Sunday, November 20, 2016

Bad Movie Ideas

When you read movie news you kind of know right away if the movie will be a hit or not. When it was announced that Donald Glover was playing Lando Calrissian in the young Han Solo stand-alone Star Wars movie, the entire internet shrieked for joy. Conversely, when we heard that the recent Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster would become a movie, we groaned and knew it would be a flop.  Here are some fake news items that you know would be bad movies:

Jim Carey is the new Madea in "Ho! A Madea Christmas"

Mel Gibson stars in the remake of Schindler's List. 

Lucasfilms announces the next stand alone Star Wars story will be a Jar Jar Binks spinoff. 

Mr & Mrs Smith 2, starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, directed by Angelina Jolie. 

Alec Baldwin and Donald Trump are working together to shoot a biopic.  Trump will be portraying the actor in a biography about Baldwin's life titled "Beetlejuice Beetlejuice Beetlejuice".



Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Last Night’s Debate, Or The Mansplaining Olympics: What Trump And Clinton Really Meant To Say

(By Alexandra Petri, Washington Post, 27 September 2016)

I have taken the liberty of abridging the debate in case you were one of the six or so Americans who did not watch. 

LESTER HOLT: Welcome to the debate! I have somewhere else to be for the next half hour, so do not look for me to say anything or fact-check anyone. I will not. First, who will be better for business? Secretary?
HILLARY CLINTON: Look at me. Now look at Donald Trump. Now at me. Now at Donald Trump. Donald Trump is actually on the presidential debate stage right now. With me, a former senator and secretary of state. Donald Trump. Also, I have actual plans.

DONALD TRUMP: Hi. I am Donald Trump. Yes, I am here. If you believe in the two-party system, then I am 50 percent of your options for president right now. You may have been wondering: Did my advisers just say that I had not prepared at all for these debates in order to lower audience expectations, or did I NOT PREPARE AT ALL for these debates? Now, you will have your answer. My answer to that last question is that I am pretty sure I saw on TV that Mexico was taking our jobs. Or something.
CLINTON: Can I respond? I heard there would not be any fact-checking this debate, so I brought my own. I just want to explain what your plan would actually do. It is like trickle-down economics, but even worse. I came up with a fun nickname for it because my campaign wanted to make sure I created moments of “levity” instead of just “lecturing.” This is the straitjacket of speaking while female. “Trumped-up trickle-down,” we call it. Is that fun? By my standards, that seems fun. Donald, your business started when your dad loaned you $14 million.

TRUMP: In my defense, $14 million is, like, practically nothing. If I found it crumpled up in the pocket of a coat I had not worn in a while, I would make a face and throw it away. Also, NAFTA is bad, Secretary Clinton — does that make you happy? Usually when I address women as “secretary” they get upset and yell.
CLINTON: My plan would create jobs. Your plan would destroy them. I think global warming is real. You think global warming is a hoax created by the Chinese.

TRUMP: Well, I don’t think that NOW. Listen, we disagree on a lot. One thing we disagree about is whether you have a plan. I, for instance, think that you do not have a plan.
CLINTON: I have a plan. It is called “Stronger Together” and published in book form. You can buy it at an airport near you. Or wherever books are sold, so, I guess, an airport near you.

TRUMP: You are going to embiggen taxes whereas I am going to lower them. You are going to make more regulations, and I will do the opposite of that. I will create millions of jobs, and all you will create are bad ideas.
HOLT: Hey, guys, did I miss anything?

CLINTON: (frenzied, into the camera) Please, viewers at home, I know that fact-checking is not permitted, but at least GO TO MY WEBSITE. I promise —
TRUMP: I also have a website. You should go to mine. If you go to her website, you will see her plan to fight ISIS. Right there on the Internet where anyone can SEE. I know what Gen. MacArthur would have thought of that. He would not have liked it ONE BIT. Gen. MacArthur is a person from history whose name I have suddenly remembered.

CLINTON: (whispers) Fact-check rating — Mostly True.
TRUMP: You have to keep everything secret, like tax returns, but NOT like emails. Otherwise your enemies will know your next move. “No wonder you’ve been fighting ISIS your entire adult life.”

