Forget Monte Carlo. What about the man who beat a network game show?

Image from

I love game shows. I’ve watched them since I was a child — I can still remember being held rapt by “Split Second” with Tom Kennedy — and I’ve been fortunate enough to appear on two.

My dream job would be to host one; my almost-dream job would be to write questions for (a smart) one. (This is why my Sunday nights hosting a weekly Team Trivia game at Manuel’s Tavern are so rewarding, even if they don’t pay much.)

So I find this story of the guy who beat the bank on “Press Your Luck” fascinating.

Continue reading

Dogs understand you, cats don’t give a rat’s ass

“I hear you loud and clear, sir.” Image from

From the AP:

Researchers in Hungary scanned the brains of dogs as they were listening to their trainer speaking to determine which parts of the brain they were using.

They found that dogs processed words with the left hemisphere, while intonation was processed with the right hemisphere — just like humans.

What’s more, the dogs only registered that they were being praised if the words and intonation were positive; meaningless words spoken in an encouraging voice, or meaningful words in a neutral tone, didn’t have the same effect.
Given that this study was conducted by actual scientists — neuroscientists, to be precise — I’ll assume that they came to their conclusion rigorously and logically, and not the way the more studied Gary Larson came to his:
Still, all I can think of is my cats, Gillespie and Oscar. All they respond to is the opening of a can, the shake of a bag of a treats and me yelling, “Oscar! Get down from there!”
But as for actual language, if I want to make myself clear I have to make that throat-clearing “ck-ck” sound like they do when they’re curious.
In other words, I’m speaking their language.
Good luck, dogs.

Death on a high tree: Your ‘Judge Parker’ update

Image from Comics Kingdom.

It doesn’t look good for Sophie, who appeared to be lifelessly hanging from … something in Monday’s strip. In Tuesday’s edition, she may be thinking to herself, or maybe the words are coming from elsewhere.

But all I can say is, Wow. Not only has Ces Marciuliano come out with pens blazing, but Mike Manley! These are panels worthy of his most dramatic work. When did a newspaper soap opera strip start taking the “opera” part seriously?

(Incidentally, did Manley show what’s coming with his August 18 blog entry? Hmmm …)


Gene Wilder, 1933-2016

Image from IMDb.

Gene Wilder is dead. His family told The Associated Press that the actor and writer died earlier this month. He was 83.

It’s interesting to see what headlines various news services are going with for Wilder: “Young Frankenstein” star, “Willy Wonka” star, star of “Mel Brooks classics,” star of “classic comedies.” Personally, I’ll go with the “Mel Brooks classics,” because Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein” — though probably Wilder’s best performance — isn’t enough.

Indeed, what would “The Producers” have been without Wilder’s squeamish accountant, Leo Bloom? Though the movie’s shrillness can wear on me — Zero Mostel is not known for comic subtlety — it’s endlessly quotable.

Take the scene, early on, in which Bloom gets hysterical. “I’m hysterical!” he says, so Mostel’s Max Bialystock throws water on him. “I’m wet! I’m wet! I’m hysterical and I’m wet!” So Bialystock slaps him. “I’m in pain! I’m wet! And I’m still hysterical!”

That got him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.

As for “Blazing Saddles,” it’s my favorite comedy, period.

Continue reading

Odds and ends: Beatles, Katrina, Beamon

Image from

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ final American concert, held at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park.

The 1966 tour hadn’t been a happy one for the Fabs — there was that international incident in the Philippines and the “bigger than Jesus” controversy. Moreover, with the early August release of “Revolver,” the group’s music had moved well beyond the relatively simple structures of the early Beatlemania days, but they were still playing the early catalog. “Eleanor Rigby” and “Love You To” never did get a live treatment from the Beatles.

Still, I know at least one person who was ecstatic to see them on that tour — at Shea Stadium, no less, thanks to an Army buddy of my father’s who worked for promoter Sid Bernstein. Lucky.

It’s also the 11th anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico landfall of Hurricane Katrina. I can remember sitting at my desk at CNN Center in Atlanta, incredulous that a Category 5 was going to smash into New Orleans, the city in which I was raised. (It was reduced to a Cat 3 just before landfall and hit just east of town, but was still incredibly destructive, of course.) My mother, who still lives in town, had decided to evacuate and came up to Atlanta that weekend, but she had to leave our cat, Nesbitt, behind. When we went back three weeks later, we found Nesbitt, but that was some of the only good news. Here’s a story I wrote about the experience, and here’s another I wrote last year.

Better yet, watch Spike Lee’s “When the Levees Broke.” Incredibly powerful.

Louisiana is now suffering the after-effects of the torrential rains that hit Baton Rouge, Lafayette and environs. If you’d like to help, here’s a list of ways to pitch in.

On a happier note, today is Bob Beamon’s 70th birthday. Let’s go out on one of the great sports achievements of modern times.

