Saturday, January 21, 2006

The primary art

What is art? A question for the ages, with many answers.

But what is the first and foremost of all arts?


I just finished a chicken paprikash, cooked by Julie, that is the finest creation a human can experience.

I have been to many of the great museums of the western world. I have listened in rapture to an uncountable number of musical compositions. Sat enthralled in attendance at great thater and motion pictures. But none of them compares to Julie's artistry in the kitchen.

When I eat her paprikash, her canelloni, rigatoni, veal, lamb or beef stew, there is no art connoisseur in the world who would not envy my experience. It is truly priceless.

Haunting films

It was interesting and appropriate to see Hilary Swank, last year's Golden Globe winner for her moving performance as the driven boxer, MILLION DOLLAR BABY, hand the award this year to Philip Seymour Hoffman for a similarly compelling characterization as the driven writer, CAPOTE.

I don't go out to the movies much any more, but I was lucky (or subconsciously shrewd) in screening both of these films in theaters. MDB plays well on DVD and I've no doubt that Capote will come across well. But these are both subtle films. Their respective directors, Clint Eastwood and Bennett Miller do not strain to grab our attention with startling visuals and hyped-up action. The action, especially in Capote is muted and restrained. And it is not really the dialogue, but the tones of voice and facial expressions that communicate most with the audience. We are forced to pay attention to what is happening on the screen. And that attention pays off with deep feelings about every person and every incident, even some that are only described, that takes place. No way can viewing a DVD on a small screen in the livingroom or den even come close to providing the depth of perception and experience possible in a movie theater.

One recurring issue in this story revolves around Truman Capote's choice of IN COLD BLOOD for the title of the book he has not yet started but intends to write about the Clutter family murders. As CAPOTE unfolds several layers of irony are revealed. The first revelation is that the murders were committed in anything but cold blood. I won't get into any spoilers about that.

When I saw director Richard Brooks' 1967 IN COLD BLOOD, I came out of the theater realizing that the trial, convictions and executions of Perry Smith and Dick Hickok were official acts of killing, truly committed "in cold blood".

But the makers of CAPOTE and Mr. Hoffman have convinced me that the real process "in cold blood", was Capote's complex but complicit exploitation of the imprisonment and executions of Smith and Hickok. Ever the sly manipulator, Capote charms the lead detective on the case, as well as the two young killers, into revealing evidence and crime scene behavior that can only damage them all, and all in the interest of advancing his literary career.

But don't get me wrong, you won't come away loathing Truman. I didn't. But again, I'm not into spoilers so I'm not going to suggest at what you might feel about the man. But I do believe you will be haunted by the movie.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Jack Factor

I sat with Jack at the Laker game the other day and was reminded of a comment I posted a while back.

Everybody knows that Jack has courtside seats for all home Laker games, but his seats are not next to the Laker bench, they are located on the Visiting Team's side of the Scorer's table. This means that all opposing players who check into and out of the game have to pass before Jack.

The Visiting Coach likewise has to stand near Jack as he directs play on the court. As these players and coaches go about their game business in Jack's vicinity they fall under the effect of his considerable charm and influence. He has been known to give them startling advice on where they might place the ball for best advantage and gives them encouraging suggestions on where and how they might find gainful employment more suited to their talents, or lack of.

Basketball games are often decided in the final seconds of regulation; the other night the Lakers took control and the win with .o8 seconds left on the clock, which means that a point or two either way can determine the winner of the three hour long contest. After careful study and analysis of the scoring patterns of Laker home games, I have determined that in those games attended by Jack, the Lakers tend to win the close ones 3.5 times more often than when Jack is not there.

His contribution to the Lakers is undeniable. The important concern for the NBA, however, is whether or not Jack's income falls under the salary cap mandated by the league.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Dynasty Lost

Matt Lienart, last year's Heisman Trophy winner leaves USC and waits for the NFL draft.

Reggie Bush, this year's Heisman Trophy winner declares for the NFL draft.

Lendale White, next year's possible Heisman Trophy winner declares for the NFL draft.