CLINTON: I don’t understand. How long do you think ISIS has been in existence? Do you think it is 50 years? Or do you think I am in my 20s? Or — what? PLEASE SOMEONE FACT-CHECK THIS. Lester?
HOLT: (sticking head through door) Hey, guys! Just wanted to check in and see how you were doing in here. You two having fun? It’s important to have fun. Donald, though, can you explain your tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans?

TRUMP: You know what we don’t have? Leadership. And I blame Secretary Clinton.
CLINTON: Sure. Great. Everything is my fault now.

TRUMP: Yes.
CLINTON: (makes carefully neutral facial expression that must have taken 10 weeks to practice)

TRUMP: If there is one thing I have learned from campaigning in America, it is that people think you sit at the controls of a vast and horrible machine making everything that is wrong in America go wrong.
CLINTON: I can assure you that I do not do that.

TRUMP: Also in addition to your sinister Machiavellian control of everything on earth, you are not good at leadership. I believe these things simultaneously and see no contradiction in them.
CLINTON: Wasn’t I supposed to be talking? About focusing on the middle class?

HOLT: (shrugs)
TRUMP: “TYPICAL POLITICIAN. ALL TALK, NO ACTION.”

CLINTON: Is this in response to something specific?
TRUMP: “NEVER GONNA HAPPEN.”

CLINTON: Did someone hit a switch on your back somewhere into drunk uncle mode?
TRUMP: “We are in a big, fat, ugly bubble.” The Fed is bad. “The Fed — is doing political.” Soon Obama will go to the golf course, and then, you know, it will not be good, because they will do something to the rates. And you won’t like it one bit! Please someone else talk now.

CLINTON: Where did you read this? Was it on a drunk person’s Facebook wall? Are you still friends with this person? Because I wouldn’t be.
HOLT: Donald Trump, what about releasing your tax returns?

TRUMP: Thank goodness this is a subject I actually know something about! I don’t want to. Clinton should release those EMAILS, that’s what I say! I’m being audited anyway, so…
HOLT: There’s nothing that says you have to wait for the audit to be over before you release your tax return. But about those emails, Hillary?

CLINTON: That was definitely a mistake, but I would prefer to watch Donald Trump flail uncomfortably about his tax returns.
TRUMP: Listen, I’m a very wealthy man. I know a lot of wonderful banks. I know a lot about money. I have been to airports, both good and bad. Newark is a bad airport. America can agree. We have wasted all this money on your bad ideas, but instead we should have made Newark Liberty International Airport a better, more welcoming place to be.

CLINTON: Okay, let’s talk about your business. You don’t seem to pay people. I have talked to all the people who work for your businesses: the people who make mohair and who cover railings with brass and who paint the walls of buildings to look like the pleasure palaces of dictators with poor taste and people who make garish rugs and lay faux marble, and they all said that you did not pay them.
TRUMP: Of course I did not pay them. Listen, you know the thing where you want to go out in a fancy outfit but then you do not want to own the outfit forever, and so after you wear it you go to the people and say to them, “This was bad, it did not fit!” and then you don’t have to pay, but you have already worn it so — you win.

CLINTON: That’s fraud.
TRUMP: It’s savings. America should try it.

CLINTON: …
TRUMP: Say America orders a big boat. When the boat comes, it can say, “This is no good,” and then: free boat.

HOLT: And now, please, take two minutes to discuss America’s complex legacy of racial problems. Secretary Clinton, you first.
CLINTON: Here is a complex and thoughtful response about the need for criminal justice reform that I have clearly been working on for some time, because it is not at ALL what I would have said in the ’90s.

TRUMP: Listen. Two words: law and order. I guess that’s three words. Stop and frisk. Wait, no, also three words.
HOLT: Three unconstitutional words.

TRUMP: No, no, I am pretty sure that is wrong. It went before a judge who was a very Anti-Police Judge.
HOLT: You mean a judge who found it was unconstitutional because it was a form of racial profiling?

