Sunday, February 28, 2021

February Words of Wisdom: Thomas Sowell Edition

Thomas Sowell is one of the most intellectual and quotable people I've ever seen. I collect quotes (the current Word document is up to 70 pages) and there are probably more Sowell quotes than anyone else, including Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, and Marcus Aurelius. I was finding so many new ones this month that I decided to just give the gentleman his own list.

One of the most important reasons for studying history is that virtually every stupid idea that is in vogue today has been tried before and proved disastrous before, time and again. --Thomas Sowell

Too many journalists see their work as an opportunity to promote their own pet political notions, rather than a responsibility to inform the public and let their readers and viewers decide for themselves. --Thomas Sowell

When you want to help people you, tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear. --Thomas Sowell

Anyone who studies the history of ideas should notice how much more often people on the political left, more so than others, denigrate and demonize those who disagree with them - instead of answering their arguments. --Thomas Sowell

The welfare state is the oldest con game in the world. First you take people's money away quietly and then you give some of it back flamboyantly. --Thomas Sowell

The problem isn't that Johnny can't read. The problem isn't even that Johnny can't think. The problem is that Johnny doesn't know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling. --Thomas Sowell

Emotions neither prove or disprove facts. There was a time when any rational adult understood this. But years of dumbed-down education and emphasis on how people "feel" have left too many people unable to see through this media gimmick. --Thomas Sowell

The next time some academics tell you how important diversity is, ask how many republicans there are in their sociology department. --Thomas Sowell

Politics is the art of making your selfish desires seem like the national interest. --Thomas Sowell

People who pride themselves in their "complexity" and deride others for being "simplistic" should realize that the truth is often not very complicated. What gets complex is evading the truth. --Thomas Sowell

Thursday, February 25, 2021

It's a good thing she's pretty, Part 2

 When Sophie gets bored.

Monday, February 22, 2021

It's a good thing she's pretty

Please enjoy this video of Sophie the brain surgeon trying to catch a strand of cobweb that is actually OUTSIDE the window.


Saturday, February 20, 2021

Recent reading: "Inside the Rise of HBO"

No, I didn't read this book in two days. I wish I could. I had about five books that I've started but never finished, so I decided to try and finish the ones I started before I start another one. 

So I'm going to get the disappointing part of this book out of the way first: in addition to the HBO story, I was really hoping for a lot more in-depth information on the development of the original programming that really transformed the network from a movie channel to a dominating force in television. In fact, I spent most of the book waiting for Mesce to get to that part. I wanted to hear the stories behind shows like The Sopranos and Six Feet Under. Unfortunately there's not much about their development, just how important they were to the network as a whole. The book is more about HBO's business model than the actual shows.

He does spend a lot of time on the history of television, which I found fascinating. There's also a lot of technical stuff that went right over my head, like how signals were bounced back when HBO began as opposed to now with satellites, so if you like this stuff you'll love those parts of the book. Also, this book was published in 2015, so while there's a brief mention of streaming toward the end, it doesn't get nearly the attention it would get if this book was more recent. But it's about the rise of HBO, and it's been a hell of a rise - from a tiny cable station with barely any reach to the behemoth it is today. It's hard to remember a time when it wasn't, but this book is also a bit of a nostalgia kick with its stories from HBO's younger years.

In HBO: The First Ten Years, sports producer (and later chief of HBO's interstitial programming) Tim Braine tells of covering the Cowtown Rodeos in Woodstown, New Jersey (leave it to the still-floundering HBO to go to Jersey to cover a rodeo), where he had to signal the bronco riders to be released from the chutes "so we wouldn't waste any videotape by shooting too soon." In the same book, there's another story about the HBO crew removing the small pennants hung across a pool during a swim meet because they blocked their cameras, not realizing the flags were there to signal backstrokers they were close to smashing their heads into the side of the pool, which, thanks to HBO, they did.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Recent Reading: "Rat Pack Confidential"

My second Rat Pack book and another good one. 

This book focuses primarily on Frank Sinatra, a lot on Sammy Davis, Jr., and a bit less on Dean Martin and Peter Lawford (his importance to the group was mainly his connection to the then up-and-coming John F. Kennedy) and even less on Joey Bishop. 

It focuses a lot on the mob's involvement with Sinatra and Las Vegas, as well as both the mob's and Pack's involvement with the Kennedy presidential election and inauguration, and the subsequent deterioration of both's relationship with the Kennedy White House. Sinatra's infamous temper and violent outbursts get a lot of ink as well.