That's more than a draft, that's a cold wind blowing USC's football hopes apart and raising chilblains on poor Pete Carroll's nether extremities. What portends to be a great draft for the NFL is surely NSG for Pete. What's he going to do next season? I have a hunch we'll get a new slant on the "home he found at USC".

I have a hunch he should have jumped his own NFL offers this year. While he had the chance.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Peter has triggered a lot of interest in the origins and meaning of the word "Poontang". So much so that if you type the word on Google and click I'm Feeling Lucky, you will be immediately linked to the peterme page that the title of this post also leads you to.

When I was a young man, I took it for granted that poontang was a colorful, and colored folk reference to what Bessie Smith lyricized as her Honey Pot.

Some years later, after coming across the song by Clara Smith that Peter features on his poon page, I decided that poontang actually referred to the instrument that stirred Miss Bessie's Honey pot. So I have been on both sides this entertaining gender dispute.

But while listening to Clara' recording today of "Oh, Mister Mitchell", I feel the coded lyric finally came through to me. The vocal ecstacy expressed by Clara does not refer to a body part, per se, but rather to the performance of one body part upon another. Mister Mitchell is, apparently, a marvelous baker of many sweet confections, and Miss Lindy Lou likes them all, but nothing sets her wild like his sweet poontang. Just listen to her gush:

"But when you give me poontang I just lose control."

The origins of poontang may be lost in the twists and turns of evolving language and slang, but now I know, at least, what Mister Michell gave Miss Lindy Lou that gave her such pleasure and brought her back, and back again for more.

"Oh, oh, Mr. Mitchell, I'm crazy about your sweet poontang
Give me lots of poontang
Please don't make me plead
Can't you see you've really got just what I need?
Oh, oh, Mr. Michell, I'm wild about your sweet poontang!"

You can check out the full lyric on the linked page. And Clara Smith's recording, if you can find it, is a blast.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Norton Anti-Customer Service

For some unknown reason my Norton anti-virus scan stopped scanning in October. Since then, I have spent many hours fiddling with my computer and diddling with the Symantec web site and customer service via email and online chat.

Even though I supplied them with the order number from my April 2005 renewal, they claim to find no record of my purchase. The latest reply, however, isn't interested at all in my problem. Norton simply states that they no longer support NAV 2004, even though I renewed it in 2005.

Here then is my emailed reply to that:

Howdy Sandeep Nambiar
Symantec Authorized Technical Support,

This doesn't make sense. I renewed NAV 2004 last April for one year. But now you claim no responsibility for my product? If that's the case then please refund my money. The last time NAV ran on this computer as October 13, 2005. Please prorate and refund the unused portion of my subscription.

And be assured that I will never purchase another Symantec product.

B.J. Merholz
----- Original Message -----
From: Symantec Technical Support
To: B.J. Merholz
Sent: Monday, January 09, 2006 7:07 AM
Subject: RE:'Case=001-669-391' Virus Scanning
Hi,Thank you for contacting Symantec Online Technical SupportI understand from your message that you are facing issues with Norton AntiVirus (NAV) 2004.

Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience you have experienced. Please note that Symantec has discontinued interactive support for Norton 2003/2004 and earlier versions of the Product.

I want to thank you for choosing to use our products, and I hope you will consider our latest version i.e. Norton AntiVirus 2006 that is available now. Norton AntiVirus 2006 is a significant upgrade over previous versions. The following Knowledge Base article describes the key new features in Norton AntiVirus 2006:

Title: 'Features in Norton AntiVirus 2006'
Document ID: 2006081610463506
> Web URL:

To know the system requirements for Norton AntiVirus 2006,
please refer the document provided below:

Title: 'System requirements for Norton AntiVirus 2006 and Norton Virus Protection 2006'
Document ID: 2005090116572106
> Web URL:

Being the owner of a Symantec consumer product,
you can purchase another Symantec consumer product at a reduced price.
For information on which products qualify for an upgrade discount,
please refer the document provided below:

Title: 'Buying an upgrade to a Symantec product'
Document ID: 199851911314
> Web URL:

After upgrading your product, I recommend that you please contact our
Customer Service department to avail complementary subscription along with one-year free subscription service of the upgrade.