TRUMP: No, listen, we need Law and Order. Benson and Stabler. To make us a Stabler nation.
CLINTON: Stabler was on “SVU.” I bet you can’t even name the police officers on regular “Law and Order.”

TRUMP: Eric and Melania.
CLINTON: No.

TRUMP: Two wonderful officers, great friends of mine.
CLINTON: You have Briscoe and Green, or you have Green and Fontana, or you have —

TRUMP: Please don’t interrupt. Listen, if there is one thing I have learned on my tour trying to convince people that I am not wildly and ridiculously tone-deaf about race, it is that people who are not white probably live in nightmarish hellholes than which nothing can be worse.
CLINTON: That’s just not true at all.

TRUMP: (audible grunt of dismay)
HOLT: Is implicit bias a problem for police?

CLINTON: It’s a problem for everyone.
TRUMP: WRONG! Look, I’ve been around, okay? I’ve visited these places, in the last week.

CLINTON: (unexpectedly) Did you just criticize me for preparing for this debate? Because what I was really preparing for was to be president of the United States, and that takes hard, hard work! Hard work I’m ready to put in!  (summons an eagle) (it perches on her shoulder) (fireworks shoot off) (a glass ceiling shatters)
Perhaps I over-prepared this answer and it was not exactly related to what you just said, but I have literally been rehearsing it since I was 4.

HOLT: Donald, let’s talk about the horrible racist birther movement that you founded and nurtured for five years.
TRUMP: Never heard of it. It’s the work of a woman, name of Patty. I just put it to rest so America could have closure.

CLINTON: (mouths) Website.
HOLT: But, like, we can agree that it was racist, right?

TRUMP: No. You know what they say about ducks. If something walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it could just be me, Donald Trump, at a debate.
HOLT: Secretary, do you have anything to add?

CLINTON: No, but thank you for that footage for my ads next month.
TRUMP: Wait, I have a story of a time I was not personally racist! “I opened a club, and really got great credit for it. No discrimination against African Americans, against Muslims, against anybody. And it’s a tremendously successful club.”

CLINTON: You literally just said that.
HOLT: Okay, how do we protect America in the cyber realm?

TRUMP: My son Barron is an accomplished hacker. Or he does something on the computer. He will save us.
CLINTON: I thought you were in favor of the Russians hacking us. Didn’t you literally ask Putin —

TRUMP: OMG! Putin? What, where, did he say something? He thinks I’m brilliant, you know.
HOLT: Talk about ISIS.

TRUMP: I was against Iraq.
CLINTON: No.

TRUMP: Yes.
CLINTON: You literally were not.

TRUMP: I literally was. In the sense in which “literally” is now used.
CLINTON: No.

TRUMP: Call Sean Hannity.
CLINTON: I would not wish that fate on my worst enemy.

HOLT: Mr. Trump, do you have a better temperament?
TRUMP: I have the best temperament. Obviously.

CLINTON: Obviously. Yes. Obviously. You have interrupted me 70 times to say nonsense remarks that indicate you have not the faintest idea what you are talking about. Seventy times. I have spent my life doing this. You decided, like, last year that you were mildly interested in it and that you would probably be great at it. I wish I had that confidence. I wish any little girl did.
If I had coughed even once on this stage, I would have lost this debate instantly. And so you know what? I did not cough. Not even once. You sniffed and you lectured and you made faces and you sighed. And I stood there. Impassive. Like a screensaver. I focus-grouped my number of blinks.

But maybe it worked. Maybe, just this once, America saw a man yammer on for an hour and a half about a subject he knew nothing about to a woman who had spent her lifetime in that field, and America said, “Oh,” quietly, to itself. Maybe. But knowing America, maybe also not.
HOLT: Will you accept the outcome of this election?

TRUMP: Probably.
CLINTON: (smiling, waving) Yes, definitely.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The VCR Is Officially Dead. Yes, It Was Still Alive.