Sunday read: Was this the worst movie summer ever, or did we just have better things to do?

Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice
Yes, “Batman v Superman” came out in March. But it felt like a summer movie in so many ways. Image from Warner Bros. via Collider.

Could it be Zack Snyder’s fault?

You remember Snyder. He directed “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Though that film came out in March, it felt like a summer movie — popcorn-infused entertainment — right down to its comic book origins. (Why there should be a distinction between “summer movie” and “serious Oscar bait” is a post for another time, but we’ll go with the conventional wisdom.)

“B v S” also came with a ton of hype and received, at best, a mixed reaction: decent but not spectacular box office and middling (at best) reviews. It was overlong, disappointed many fans and landed with a thud. For a movie that was going to dominate the theaters, it proved strangely unmemorable.

Six weeks before the start of the summer movie season, it somehow set the tone of what was to come. Just look at “Ben-Hur” and “Jason Bourne” and “Alice Through the Looking Glass” and “The Legend of Tarzan.” Even “Captain America: Civil War,” which did well financially and critically, seemed to have less buzz than, say, “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Such was the summer that was.

Continue reading

How does Ringo Starr do that?

Image from Creativity Online.

Was surfing through YouTube the other day and found a couple videos devoted to the talent of Ringo Starr.

Even today, the Beatles’ drummer (who turned 76 in July!) is the subject of jokes — jokes that fit the drummer stereotype of not being the brainiest boffin in the lab. Ringo, in particular, is taken for granted because of his shambling, good-natured manner, regular-guy looks and the misbegotten idea that he lucked into the drummer’s chair with the best band that ever was.

Continue reading

Oh my God! Somebody IS going to die in ‘Judge Parker’!

Image from
(Update, 9:14 a.m. Friday: You know things are bad when a character is saying “Oh God oh God” over and over, as in Friday’s strip.)

Look at that panel. Just look at it. Look at the terrified, eerily lit faces, the flying vodka bottle, the bespectacled passenger in back screaming for dear life.

I haven’t seen anything so frightening in the funny papers since the heyday of EC horror comics.

Less than a month ago, writer Francesco Marciuliano said on his blog that he would be taking over the writing duties on “Judge Parker” from Woody Wilson. I was hopeful, if skeptical, that he was going to make some major changes.


Continue reading

Saving Dwight Gooden

Image from Amazin’ Avenue.
Dwight Gooden is allegedly in bad shape.

On Sunday, the New York Daily News ran an interview with Gooden’s old Mets teammate, Darryl Strawberry, in which Strawberry maintained that Gooden is “a complete junkie-addict.”

The condition Doc is in, it’s bad, it’s horrible. It’s like cocaine poison. I feel like I’ve got to get it out there because nobody else is doing anything to help him, and it might be the only way to stop him.

Gooden’s son is also concerned.

Gooden refuted Strawberry’s diagnosis in a statement Monday, and the New York Post caught up with him Tuesday and said that reports of his ill health are exaggerated.

It’s hard to tell from the Post’s photo — Gooden is smiling and he looks fit, but his face seems drawn, though that could be because of the recent death of his mother.

I hope the Post is right (for once) and the 1985 Cy Young winner is simply a victim of unnecessary concern, but there’s always been something a little hidden about the pitcher. He wasn’t supposed to go down this path in the first place.

Continue reading

A list of things I used to want desperately and now no longer care about

Image from IBM Selectric Typewriters.

(Note: This blog post was originally inspired by the $20 I blew on whatever idiot game I bought after my bar mitzvah. That got me thinking about what’s expressed in the title — usually material goods that I didn’t have the money for when I was a teenager or in my 20s. The idea was a whimsical list, like the kind you see on McSweeney’s from time to time. [Here’s a particularly absurdist example.] But a couple items stopped me. Did I really not care anymore? Didn’t these topics fit into the existential concept of “regret” more than the dismissal of an under-dash 8-track tape player? They did, and that’s a subject for a future post. Sometimes wistfulness intrudes upon whimsy.)

(In the meantime, though I’m sticking with the idiot game I blew $20 on, it’s obvious that I really do care. But screw it.)

  • A 8-track car tape player
  • A cassette player with Dolby C
  • One of those giant adding machines
  • An IBM Selectric typewriter like the one I used to use at my father’s office
  • That stupid game that I blew $20 of my bar mitzvah money on
  • An old, click-click-click-click, wah-wah-wah-pop pinball machine. (Not really. I would still love an old pinball machine, but I have nowhere to put it and no expertise to maintain it)
  • Tickets to see the Police on the “Synchronicity” tour
  • A subscription to Playboy
  • A job at The National Sports Daily (not that I ever had a shot)
  • A Ford Probe
  • A ricky-tick upright piano
  • To run fast
  • A shot at the $125,000 question on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” (This is a lie.)