There's a lot of information on racial issues that Davis had to deal with over the years. I was surprised to learn that he took a lot of crap from the black community. Blacks thought he kowtowed to whites and some despised him for it, and while white audiences loved the gifted entertainer, he lived in an era where he could entertain these audiences but not stay at the same hotel as them. In fact Davis was instrumental in the eventual integration of Las Vegas hotels and casinos.

There's also a bit on Marilyn Monroe's sad ending. She and Lawford were close friends and he was trying to save her from herself at the end. In fact, some of her last words ever were made to Lawford, telling him, "Say goodbye to yourself, because you're a nice guy." The author makes no attempt to pin Marilyn's death on anyone or put forth a determination of murder, suicide, or accidental overdose, but does point out how she was used and abused by so many men around her that her destruction was pretty much inevitable. 

One thing I didn't realized when I bought the book was how old it is - it was published in 1999, when Joey Bishop was the last surviving member of the Rat Pack. So everyone else's death gets discussed except his. I initially wondered why Bishop didn't get eulogized, then checked the publication date - it was because he was still alive at the time. Despite its age, it's a great book on the men of the Rat Pack (they preferred to refer to that brief, glorious run as "The Summit"), their lives, and the era they lived in. 

If the Kennedys now found Frank's society politically untenable, the others party to the singer's audacious juggling game found his lack of juice with the Kennedy family infuriating. Frank had indicated to Giancana that the mob's assistance with Jack's election would be recompensed with the easing of federal inquiries into racketeering, but the fall of Sinatra's star in the eyes of the Kennedys coincided with an increasingly ravenous attitude toward the mob on the part of the Justice Department.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Indy the Cat meets a treadmill...

...and hilarity ensues. Enjoy!


This just popped up on my YouTube page. I wasn't even looking for anything in particular. 

It almost makes me want a treadmill just to watch Sophie try to figure it out.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Back to the beach!!!

Great news - I'm moving back to the beach in a few weeks!

Back to the same apartment complex, in fact. I haven't been this happy in months, the past few years even, as you probably noticed if you caught the full-blown meltdown blog and social media posts that I would periodically put up and then take down later when I'd calmed down a bit.

It's a huge, beautiful apartment and I'll also have an office, plus I'm walking distance to the channel and the beach! And in good news for both Sophie and I, we'll have a fireplace again! So you can all look forward to many, many pictures of Sophie camped out in front of the flames. Those have been missing since the last move. 

We can all also look forward to the return of beautiful sunrise and sunset pictures, now that I'll have access to unobstructed views again. 

Other things that will be resuming are writing and cooking. I haven't been writing much since the beginning of the year due to stress and here's the story on that and not cooking: This will probably sound stupid to most people, but I've had a cricket infestation in my kitchen that wreaked havoc on my bug phobia. It wasn't the reason I moved back to the beach but it accelerated my plans (I'd originally been aiming for summer). So, silver lining and all that. But still, not fun or conducive the preparing food.

What happened is that just before Thanksgiving, I found four crickets in my kitchen within a week. Then it stopped during the holidays. I had a great Christmas and New Year's Day with plans to be busy and productive at home in the new year. Then on January 2, the crickets returned. Even after having Orkin out twice to spray, I was still getting them at the rate of about four a week. It got to the point very quickly where I stopped utilizing my kitchen. I'm a trained chef and I didn't want to go into my kitchen. How sad is that? Finally, in mid-January, I decided fuck it, I'm out of here. I started looking at apartments in Marina del Rey and last weekend I found my new home. 

It will be so nice to lose the stress and be able to focus on writing, plus I really want to start cooking again. I'm looking forward to just being able to make a damn sandwich without freaking out about something gross jumping out at me. And I can look forward to just being happy and healthy and enjoying life. Even before the lockdown, I'd always been a homebody, so my home (and being happy and comfortable in it) is really important to me. And now I will be.

Pretty much the only downside is that it's been really nice to live within a half-hour's drive to The Brother's place. He's not a beach person so going out there to hang out isn't something I can dangle like a carrot to make him do that drive, plus it was convenient when I needed a big strong man's help around the apartment, especially when he became my go-to Dead Bug Disposal Team. But we'll make it work.