(By Steven Overly, Washington Post, 22 July 2016)

The videocassette recorder that revolutionized home entertainment by allowing television audiences to capture their favorite shows on tape and watch them at their leisure will die later this month after a decade-long battle with obsolescence. It is roughly 60 years old.  Known to every child of the 1980s and ’90s as the VCR, the machine became a fixture under the television sets in households across the United States, and indeed the world, as a means for watching movies with terrible resolution, forced viewing of grainy family milestones, and recording your grandmother’s daytime melodramas.

The VCR’s demise may come as a shock, mostly because many thought it was already dead. But Japan-based Funai Electronic Co. has continued to manufacture the machines even as several generations of superior entertainment technology have come to market. Now, executives say that a lack of demand and difficulty acquiring parts has convinced them to cease production at the end of July.  Funai Electric Co. declined to comment on the passing.

Though the VCR will soon be gone, its legacy cannot be forgotten. Its influence is evident today in the binge-watching and time-shifting habits that have become a norm in home entertainment. Television and film were once by appointment only; stations would air your sitcom at a slated time, and studios would release movies during set windows. You watched when they wanted.

All that has changed. Viewers today increasingly watch TV programs on their own schedule and bulldoze through new episodes back-to-back-to-back in rapid succession. But that phenomenon really began with the rise of VCRs and those black, stackable VHS tapes they played. The technology paved the way for digital video recorders, such as TiVo, and streaming services, such as Netflix and Hulu, to gain traction with consumers.  “If you were to chart this as a family tree, you would put the VCR at the top and you would see all of these things sprouting out of it,” said Pete Putman, a consultant to digital display companies and member of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers.

But the life of the VCR, like all things, was one of complication and mystery. Why, for example, was the machine hellbent on eating every favorite VHS cassette? How did your cat manage to unspool 1,000 feet of tape from that black plastic box? And what do you mean you accidentally taped over our wedding video? Now, we may never know the answer.

The birth date and birthplace of the VCR depend on how far back you want to look. Video recording technology itself dates to the early 1920s, but the company Ampex is credited with developing the first commercially viable videotape recorder in 1956. The machine was bulky, expensive and designed primarily for professional broadcasters.  A variety of home video recorders from Phillips, Telcan and Sony, among others, came to market over the next two decades, but widespread consumer adoption remained elusive. In fact, VCRs found their earliest customers in hotel chains during the 1970s, said Mark Schubin, a technology consultant and member of the Emmy Engineering Committee.

The heyday came in the 1980s and and ’90s, when VCRs exploded in popularity. The number of households with VCRs climbed from 14 percent in 1985 to 66 percent in 1990, according to Nielsen data. VCR penetration peaked at about 90 percent of households in 2005.  But waiting in the wings was a young and powerful rival itching to take the spotlight. In December of 2006 Nielsen reported that more homes already had DVD players than VCRs.  It’s been a slow death ever since.

We should also bow our heads in remembrance of the VCR for popularizing the concept of file sharing and expanding the consumption of adult films.  People started to share the earlier and most expensive VHS tapes in a rent-for-use scheme that would eventually see mass commercialization in the form of Blockbuster and Hollywood Video. The practice was invigorated in 1984 when the Supreme Court ruled that recording TV shows for home use was not copyright infringement.

Movie studios, which once staunchly opposed the idea, turned VCRs and home recording technology into a lucrative rental business. Movies that did not perform well in theaters or that were more suited for, ahem, private viewing often found a second commercial life on America’s flickering TV sets.  “It became a cash cow for them and generated lots and lots of revenue,” said C. Samuel Craig, director of the entertainment, media and technology program at New York University’s Stern School of Business. “And then it slowly began to disappear, and it was supplanted by the DVD.”

