Saturday, January 30, 2010

Jackie Wright: Benny Hill's unsung hero

As a child of age 12, I remember watching "The Benny Hill Show" aside my maternal grandpa. I found no humor in the show's jokes but was mesmerized by the program's scantily clad ladies.

Decades later, I saw "The Benny Hill Show" and finally found some humor in the show with the old bald guy, Jackie Wright.

Apparently, this guy was only 4-foot-11 and had such a thick Irish accent that his words were unintelligible. In other words, he was hilarious. Hill and Wright have been deceased since 1992 and 1989, respectively, and they might have played a role with some members of the Snooze Button Generation.

"The Benny Hill Show" ended in 1989, and that was also the time many in the SBG came of age. Arguably, the end of "Benny Hill" meant the end of innocence.

I believe a show is sometimes only as good as its minor characters. That's why "The Office" is a winner. Merideth, Creed and Stanley on that show have bit parts, but in almost all of their scenes, comedy ensues.

Creed Bratton, who also has the same name in real life, is "the old guy from 'The Office.'" No offense to Jackie Wright, but I found his highlights much more enjoyable than the ones from "Benny Hill."


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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Parents' visit elicits pain

After three weeks, six illnesses, frequent rain and approximately 45 weather reports from forecaster extraordinaire Jackie Johnson, my parents visit in California has ended.

As usual, I learned many things about life during their stay. Unfortunately, a lot of my lessons came through pain - the pain of the XMan. And maybe that's why humans are special. We sacrifice ouvselves for our youth.

In week one of the parents visit, everyone in my household got violently ill in what we self-diagnosed as swine flu. That was also the time the XMan gave me a complex morality test and asked me to kill him.

In week two, the XMan and my mom went to Tucson, Ariz., where X was attacked by a killer cactus. Apparently, this is no joke. Killer Prickly Pear Cacti exist in Tucson, and the cacti will attack people from many feet away.In week three, rain uncharacteristically pelted the Southland. My parents and I became enthralled by the weather-predicting ways of KCAL-9 weathergal Jackie Johnson, who is on television for three hours per night in Los Angeles.

As we played games with my daughters and had fun despite the rain, we stayed relatively out of pain and trouble - until the last night.

The XMan, nursing a self-diagnosed torn rotator cuff and broken back, slipped out of his chair during a Scrabble game. He had not been drinking at all and claimed that the reason he fell out of his chair was because his shoe was untied. The only major damage to the pratfall was a crushed can of Diet Mountain Dew.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Serrano's work is crap - literally

Whenever I see a breathtaking work of art, I have the same reaction. "That's pretty impressive," I say. "But it's no Piss Christ."

Piss Christ is Andres Serrano's work from 1987 that is a photo of a plastic crucifix in a glass of his urine. It is arguably the most controversial artwork ever - and rightfully so.

I am all for freedom of expression and trying different things in art. But I could see how some might be offended by Piss Christ. In the late '80s, others were offended doubly because the National Endowment for the Arts paid Serrano for peeing in a glass.

When censorship was a popular debate in the late '80s and early '90s, Robert Mapplethorpe's name was more at the center of the debate than Serrano's. Mapplethorpe died in 1989, however, and most of the arguing with him surrounded his homosexual work. To me, Piss Christ takes the cake for controversy.

Is Piss Christ blasphemy or art? I say it's probably either both or neither.

I suppose Mapplethorpe and Piss Christ are back on the Snooze Button Generation's radar because of a new book by Patti Smith called "Just Kids" that's about her close relationship with Mapplethorpe.I am no art expert, but I would imagine that people might criticize Serrano for being a mere shock artist more concerned with gimmicks than art with depth. Au contraire mon frere, Serrano is apparently growing as an artist. In the fall of 2008, Serrano's exhibit titled "S**t" ran in the Yvon Lambert Galleries in New York and Paris. It featured huge photos of poop.
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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Yeah, Gladwell is a nonfiction superstar

The Baltimore Sun heralds Malcolm Gladwell as "the most original American journalist since Tom Wolfe." The Snooze Button Generation agrees.

With his triumvirate of "Outliers," "Blink" and the lesser "Tipping Point," Gladwell has concocted three nonfiction books that are fascinating and fun reads. I just finished his newer collection "What the Dog Saw" and agree with this assessment from the New York Times Book Review: "In the world of nonfiction writers, Malcolm Gladwell is as close to a singular talent as exists today."Many members of the Snooze Button Generation share an affinity for Gladwell, and unexpected conversations about some of his topics pop up with friends. In particular, I like his counter-intuitive work and how his writing often makes the reader evaluate his ideas.

I had heard a lot of hype for "Blink," but was hesitant because, sometimes, hype has no payoff. Example: "The English Patient." Anyway, "Outliers" and "Blink" look at success and split-second judgment in such an original way that I think they're totally worth the hype.

In his new collection, the stories again are entertaining with angles that are fresh and/or out of the ordinary. By the way, the words "What the Dog Saw" is a reference to a story on Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer.