I'm so grateful to be going back home. I'm grateful to my leasing agent who was so patient while I looked at God knows how many apartments until I found just the right one. I'm especially grateful for The Brother who was so understanding and encouraging when I delivered the news that I was going back to being at least an hour away again, because I needed to go home. 

I've gone from spending the first couple of months of this year feeling plagued and on edge to feeling so damn fortunate. And I will not be ungrateful again. This is truly a new beginning and I'm not going to screw it up.

And now I've got to get back to packing. 

Life is good.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Valentine's Day special!

For that special piece o'shit in your life:

Make that call!!! 💕💕💕

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Recent reading: "Deconstructing The Rat Pack: Joey, The Mob, and The Summit"

by Richard A. Lertzman with Lon Davis

I came about this book in a kind of roundabout way. Until Better Call Saul and Barry return, there's absolutely no first run TV shows that I have any interest in. Luckily there are a couple of channels showing old and classic TV shows, MeTV and Antenna TV. I've been DVRing old Carol Burnett episodes and stumbled across a couple of shows I'd never seen or heard of before: Lotsa Luck! and The Joey Bishop Show.

Lotsa Luck! was produced by Carl Reiner and starred Dom DeLuise as a New York City bus company employee who lived with his mother, sister, and deadbeat brother-in-law. It's a typical studio-bound 1970's sitcom, but for some reason I got hooked on it.

And then there's The Joey Bishop Show, a sitcom starring, of course, deadpan comedian Joey Bishop. Bishop had a decades-long standup career, was a fixture on 1950's and 60's talk shows (eventually guest hosting The Tonight Show over 200 times), was known for his quick wit, hosted the Emmy Awards multiple times, and most famously was a member of The Rat Pack, the uber-cool collection of superstar entertainer friends who briefly ruled Las Vegas, and according to this book helped make Vegas the destination it is today. 

The Rat Pack was comprised of Bishop, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin, and Peter Lawford. Sinatra was the undisputed king. Davis was an established song-and-dance man and entertainer. Martin had not yet made the transition from Jerry Lewis's straight man to a successful TV show host on his own. Lawford, a handsome, British-born film actor, was included mainly due to his connection to future president John F. Kennedy (Lawford had married JFK's sister Patricia).

Bishop's show, like DeLuise's, is pretty typical of its time. But it made me curious about Bishop. You know that expression "don't meet your idols"? I was shocked to discover that Bishop was absolutely loathsome and despised by so many people that by the time his career tanked, he had burned so many bridges that he was pretty much over despite only being in his early 50's. Eventually he even pissed off Frank Sinatra, who then declined to include Bishop in future Rat Pack projects and performances. 

This book, just released in December, is the culmination of years of often combative interviews with Bishop in the years prior his death in 2007, along with some highly unflattering interviews with some of his co-workers from the sitcom. 

Bishop paid his dues in his early years, working his way up from small clubs to popular nightclubs. At the time he was considered cooperative - most clubs were mob-controlled and Bishop was the kind of guy who knew how to keep his mouth shut, so the mobsters liked him. His career really took off when Frank Sinatra chose him as an opening act. It was an ideal situation for Bishop - he was a low-energy performer who would warm up the crowd, but not wear them out before the headliner took the stage. But after The Rat Pack became huge, he shifted into star, rather than sidekick, mode. 

At this point in his career Bishop had two strikes against him - one, he was unable to update his act to fit changing tastes of the 1960's post-Rat Pack era. And as far as his sitcom was concerned, he was handicapped by not being trained as an actor. He also was a terrible tyrant to the people who worked on the show. Actors and writers were verbally abused and often fired. No one on the show seemed to have anything good to say about him. To add to Bishop's displeasure, the show was ripped to shreds by critics; in fact the original concept of Season 1 was was completely jettisoned for subsequent seasons. For various reasons the show was able to get through four seasons before getting the axe. 

There was some hope that his skills were better suited to a talk show, which became his next endeavor. His late-night talk show was intended to compete with Johnny Carson and The Tonight Show, but after two seasons he was replaced by Dick Cavett, who like Carson was better equipped to interview more intellectual guests. Bishop's career never recovered.

The book also delves into the legendary Rat Pack and aims to dispel some of the long-term stories and legends about that era. 

Joey, who had burned bridges earlier with Ed Sullivan and had alienated Danny Thomas, was attacking and firing the top writers and directors on his show, angering NBC executives with his prima donna-like behavior. But to bite the hand that fed him - Frank Sinatra - the man who made his entire career possible - that was tantamount to career suicide.