And though other vintage technologies have experienced a hipster renaissance — think Polaroid cameras and vinyl music — when it comes to VCRs there are likely to be no survivors.  “Unlike vinyl and turntables where audiophiles do have a nostalgia in that it’s a richer, deeper sound, the VCR offers really no advantages over new technology,” Craig said. Plus “aesthetically it’s nice to see an old phonograph with a wax cylinder, but there’s nothing terribly aesthetic about an old VCR machine.”  May it rest in peace.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Why Disney's Original 'Jungle Book' Is Germany's Biggest Film of All Time


(By  Scott Roxborough, Hollywood Reporter, 22 April 2016)



Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book did great in Germany on its opening weekend, pulling in $5.6 million on 655 screens with nearly half a million tickets sold, the best opening for one of Disney's classic reboots here since 2010's Alice in Wonderland. The film has grossed a total of $6.3 million in the territory so far.  But the new Jungle Book has a way to go if it's to catch Disney's 1967 original in the country.  The first Jungle Book, directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, is not just the most successful animation film in Germany. It's not just Disney's biggest-ever release in the country. In Germany, The Jungle Book (1967) is the biggest movie of all time.

Germans have bought 27.3 million tickets to watch the original Jungle Book in theaters, nearly 10 million, by admissions, more than Titanic, the second-most successful film here with 18.8 million tickets sold. Avatar is a distant third with 11.3 million. More than three times as many Germans have seen The Jungle Book in theaters than Disney's Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, which sold fewer than 9 million tickets here. Outside the United States, (around 62 million tickets sold), nowhere has The Jungle Book done better.

German film statistics from the 1960s did not track box-office results, so it's impossible to make a direct comparison with later films but given the gap in ticket sales, and taking inflation into account, it's a safe bet The Jungle Book is the country's number one earner as well.  The film's amazing teutonic success story is attributable to talent and lucky timing, and of a group of irreverent German musicians and cabaret artists who freely adapted the original Disney songs to suit their generation.

It is, most of all, the story of Heinrich Riethmuller, the German composer and music producer who, after producing the German dub work for Disney's Mary Poppins in 1964, got offered the Jungle Book gig. For the first time, Riethmuller had full control: he wrote the German translation, adapted the film's songs and directed the dubbed version of the film.  “I don't tend to like dubbed versions, I prefer the originals, but in this case, in this one case, the German version is better,” says Daniel Kothenschulte, film critic for the Frankfurter Rundschau and one of the leading experts on animation film in Germany. “Riethmuller makes the song lyrics to The Jungle Book better than they actually were.”

Take, for example, Baloo's signature song: "The Bare Necessities." Riethmuller's German version, "Probiers mal mit Gemutlichkeit" (or, roughly translated, Try Taking it Easy), changes the original meaning, from “be satisfied with the simple things in life” to “chill out and you'll be happy.”  “The original version, by the American folk singer Terry Gilkyson, has a pretty conservative message, when you think of it, of making due with less,” says Kothenschulte. “Riethmuller's lyrics are more liberal and positive, they promise both freedom and comfort, the jungle as a sort of boundless utopia.”

It also helped that Riethmuller assembled a team of exceptional voiceover talents, many of them artists in their own right. Klaus Havenstein, who voiced King Louie, was a founding member of the pioneering German cabaret troupe Munchen Lach- und Schießgesellschaft. Edgar Ott, the voice of Baloo, was arguably the most famous voice in German children's films. In addition to the Jungle Book, he lent his dulcet tones to French cartoon hero Obelix and German animated elephant Benjamin Blumchen, as well as voicing several Disney productions, among them voicing the lead in Robin Hood (1973) and King Triton in the Little Mermaid (1989).

Before The Jungle Book, U.S. films tended to be dubbed into serious high German, with an emphasis on correct, received pronunciation. Riethmuller's translation, and his troupe's voiceover performances, embraced slang and local dialect, as well as irreverent humor. When The Jungle Book was released in West Germany on Dec. 13, 1968 (Disney took a full year to do the local version), this style was perfectly in tune with the country's swelling hippie counterculture. A generation of young Germans, many now with young kids of their own, were rejecting their parents' strict authoritarian ways.

The Jungle Book also filled a void in the German theatrical market, which in the late 1960s was dominated by adult fare, including a lot of low-budget, homegrown soft porn. Disney had a virtual monopoly on family-friendly films. In 1968, The Jungle Book was just about the only film in German theaters the whole family could enjoy.  Those baby boomers turned out in droves, making Jungle Book a hit. They did so again in 1979, and 1987, and 1993, and 2000, as Disney re-released the film in Germany.