You can contact Customer Service about questions ranging from orders,
rebates, refunds, upgrades, subscriptions, Web site questions,
general product descriptions, and where to purchase Symantec software.
To post a Non-Technical question to Customer Service, please visit the following URL:

>Web URL:

Customer Service can also be reached at 800-441-7234 Monday through Friday,
from 6:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Pacific Time.

Please let us know if we can be of any further assistance to you in using the Symantec product.


Sandeep Nambiar
Symantec Authorized Technical Support

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks was a comic genius. For twenty-five years. For the last thirty years, however, creative arteriosclerosis has set in and taken its toll. Audiences who paid record ticket prices to attend THE PRODUCERS, the musical version of his original movie might disagree with me, but anybody who pays hundreds of dollars, not to mention the scalpers price of thousands of dollars for a Broadway ducat are not the class of theater patron who is likely to have any real taste or sense of what anything is all about. The songs are totally irrelevant and nondescript. The casting, especially Matthew Broderick caused me many cringing moments. The script and direction are the worst I have ever experienced in a hollywood musical.

The Producers, the original movie, however, is very good. BLAZING SADDLES was even better. TWELVE CHAIRS is the best of all.

Thanks, Mel. For all the TV and movie and recording laughs you gave me. Take the money and the plaudits and run.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year!

It was New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1946. A clear winter night but, as usual, a sharp cold wind blew hard off Lake Erie. There were three of us or four, I’m not sure now, teenage Catholic school boys looking for nighttime adventure in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. But it wasn’t Times Square and nothing much was happening as the clocks struck midnight.

So, in checking out the movie theaters, we saw that the Palace, which usually featured celebrity entertainers billed with “B” movies, had something different: a New Year’s preview of a regular “A” movie playing at midnight. Since it was already past midnight, the box-office was closed and the outer lobby was empty, except for the short, somewhat elderly ticket taker at the top of the lobby; looking neither officious nor dignified in his yellow-buttoned usher’s uniform. When he reached for our tickets, we shrugged him off and explained that the special ticket price was more that we could afford.

He told us it was a pretty good movie and asked if we wanted to see it. When we all agreed we did, he looked around and about the inner lobby behind him and then quickly waved us in, urging us to hurry to our seats.

The theater was warm and it gave me a cozy feeling as I slumped in my seat watching Jimmy Stewart do good deeds in the little town of Bedford Falls, USA. Nonetheless, his character suffers some serious trials and tribulations and the story turns dark as noir and pretty depressing as he contemplates suicide. A somewhat fumbling, but insightful Angel, however, comes to his rescue and leads Jimmy back to the warmth of his family and friends in time to enjoy the loving spirit of Christmas.

My pals and I were slow to leave the auditorium after the movie was ended. When we reached the lobby, we looked for the ticket taker to tell him how much we enjoyed the picture. A tall young man in a tuxedo suit and bow tie stood at the door, wishing a “Happy New Year” to the exiting patrons as he waited to lock up. I asked him if the ticket taker was still around and he told us that he was the ticket taker. I said I meant the older guy who was on duty around midnight.

What the tuxedo guy tried to explain to us, but didn’t make any sense, was that he, the Assistant Manager, was the only taker of the special preview tickets that night. And that the entry door was closed and locked before midnight so that the audience could hear the radio broadcast of Auld Lang Syne from Times Square and welcome in the New Year before the movie started.

He directed our attention to the clock on the wall and wished us a “Happy New Year” as he ushered us out the door and let it slam behind us with a heavy “click”. So we went back out into the cold early morning and grabbed a streetcar heading home.

For a while, whenever I went downtown, I would look into the Palace Theatre lobby. It was always young men in dark suits taking the tickets. I never did see the old guy again.

"It's a Wonderful Life" is a holiday staple that doesn't hold up for me any more. But every year I remember that old ticket taker and have to wonder what that was all about.

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