Monday, January 31, 2011

Hello, old friend!

I was thrilled to see that Frito Lay has brought back their "TACO FLAVOR" Doritos!  Could these be my favorite junk food, like, ever?  They even have the old "retro" packaging.  I tip my sombrero to them.  They're labeled as "Limited Edition," whatever that means.  And they taste just as magnificently junky as I remember them.  Nothing nostalgic about the price seems Frito Lay has upped the price of ALL of their products to $3.99.  And the bag keeps getting smaller and smaller.

On the other hand....I tried their newest "Late Night" flavor Doritos recently.  They're called "Late Night All-Nighter Cheeseburger". 

There's something profoundly scary about them.  They really do taste like cheeseburgers, with pickles and mustard and more than a hint of char-broiled beef.  I think they must have test-marketed these with a room full of pot smokers on a 3-day bender. I can't recall ever consuming something that made me consider so deeply exactly what chemicals were used to achieve such a flavor.  They just ain't right.....

TRAINWRECK!! How NOT to redesign a building!

This one will go down in the annals of NYC architectural all-time botches.  They've taken a fine old 1923 Midtown office building (The Newsweek Building, built as The General Motors Building--known for many years as the home of the late, lamented Coliseum Bookstore) and utterly destroyed it.  View the photos below, if you will, and then let's discuss:
The Newsweek Building (1775 Broadway), before...


....and after, newly renamed "3 Columbus Circle":

It was supposed to end up looking like doesn't.

While acknowledging that this was never one of New York's "great buildings," it was always a handsome, somewhat stolid masonry building that anchored the very busy corner of West 57th Street and Broadway.  The current owners of the building, The Moinian Group, have sunk more than $100 million into "modernizing" the facade, stripping the building of every bit of architectural detailing, then encasing the entire building in a reflective glass "curtain".  Which is fine, I guess, when the sunlight is just-so...but I walked by it in the early morning recently and the "curtain" was not reflective at all...and one could look right through to see the scarred, stripped facade of the old building right through the glass.  It's just bizarre.  They didn't enlarge the windows at all--you can see these poor little stripped windowsills peering through the glass.  It is so ugly that there is a movement underway to purchase the building in order to tear it to the ground.  That may just be an improvement, as in its current state, it's one of the most embarassingly amateurish "renovations" in New York City history.  It's now mired in bankruptcy, loan default and a basic, all-around shit-show.  I'm led to wonder, yet again, whether Landmarks Preservation or ANY city agency that's supposed to be in place to prevent such a disaster paid any attention at all when this plan was first presented? 

And what's more, it's not even ON Columbus Circle, so where do they get the "3 Columbus Circle" bit?  Is it considered okay to just arbitrarily re-name your address to whatever you want it to be?

If they were still alive...., they'd be joining several fellow party-goers....seems there were many famous folk born on January 31st:

Prolific Austrian composer, Franz Schubert would be 214 (pictured, above, as a young man)

Old-West/Adventure novelist, Zane Grey, would be 139.

Great 20th century popular composer, Isham Jones ("It Had to Be You," "I'll See You In My Dreams"), 117.

Outrageous, groundbreaking actress/trend-setter, Tallulah Bankhead would be 109.  Here's a nice video tribute to her:

Ernest Hemingway, Sherman Billinsgley and John O'Hara at the Stork Club
(Pictured above [R] at NYC's legendary Stork Club w/Ernest Hemingway [L] and proprietor Sherman Billingsley, circa 1938)  Novelist John O'Hara (Appointment in Samarra, BUtterfield 8) would be 106.
Jackie Robinson, 92 today.  Broke the MLB color barrier, playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Perhaps the most popular opera-singing film star, Mario Lanza would be 90.   Now THAT was a voice!

(portrait by Carl Van Vechten, 1948)
Pugnacious writer Norman Mailer, 87
Beautiful British actress Jean Simmons, 82....she just died in January of last year.

Baritone seductress Suzanne Pleshette, 74.


....we'll welcome the very-much-alive CAROL CHANNING to the party as well....she turns 90 today....

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ubiquitous phrases that need to be abolished...

"Man up"
"I get it"
"That's so random!"
"How's that workin' for ya?" (especially when uttered by Sarah Palin)
"God only gives you as much as you can handle".  Okay..discuss.  I find it hard to believe that any merciful God would be up in his kingdom or wherever, going, "Hmmm....let's torture this one just a leetle bit more and see if he can TAKE IT!" Is this phrase supposed to be somehow "comforting"?
"My bad" (yes, unfortunately, this ridiculous expression is still used....makes my flesh crawl).