The film has had a lasting impact on German film culture. In 2003, it was the only animated film included in list of 35 titles chosen by German filmmakers, critics, historians and educators to be part of an official film canon to be used by German schools and universities. Alongside other films in the canon —among them Shoah, Taxi Driver, Vertigo and Fritz Lang's M—The Jungle Book stands out.   “There's no child who doesn't immediately love Baloo, who doesn't grin watching the vain (elephant) Colonel Hathis or recognize British colonial posturing behind Shir Khan's slippery snobbery,” wrote film critic Cristina Moles Kaupp in her official defense for including the film in the cannon. “Even now, The Jungle Book enchants...the young with its dazzling colors and simple plot, grown-ups with the wonderful songs and phenomenal characters, which let one see past the film's many antiquated clich√©s, including its depiction of women. ”

Disney was so impressed by the German version of The Jungle Book, it hired Riethmuller to rework the dubbed version of previous releases, including Bambi, Dumbo, Pinocchio, The Lady and the Tramp and 101 Dalmatians, all of which were successfully re-released in German in the 1970s and 1980s. (A footnote to The Jungle Book's German success: the film's director, Wolfgang Reitherman, who also helmed 101 Dalmatians, Aristocats and Robin Hood, was himself German, born in Munich in 1909).  Kothenschulte argues those Disney films, adapted by Riethmuller, set the template for what works in Germany when it comes to animated movies.  “Light, funny stories with talking animals, that's basically what works here. Animation for grown-ups, or anything too dark, has a hard time,” he says. “German audiences just want The Jungle Book, over and over again.”

Even the original has lost little of its appeal. The Jungle Book had its free-TV premiere in Germany only in 2014, 46 years after its original release. It drew 5.3 million viewers, a phenomenal 16.1 percent of the viewing audience.  Ironically, all that could work against Favreau's new Jungle Book in Germany.  Kothenschulte is one of many German critics who took the 2016 film to task for being significantly different, and significantly darker, than the 1967 version, suggesting that could turn off German families with young children.  The new film is still a hit but, in Germany at least, it won't be replacing the original as king of the jungle anytime soon.

My Favorite Prince Songs


After hearing about Prince dying this week, I ended up thinking about some of my favorite Prince songs and started writing them down as I thought about them.

Let’s Go Crazy- I'm not really a fan of the songs Purple Rain or When Doves Cry from the Purple Rain album but I loved this guitar rave-up.
If I Was Your Girlfriend / Strange Relationship- A totally weird and funky set of songs that segue into each other.  The style is so bizarre that I played part of the Sign O' The Times album over and over.  

Erotic City- A nice stomping dance track that is what Prince really does well
Raspberry Beret- A personal favorite because of the memories from the time period when it was on the radio.

Pop Life- Another bizarre pop cut that is done so brilliantly  that it is perfect.
Take Me With U- A great melody wrapped shot through with a tinge of longing and an enjoyable female vocal.   

Delirious- I think psychedelic Prince is my second favorite Prince, right after guitar god Prince.
U Got The Look- The start of a great set of collaborations with Sheena Easton (along with Sugar Walls, The Lover In Me).


Darling Nikki- The sex-laden funk-leaning Prince that I enjoy but with more overtness then the usual lascivious innuendos.

My Name Is Prince, Sexy MF, Guitar-  Basically, any song where Prince tells us how bad-ass he is.)
I Wanna Be Your Lover- A straight forward pop song that nicely straddles the decline of disco and the re-emergence of traditional pop.

Little Red Corvette- another pop classic.  In the video, I loved seeing Wendy And Lisa grinding on each other and the keyboards.  It was a big turn-on for a teenager.
1999- Pop immortality.

Love Bizarre (Sheila E)- Funky pop, made better with the female vocals. the single edit is better though because the seven minute albums version loses focus halfway through and my attention wanders away from the groove.
Jungle Love (The Time)- As I understand it, Prince wrote most of the songs for The Time but I think the vocal delivery on the songs are what make them so appealing. 