Why do dogs behave the way they do? Man, so much of it has to do with the body language and attitude of the owner. Dogs are looking for affection, exercise and discipline from their owners. Makes me realize that we humans are a bit doglike, with the possible exception of the inappropriate licking.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tramp stamps: Real classy

No matter how hard I try not to think about them, tramp stamps remain in my life.

I do not believe I've ever had a girlfriend who actually had a tramp stamp, but curiously, these classy lower back tattoos keep coming up in conversation. As a sensitive and sophisticated male, I once declared, "I need more man jewelry!"

Connected to this plan to adorn myself, I donned temporary tramp stamps in two random cities - Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe. Yeah, that was a self-deprecating joke gone awry - twice.

A lot of people assume one must be a tramp to wear a tramp stamp. However, through extensive Internet research, I have discovered that non-tramps might have them. In fact, one article states that to think that only tramps sport tramp stamps is an example of ignorance gone wild. I also found a website that claims to have pictures of the worst 20 tramp stamps of all-time.

Well, it's not my intention to be judgmental. But whenever I discover a girl who has a tramp stamp, I respond with two words: "All right."

Tramp stamps are so popular that even Barbie, the doll, recently got one.

Right on, Barbie. Unfortunately, Ken probably doesn't appreciate it like he should. As a parent, I have yet to have a tramp stamp conversation (you know, the pros and cons) with my daughters. But recently, the girls were introduced to tramp stamps when Sally from "Cars" flashed hers to Lightning McQueen and he called it a racing stripe.

"All right!"

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Meeting sources at bars: Bad idea

"You shouldn't s**t where you eat."

That's a crude phrase that means you shouldn't date where you work. In journalism, I think the same applies to friendships from sources. Thus, I felt self-conscious trading e-mails with Mr. Munch, a friend of Chuck E. Cheese's who has been featured in this blog.

A former Pizza Time Player, Munch resides in Riverside, Calif., and is not that far from Long Beach. After several e-mail exchanges, I learned he loves this Snooze Button Generation blog, Lloyd Dobler and Atari and he recently urged me to meet him at the Pike Restaurant & Bar in Long Beach.

I kind of like the Pike Bar, too, so I thought it would be OK meeting Mr. Munch. Egads, that was a horrible idea!As soon as I arrived at the Pike, Mr. Munch put me in a headlock and then bought me a cocktail. Eventually, I finished my drink, and he bought me another one, saying, "What's wrong with you, Snooze Button boy? Are you a lightweight or what?"

Munch then kept making fun of the patrons at the Pike by referring them as "hipsters," "hipster wannabes" and "hipster doofuses." Embarrassing! Why judge, Munch? Why judge?

Munch urged me to consume more cocktails, and before I knew it, we were doing the Fourth Street Shuffle, hitting the Red Room, Fern's and then the V Room, where I ran into my pals Len and Kris.

"What's going on with the blue ape?" Len asked.

"I don't know," I said. "He used to be a performer at Chuck E. Cheese. Now, I think he's just a drunk."

Thankfully, last call hit at the V Room, and Munch called a cab. He said he was taking the cab to Downey to stay with his friend Pasqually.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Lester Hayes is da man

If there is ever any difficulty in my life, it is obvious what the problem is: Not enough Stickum!

Was there ever a cooler football player than Lester Hayes? The former Oakland/Los Angeles Raider had 13 interceptions in 1980, the year he adorned Stickum all over his hands, body and helmet. No defensive back ever caught more interceptions in a single season, other than Dick "Night Train" Lane. He had 14 for the L.A. Rams in 1952.

The year after Lester had all those interceptions, the NFL outlawed Stickum. He gradually used more and more Stickum throughout his glorious 1980 season, until he was basically a Stickum monster. It is rare for people to become addicted to putting glue on themselves, but this appears to be an obvious case in which it happened.I find individuality hard to find in pro sports. Or when it is found, a lot of times it feels like an act, such as the Cincinnati Bengals' Chad Ochocinco. His antics are so over the top, he reminds of Snooki from "Jersey Shore."

Donning his Kangaroo shoes and Stickum, perhaps Lester could be compared to Snooki, too. But I don't think so. Lester "Snooki" Hayes was not putting on an act.Apparently, Lester Hayes suffered from a stuttering problem, and he let his play - and style - speak for him. He currently lives in Modesto, turns 55 this week and remains one of the Snooze Button Generation's favorite sports stars of all-time.
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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It's hard to kill one's father

Numerous moral dilemmas typically pop up during my parents' annual two-week stay in California. I often find myself saying things like this: "Mom, stop it. I'll make my own bed," or "Hey, I can do the laundry!"

I guess the parents are just trying to help, but the other day, I was faced with a moral decision that tested me and my role as as a son. My father, the XMan, asked me to kill him.

Philosophically, I am all for the right to die - and die with dignity. But when the XMan bellowed, "Put a pillow over my face now!" I didn't have the heart to do it.You see, everyone in my household has a vicious version of the flu. It knocked me out of two days of school, and that is unheard of. Last year, I missed one day from illness the entire school year.

Anyway, the flu was so rough that the XMan desired a quick, painless death with me smothering him with a pillow. Because I thought there was an outside chance that he'd recover, I opted not to kill him.