If they were still alive..., January 30th, would be their birthday!
(Above:  FDR, age 29 in 1911)
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the U.S. would be 129 years old today.

Hugh Marlowe, American actor ("Lloyd Richards" in All About Eve), would have hit 100.

Dick Martin, one half of the "Rowan and Martin" comedy team from TV's Laugh-In in the 1960's, would have been 89 today.eBay Image Hosting at
Singer/actress/great beauty Dorothy Dell, 96.  Nearly forgotten today, Dorothy Dell was on the Hollywood fast-track to stardom, having first been discovered by Florenz Ziegfeld for his Follies in New York.  She was killed in a tragic car accident in Hollywood in 1934.  She was only 19 years old.  Here she is, singing to Shirley Temple in Little Miss Marker.

My sentiments exactly...

This video cracks me up every time!  This kid is trying to be a brave little soldier, but when faced by a grown adult dressed as "Eeyore," he can't help it and freaks right out.  Poor little guy...I tend to scream at the top of my lungs when approached by adults dressed like animals, too....

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I'd stay out of the garage, if I were you...

Exterior of the in-contract home at 1492 Garden
(Above:  Joel Rifkin's Long Island home)

It may look like a perfectly mundane, typical suburban Long Island house, but this one has a rather singular provenance:  It's the former home of one of New York's most prolific serial murderers of the past quarter century, Joel Rifkin.  In 1994, Rifkin was convicted of committing nine murders and sentenced to 203 years to life. He confessed to killing 17 women between 1989 and 1993.  He kept atleast one of the victim's bodies in the garage of this house.  After about 10 months on the market and several price chops, the house just went into contract for almost $275,000.  "Every home has a buyer," said Gregory A. Berkowitz, manager of Laffey Fine Homes in New Hyde Park, the company in charge of selling the four-bedroom house. "Just like every seat sits a person." Interviewed by Newsday , Berkowitz said the potential buyers of 1492 Garden St. in East Meadow are "fully aware" of the house's history.
"We have a family that is happy about buying it," he said.

I guess short of bulldozing it and building something else in its place, someone had to eventually buy it.  I've always been fascinated by the "next chapter" of homes that were the scene of grisly murders and scandals.  I can't imagine ever being able to sort of put aside what went on under the very roof where I'm about to put my head on the pillow.  For instance, the Beverly Hills home where the Menendez murders took place in 1989:

(Above:  The Menendez mansion)
The 9,000-square-foot mansion that once belonged to Jose and Kitty Menendez was listed for $3,995,000 and sold for about $3.7 million several years ago. In 1996, Lyle and Erik Menendez were convicted of killing their parents, Jose and Kitty, in 1989 and were sentenced to life in prison without parole. For me, anyway, no matter how many years passed by or how much remodeling took place, the stark fact remains that one of the most grisly murders of our time happened right in that living room.  I don't care if it is in "prime" Beverly Hills (well, prime "Flats" of Beverly Hills)...I don't think I could do it.... 

Or how about the Brentwood, CA home of poor Nicole Simpson?

(Above:  The redesigned entry to Nicole Simpson's condo in Brentwood)

Someone purchased the condo where her ex-husband, O.J. Simpson brutally murdered her and her friend, Ron Goldman.  They completely redesigned the entryway, and even changed the address.  But how could you walk through that entry without thinking every single time of what took place there? 

It's not altogether uncommon for some of the more scandalous murder sites to be razed.  John Gacy's suburban Chicago home was leveled. 

(Above:  The replacement house of the "Sharon Tate House")

The Bel Air home where the Manson murders took place in 1969 was leveled and replaced by an enormous hilltop mansion.  And the entire Milwaukee apartment building where Jeffrey Dahmer lived was destroyed soon after the horror of his grisly acts came to light.   It remains a vacant lot to this day.

Apparently, living in a home with such a horror-filled past doesn't seem to bother some people.  William Link, who co-wrote Murder, She Wrote and many other TV shows and films, moved into the Menendez home with his wife, and lived there for almost a decade. He never worried about unwanted visits from the supernatural.

"When you're dead," he noted prosaically, "you're dead."


Goodbye, My Coney Isle....