The Bird (The Time)- See above.
Jerk Out (The Time)- A barnstormer of a pop song.  My all-time favorite Time song.  The Time are a great band, and have great producers in Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and they really make this song amazing.

Nasty Girl (Vanity 6)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Why I Don't Have To Worry About Anorexia

(Richard Goodman, April 2016)

A few years ago, I was dieting and lost a decent amount of weight.  During this period, a couple of friends said “Don’t lose too much weight!“  This made me laugh since I’ve never worried about being too skinny before and I don’t imagine anorexia will be an issue for me at any point in the future.  In fact I’ve unfortunately gained back a lot of the weight I lost and the reasons for why that happened are why I will never worry about losing too much weight if I ever diet again.  Here are ten reasons why this will not be a concern.   

1)    Dark chocolate- If I had to, I could resist milk chocolate.  Dark chocolate is a different matter though.  Something about the slight taste of bitter enhances the sweetness of the confection and I’m powerless to resist it.  It can be a basic square of chocolate or something that has been dipped, coated, smothered or infused with dark chocolate and I’ll happily ingest it.

2)    Ice cream- People have been making great things with staples like milk, eggs and sugar for centuries.  Ice cream is one of the big successes to come from those culinary experiments.  There are hundreds of different flavors, and then you throw in fruit, nuts, chocolate, etc… and you have an irresistible treat.  From plain vanilla to Americone Dream, from the Neapolitan flavors all kids debated to luxurious Dove Dark Chocolate covered bars, ice cream is a comfort food essential.          

3)    Bread- plenty of people here have done their variation of the Forrest-Gump-shrimp-speech for bread and I’m in total agreement with them- fresh from the oven, toasted and buttered, turned into French Toast, dipped in oil as an appetizer, turned into pretzels, used for grilled cheese sandwiches and so forth.  It is good any way and almost any style but there is such a thing as bad bread (for example if it is soggy, mealy, undercooked, processed, rosemary infused, etc…) so don’t waste calories on anything less than excellent bread.. 

4)    …and speaking of (grilled) cheese, I could live off of just bread and cheese.  It wouldn’t be the healthiest thing for me but it would be delicious.  Some days for supper I’m happy to just snack on Edam cheese and smoked Gouda Triscuits.  I love all the standard cheeses- Gouda, Edam, Havarti, Cheddar, Swiss, Mozzarella, Asiago although I’m not a fan of the runny Brie-ish or smelly cheeses.  Cheese makes everything better. 

5)    Processed sugar- I have a sweet tooth and have to stop myself from picking up my favorites whenever I see them.  Temptations include Red Vines Family Mix bags; Take 5 candy bars on Halloween clearance;  Whatchamacallit bars from in 7-11; gummi anything- bears, sharks, rats, worms, frogs, Ferrari race cars; Cadbury Mini-Eggs; Swedish-style marshmallow (Skum) like Bilar cars.  And then if I can resist all those, there are M&M's.  I adore them, every kind.  Yes, even the crispy, peanut butter, pretzel and almond M&M’s.  All of them.  Sugar addiction is the closest I come to experiencing something like alcoholism.  I just can’t quit it.

6)    Steak & shrimp & crab- Yes, these are a bit better for me then processed sugar or bread but portion control is the issue here.  I feel like I could almost eat my weight in shrimp and steak.  If I go to Outback, I laugh when they ask if I want the 6, 9 or 12 ounce steak.  How about putting an 18 ounce steak on the menu? 

7)    French fries & chips- I can do without potatoes if I put my mind to it, but every now and then I just really want some shoestring fries and ketchup.  Or crispy kettle-style jalapeno flavored potato chips.  A touch of a salt, a potato flavor and a crunchy mouth-feel is what I’m looking for.  Although the occasional steak fries smothered in cheese or a baked potato with butter is nice too.  Lots of empty calories and the excess salt isn’t very beneficial either.