I am happy because of my decision. He, and I, are feeling better today, and if I murdered him, I might have regretted it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I wanna pop. I wanna Shasta.

Even though I am an adult, I am still learning. I guess we're all lifelong learners, and for me, I always discover a lot during my parents' annual two-week stay in California.

Just a few days into the trip, I have learned something invaluable from my father: Shasta soda pop is better than other sodas, despite the social stigma it has in some circles.

The XMan bases his opinion on taste, and I agree with his thesis because of Shasta's variety. There are 54 flavors of Shasta soda, and the company has an online poll where consumers can vote on their favorite flavor. I'm pulling for Club Soda.

Of course, no soda is better than Diet Mountain Dew, according to the XMan, even though he is repeatedly stymied by the lack of restaurants that stock it. Apparently, Diet Mountain Dew has "Tuned Up Taste."
Curiously, I have noticed that many people judge others by the soda they drink. Sometimes, I am worried others might consider me cheap if they see me drinking Shasta, and I feel I might have to use a coozy to hide my drink.

But really, who cares? Let society judge me. I wanna pop. I wanna Shasta.
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Friday, January 8, 2010

A beauty tip for men

I have attempted to figure out why so many women have plastic surgery, compared to why so few men have it. And the answer is simple: Men are schlubs.

I am all for self-improvement, and I am confused why more men don't opt for Botox, collagen treatments or breast implants.

A friend informs me that society makes it so Botox and breast implants are only for ladies. Well, obviously, society is messed up.

According to a Forbes article, the top three plastic surgeries for guys are laser hair removal, nose jobs and liposuction. Come on, guys, why not some sort of implant?
OK, maybe a lot of my plan sounds better on paper than in practice, but why don't dudes get some type of surgery to enhance their lives? I am a big fan of Ned from South Park, the character with the voicebox, AKA a mechanical larynx. I also have always thought Darth Vader is a dramatic character because of his breathy voice.

Why don't more men get voicebox implants for dramatic effect? Ideally, the guys would not have to always talk with the mechanical voice, but when a dramatic moment happens, the guy could answer with the dramatic voicebox.

Preacher: Do you, John, take Susan to be your lawfully wedded wife?
John (with mechanical voicebox): I do.
Susan (fighting back tears): I love you so much, dear.

Get with it, guys!

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Jake from Sixteen Candles: Romantic yet pragmatic

As a lad, and for many years after my youth, I made a horrible mistake. I assumed Matt Dillon played Jake in "Sixteen Candles."

Au contraire mon frere, Jake was played by the relatively obscure Michael Schoeffling, whose acting career ended in 1991. Jake embodied coolness and manliness, though his character was only in high school. Not only did Jake woo Molly Ringwald, but he also served as a mentor of sorts to socially awkward Anthony Michael Hall. He was romantic, yet pragmatic.

In order to be in the Brat Pack, the youthful '80s actor had to be in either "The Breakfast Club" or "St. Elmo's Fire." That means Ringwald, Hall, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Demi Moore, Rob Lowe and Andrew McCarthy made that prestigious club. No Jake. Other than "Sixteen Candles," the only other notable roles for Schoeffling came in "Vision Quest" and "Mermaids."
Maybe Schoeffling wasn't the greatest actor ever, but he has to be as talented as Keanu Reeves. Apparently, Jake now lives in Newfoundland, Pa., with his wife and two teenage children. Information about him is difficult to find, except for this press release from "Sixteen Candles."

"Sixteen Candles" remains a favorite film of the Snooze Button Generation, even though many are embarrassed by the depiction of Long Duck Dong. The end scene in which Jake meets Molly Ringwald and the Thompson Twins' "If You Were Here" plays remains pretty darn cool.
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Sunday, January 3, 2010

James gang: LeBron plans to stay with Cavs

LeBron James will be re-signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers in July, according to one of his closest confidants. This is no joke and is sort of a scoop by the Snooze Button Generation.

As a sportswriter, I often had scoops, and sometimes, they ran in the paper. Other times, they did not run because I received information that was "off the record." This stuff about LeBron is off-the-record information from a friend of the confidant, which sounds sketchy but is true in this instance. And, hey, this is a blog, not a newspaper, so this info. here is appropriate.

LeBron's July plan is coming from Maverick Carter, who is LeBron's close friend (pictured above with the King and below with the King and Coach K). Carter also is the CEO of LeBron's marketing company and was mentioned in a Plain Dealer article a few weeks ago by Brian Windhorst, arguably the best NBA writer in the business.

Carter and I have a mutual friend, who was told THERE IS NO SCENARIO IN WHICH LEBRON WILL LEAVE THE CAVS. Apparently, those close to LeBron say similar things.Even with that information, I still have some skepticism that LeBron might bolt to the Knicks. But this fact is true: LeBron's entourage in Cleveland believes he is staying.

If you happen to not follow pro basketball, by the way, this question of whether LeBron will stay in Cleveland is a source of much debate, and there are websites, including this one, devoted to the issue.

As a Cleveland sports fan, I hope this information holds up, but ultimately, the decision comes down to one person only - LeBron. Heck, he could bring his close personal friends to New York, but right now, those pals think he's staying put.