As the last vestiges of classic Coney Island are systematically being destroyed, here's a beautifully done--if depressing as hell--look at one of the last relic's of "America's Playland" left standing...until just last month, that is:  Henderson's Music Hall, built in 1899 on Surf Avenue, near the Coney Island Boardwalk.  If you ask me, allowing this wholesale destruction of Coney Island is Mayor Bloomberg's greatest failure as mayor (the whole blizzard/snowplow disaster's another story...).  It seems that no one in a position of authority is aware that everything that they are so anxious to get rid of there is exactly what makes Coney Island what it is/was.  Once it's all scrubbed clean and it's too late...will they realize it then?  Or care?

A quiet, relaxing day at the beach....Coney Island, around 1955.

If they were still alive....

File:Anton P Chekhov.jpg 
Famed Russian playwright, Anton Chekhov (The Seagull, The Cherry Orchard, Uncle Vanya), 151

William McKinley, 25th president of the United States (and third to be assassinated in 36 years!) would be 168.  What's with the posture, Bill?

William Claude Dukenfield, who achieved great acclaim on Broadway and in films under the name W.C. Fields, 131.
Portrait of Actor Victor Mature
Victor Mature, 98, he-man Hollywood movie star of the 1940's

John Raitt, Broadway's leading he-man baritone of the mid-20th Century (and father of singer Bonnie Raitt), 94

He-man screenwriter, Paddy Chayefsky (Network), 88.  Famously ripped Vanessa Redgrave a new one at the 1976 Oscars...ouch...

And birthday cheer to the living and breathing he-man TV star,
Tom Selleck, 66
and she-woman, Oprah Winfrey is 57.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Charlie Sheen Hospitalized...FOR LAUGHING TOO HARD?!?

I'm pretty hard-pressed to think of a more LAME coverup excuse, EVER!  That guy had better get it together...his trainwreck antics aren't much of a laughing matter, I'd say.
 Charlie Sheen out of the hospital, recovering from laughing too hard?


On West 14th Street, near 6th Avenue in Manhattan once stood my favorite-named business in New York:  FUNNY CRY HAPPY GIFT.  It was run by a nice Chinese couple and if your idea of a "gift" was a really cheap "Hello Kitty" knockoff backpack, well, this was your place!  Sadly, they went out of business a few years ago.  I always meant to ask them, "HOW did you come up with this name?  Which names did you reject in favor of 'Funny Cry Happy'?"  Fascinating...but alas, one more bit of forever lost New York....

Mall Walking....

"Once upon a time in America, great leafy high-arching cathedrals of American elms lined the streets of villages and cities from the Atlantic to the Rockies, casting a deep cool shade upon life's turmoil...  By 1970, 77 million of these trees had fallen prey to Dutch Elm Disease. "
Washington Post, 2001

That's me, walking down the Central Park Mall a few years back. These beautiful elm trees were once the most common tree in North America, but Dutch Elm Disease devastated something like 90% of the elm population over the last century or so.  This remains the largest "stand" of elm trees on the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S.  There is a dedicated crew, on salary with the The Central Park Conservancy, whose only job is to care for and keep these trees alive (each tree is constantly inspected for the beetles that cause all the destruction.  As soon as one is detected, the entire branch of that tree is removed and destroyed). 

I used to make a habit of dashing to the Mall (a name that continues to confuse both locals and tourists alike...not a Cinnabon or Auntie Anne's Pretzels in sight!) as soon as it started snowing hard, as it becomes so picturesque (well, it's picturesque any time of year, actually).  I handed my camera to a woman walking her dog and asked her to take this shot.  I wonder if she knows what a great photographer she is! (and with an old disposable camera, to boot!). 

Not to put a damper on all this loveliness, but just last February, on almost this very spot where I'm standing, a man was killed by a falling branch in just such a snowstorm (from a tree just to the right of the lamp post on the right of the photo), as he dashed home from work. Man killed by falling branch in Central Park - .

Sorry....didn't mean for this posting to be such a downer!  But it goes to show you:  You just never know....

Advice of the day: ARCHIVE THOSE EMAILS!

