on a t-shirt? Finally, wear that shirt and it's a given you won't get laid -- no abstinence education necessary.)

Needless to say, Bronson's column virtually ignores the truth, which is that Governor Strickland favors comprehensive sex education that includes, but isn't limited to, teaching kids about abstinence. You know, the kind that deals with . . . oh, what's the word? . . . oh yeah, reality, that's it.

Hey Bronson! Teenagers have sex! You didn't (and, okay, I didn't) but a lot of them do. Maybe giving them the tools to avoid pregnancy, disease and death might not be such a bad idea. Time for you to relax a little, Pete. Maybe when you go to your next holiday party your can wear a shirt with one of your "abstinence rally" sayings: A lady's beauty is marked by how she carries herself with class and dignity - not her measurements. Chicks will think you're sensitive; you might even get lucky.

Monday, December 3, 2007

My Art Comes First.

Ken Burns' latest work, the 16-hour documentary, The War aired on PBS a few weeks ago. I recorded it, but haven't watched yet. My father is a World War II veteran, and so I want to watch the film, but it also has the feel of something I should watch, you know? And that kind of makes me shy away from it.

The other problem is that I've been extremely busy with my own project, which I've just finished, a film called Silly and Shaggy. It's a documentary about Ken Burns' hair. Please tune in, and don't worry, it's only 12 hours long.

And, oh yeah, that reminds me . . . hey, Don Imus! Get a fuckin' haircut, will ya, old man?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Is Mama Bear Dating Again?

Stan Berenstain, the man who, with his wife, created the wildly popular Berenstain Bears book series, died two years ago.

Not to speak ill of the dead or anything, but dude -- your books suck.

Brother and Sister Bear are two confused cubs who can't get out of their own way. Room-cleaning and shoe-tying induce panic in them both.

Papa Bear is a bumbling idiot who never, ever gets anything right.

And Mama Bear . . . well, Mama Bear is a know-it-all harpy who's worn her husband to a tiny little nub and has the cubs afraid of their own shadows. Sources say she was modeled on Jean Schmidt.

It'll take years of psychotherapy and family counseling to straighten out that mess.

And they don't even look like bears.