8)    Pasta with Alfredo sauce- I enjoy pasta with white sauce, butter or cheese sauce.  With a red sauce, I can take it or leave it and if it is cold, like pasta salad, I just skip it.  Doesn’t matter what type of pasta though- spaghetti, cannelloni, bow tie, elbow, shells, it is all good.  This is something I eat until the plate is clean which is unfortunate since pasta is fairly cheap so serving sizes are usually generous.  When I was at Noodles and Company last week, I opted for the small size since I wasn’t sure I could keep from eating all of the large size in one sitting.  I still ended up taking some of the small size home so good for me!       

9)    Pizza- Since I love bread, cheese, and meat I of course have to love pizza.  I really like white sauce pizza but red sauce and BBQ sauce are also good.  It’s hard to make bad pizza if you start with good crust (bread).  I only have it once a month or so but in just one slice there are so so so many calories and since I don’t live in New York, it is hard to find places that will serve by the slice. 

10) Chocolate chip cookies- Do I even have to discuss this one?  You can debate whether chewy or crispy is better or how many chips should ideally be in the cookie or what a real-life serving size is, but everyone has loved chocolate chip cookies since they were a kid.  If that wasn’t bad enough, some evil genius decided to add M&M’s to the chocolate chip cookie.  M&M’s in a chocolate chip cookie!  What a sick, twisted, delicious idea.  I want one right now!

An honorable mention has to go to Vegetables & fruits, by the way.  I love fruits and veggies too, but I don’t eat as much of them as I should because unfortunately the things that are best for you are more costly than the things that are bad for you.  I can get a tub of 36 cookies for $3 but a pint of raspberries out of season will cost at least $5.  Plus, fruits and veggies have their own issues.  Bananas can go bad within two days, Brussels Sprouts need a dose of butter to taste really good, salad ingredients need to be mixed fresh- you can’t really stockpile salads for a week at a time, I put too much butter on my broccoli and add cheese to a baked potato, and some restaurants don’t have good lowfat salad dressings.  Even if I’m eating things raw, having six big Navel oranges in a sitting isn’t a great idea since they contain natural sugars and citric acid. 

So you see, temptation is everywhere.  I have no fear of anorexia but rather of that sneaky cousin- obesity.  I know I have to use discipline and consume things in moderation to avoid both of these extremes but if it was easy, it wouldn’t require discipline.  It’s cheese, and bread, and shrimp and M&M’s- they take lots of willpower!  For the record, if anyone ever thinks I’m getting too skinny, just wave a grilled cheese sandwich in front of my face and then offer me some Red Vines.  That will get me back to normal in a jiffy.

What Would Have Made The Academy Awards Less #OscarsSoWhite?

(By Richard Goodman, 09 February 2016)

Since the Academy Awards are just around the corner, that means #OscarsSoWhite will soon start trending heavily again.  I think the lack of diversity at the Awards is more an issue of a flawed movie making system (http://variety.com/2016/biz/news/oscar-nominations-2016-diversity-white-1201674903/ ) than it is of the Oscars voting process but just to confirm, or rebuke, this theory, let’s see if we can come up with some non-white movies/actors/directors/writers that were realistically viable nominees that the Academy should have nominated for an Oscar.  (And just so we are playing by the same rules those voters are supposed to follow, please only nominate a movie you have actually seen.)

Director: Ryan Coogler (Creed)

Actor: Michael B. Jordan (Creed)

Actor: Idris Elba (Beasts Of No Nation)

Director: Cary Fukunaga (Beasts Of No Nation)

Actor: Will Smith (Concussion) Since I didn’t see this one though,  I shouldn’t nominate it regardless of how deserving I THINK it might be.

Movie: Straight Outta Compton

Director: F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton)

Actor: Benicio Del Toro (Sicario)  I didn’t see this one either so I can’t vote for it.

Actor: Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight)

Am I missing any other viable candidates?  Are there other movies you've seen that should have been nominated and were likely to have been seen by Oscar voters?

Who would you remove from the actual nominees in order to make room for some of these choices?