I had a very "happy ending" situation today.  In going over my bank statement, I saw a charge for $27 from some company I'd never heard of.  Contacted the bank, who gave me the phone number of the company.  Turns out, they've been charging me that same charge every month...since October 2009!  My bank said even if they did pursue a fraud investigation, they'd only retroactively refund charges for 6 months, tops---and that is if they determined it was fraudulent.  Plus, they'd have to cancel my ATM card and put a hold on my account, so it was turning into a major hoo-ha. 
I had no idea what this company (something called "Questia") was.  I spoke to a representative from there, who told me it was a bank issue, not theirs, even as I insisted I had never used their service and had no idea who they were (they kept enigmatically calling
themselves "an on-line library"???).  I escalated the issue with Questia to a manager, who sent me a cursory form email, offering me a "courtesy refund" of one month!  I immediately called back and said I wanted to speak to this manager. 

The representative said, "They only interface with customers through email".  "You mean to say, you refuse to connect me to his telephone?"  "That's correct.  Our managers only interface through email".  Is this the ultimate in "lack of accountability" I've ever encountered??  In fact, yes, I'd thought so.  (HERE COMES THE GOOD PART!) So, doing a little "email interface" of my own, I decided to go through my archived email, back to 2009, just to see if I had anything relating to this company from that date.  I have over 20,000 archived emails, dating back to 2004!  One advantage of Yahoo is that there is no limit on how many emails you want to save, so I never delete anything, except for obvious spam.  AHA!  And there it was!  My cancellation confirmation from a "free trial membership" of a photo editing software I tried out (and hated).  I had a cancellation number and everything.  So...feeling fully armed and loaded, I called back with that number, which made it an entirely different matter.  They were suddenly very sorry, and the manager INTERFACED me by email that I'd be refunded the entire amount I'd been erroneously charged within 48 hours.

So what's the moral to this story?  SAVE THOSE EMAILS!  And for God's sake, check your bank statements very carefully (that's the part that makes me feel like a real dummy...but lesson learned!).  

Maybe doing business only through "email interface" is a better idea than I knew? 


[angryman+cartoon.bmp]It's easy to lament the loss of anything resembling melody in much of today's popular music.  But I guess that is a subjective man's "melody" is another man's--er--non-melody.  But never mind that (for now).  Whatever happened to that old thing called "rhyming"?  It drives me insane when I catch a random snatch of rap music blaring out of a car window, wherein the attempted rhyme-scheme, by almost anyone's standards, would be considered completely lame!  For the purposes of this rant, I careened about the web in search of some of the more florid attempts at lyrical rhyme in some of the songs of the past few years.  For example:

"Don't try to treat me like I ain't famous,
My apologies, 
Are you into astrology?
Cause I'm tryin to make it to Uranus."
Jadakiss and Kanye West, in "Gettin' It In".

"There's no need to lie folk, 
Why you sleepin' wit ya eyes closed?"
Timbaland, "Get on the Bus" 

"Heart cold as assassins,
I got no passion
I got no patience
And I hate waitin."
Jay-Z, "Big Pimpin" 

And my personal favorite....

"Young, black, and famous, 
with money hanging out the anus."
Mase ("Can't Nobody Hold Me Down")

Never mind the content...THEY. DON'T. RHYME!!  Was a time when lyricists relied on something called the "rhyme dictionary".  Every great lyricist of days gone by kept a well-thumbed copy close at hand.  Today, there are several web versions.  It's really quite easy to find words that actually, perfectly rhyme.  For years, I've relied on  , a very handy site, which also provides definitions, antonyms, synonyms, along with perfect rhymes.  I wondered why more of today's budding tunesmiths don't refer to this very helpful tool?  Too constricting, perhaps?  Well, just yesterday, I was appalled to discover that this practical, useful site now features a brand new category: NEAR rhymes.  Where is my medication?  Just for kicks, I wanted to see if they considered "famous" and "anus" to be "near rhymes".  Yup...they do.  Along with "waitress," "Vegas" and "spacious". 
We are so doomed (which rhymes with 'Schenectady').

If they were still alive.... (January 28) would be the birthday of these late luminaries:

French writer Colette (Gigi) would be 138.  And that outfit would still be something!

Hollywood/Broadway actress Mary Boland--most famously ‘The Countess De Lave’ in the 1939 film, The Women---("L'amour, l'amour...toujours l'amour!")---was born in Detroit (my hometown) in 1880...would have been 131 today.

Legendary Polish pianist, Artur Rubinstein, would be 124.
(Above, presumably not his official 'headshot'...).
File:Ernst Lubitsch 01.jpg

Ernst Lubitsch, famed German Hollywood film director (The Merry Widow, Ninotchka), would be 119.

Modernist painter, Jackson Pollock, would be 99.