Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Fast-breaking punctuation news

Last year Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint, M.D., published a book with a title that raised some eyebrows:


In his blog, Bill Walsh of The Washington Post reacted to this by commenting that "Bill Cosby is either one kinky bastard or a guy who never learned about the comma of direct address. Or both."

At the bookstore today, I noticed that Mr. Cosby's opus is now in paperback.

With a comma after "on."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

"Christmas - 1954"

In awe
At Him
On straw --

Fleshed Law,
Fleshed Love,
Deity without flaw.

Look down
Above to see:
Kneel to

-- The Rev. Robert H. Flood, C.S.B. (1919-1974)
(my uncle)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Maybe ... but I wouldn't bet the ranch house

The Associated Press reports that Ed McMahon and his wife won't be leaving their home, which has been facing foreclosure for nine months.

Publicist Howard Bragman "said he doesn't have details about the deal that's allowing the 85-year-old McMahon to stay, but added: 'They ain't leaving.'...

"In a time of bleak financial news, Bragman expressed hope that the resolution to McMahon's situation served as a good omen. 'We hope every other American in trouble has the same experience,' he said."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Have they got a life coach for me!

The folks at Borders, apparently not content with depleting my bank account (with my connivance, I admit), have apparently decided that I've been spending too much of my time in the company of books.

Now they seem to want to fix me up with someone -- a someone named Mel Robbins, who is described as "one of the top life coaches in the country."

That's very sweet of them, don't you think?

Oh, you don't believe me?

Well, phooey on you -- you're wrong, and I can prove it!

The Borders folks actually have a radio show titled "Make It Happen with Mel Robbins."

OK, so they don't exactly say what "it" is, but they're obviously just being coy. "It" obviously means love, excitement, all the things that make a life coach's life worth living.

And certainly Ms. Robbins is quite attractive. Sorry to say, this coach is so attractive that she is way out of my league. But if the Borders folks say they can help me win her over, I'm certainly willing to let them try.

But I have one problem with all this.

Borders also has a program titled "Advice for Living with Mel Robbins."

Whoa! Aren't those Borders folks moving just a little too fast? First they seem to want to get me to first base, but then I'm apparently supposed to bypass second and third, head straight for home and continue on through to the parking lot.

I mean, shouldn't there be a few intermediate programs? Such as:

Advice for Sitting Through "Mamma Mia!" with Mel Robbins

Advice for Meeting Mel Robbins' Parents

Advice for Picking Out Furniture with Mel Robbins

But no -- they have me living with the woman, almost from the get-go.

Frankly, I'm not sure I'm up for all this. Tires me out just thinking about it.

And I'm sure Ms. Robbins can do a lot better.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Hyphenation deviation

A "rent-to-own" store at a local strip mall has the following sign in its window:


But hanging above the store's entrance is another sign:


Which leads to (not "begs") this question: Why is there no hyphen in the other sign?

My best guess: Some designer said that


would look lousy.

Or could it be that, in these ever-tightening financial times, the store chain decided it had to cut back on hyphens?

And if so, where does the store get its hyphens? From Rent-a-Hyphen?

Are there specialized stores for this sort of thing? Comma World? The Period Store? Or, for those who can afford a more upscale product, Ampersands R Us?

And if you rent a hyphen but miss a payment, does someone come and repossess it? And maybe take a semicolon or two as interest?

Are punctuation-mark stores a good investment? Is it best to diversify -- put some of your money in hyphens and dashes, and some in diacritical marks? Should we keep a sharp eye on the international value of the umlaut?

And do badly placed apostrophes drive properly placed apostrophes out of circulation?

It's hard to say. Perhaps we should just await the release of that key indicator, the Gross National Syntax.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Another Christmas rerun

Tis the season. That time of year. (And any other holiday cliche you might want to add.)

Yep, it's that month when everyone gathers around and watches Charlie Brown, the Grinch, Rudolph and Frosty.

And maybe even "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" -- perhaps the best of them, though I haven't seen it on TV in recent years, and it's just as well; to fit in more commercials, they cut the heck out of it, including some fine music by Jule Styne. True, when I was a kid, I was bored when Belle Fezziwig -- played by Jane Kean, who later played Trixie Norton -- sang "Winter Was Warm," but when you're a long way from being a kid, that song can pack a wallop.


I wish I could say I had my own TV special, but the closest thing I have is a story called "The Afternoon Before Christmas." It's about 1,500 words. I linked to it last year at this time, and the Web page is still up, so why not again?

You can find it here.

Beverly Garland dies

The actress, who was 82, was perhaps best known for playing Fred MacMurray's wife on "My Three Sons," but if you grew up watching TV in the 1950s and 1960s, she was all over the place, mostly in dramas, especially police dramas, but also on game shows.

According to The Associated Press, her first movie, in 1950, was "D.O.A." -- the one where Edmond O'Brien runs all over the place, trying to find out who poisoned him. (Too bad he couldn't get Ben Gazzara's character from "Run for Your Life" to help him.) Vintage-movie buffs might recall that the movie also featured Pamela Britton, who later played the scatterbrained Mrs. Brown on "My Favorite Martian," but who, as I recall, was rather touching as O'Brien's love interest.

By the time Garland began appearing on "My Three Sons," that show, for me at least, had lost whatever charm it once had. I suppose it was, in one way, ahead of its time in that Steve Douglas and his boys jumped the shark years before Fonzie did -- perhaps several times, especially when one of the boys got married or left, and although I always liked Garland, her addition to the show didn't help. (Then again, I always did have a little crush on the late Meredith MacRae, who married one of the boys. Was it Mike?)

And remember the time Steve's lookalike cousin Fergus visited and they had to hire another actor to dub the voice because MacMurray, despite his name, apparently couldn't do a Scottish accent?

I also enjoyed the show a lot less after I learned that MacMurray filmed all his scenes for the entire season all at once. This seemed to give the show a kind of cut-up feeling.

But I don't mean to knock MacMurray. Just the other night, I went to a showing of "Remember the Night," a 1940 movie he made with Barbara Stanwyck, a few years before they teamed up to kill her husband in "Double Indemnity." His voice was deeper back then, and he knew how to be self-confidently charming without being off-puttingly cocky.

Beverly Garland wasn't cocky, either. But I suspect she was a very gutsy lady, especially considering that she once married a man who went by the name of Fillmore Crank. (What could his parents have been thinking?)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Unintended irony

In my last post, on Nov. 12, I waxed nostalgic about how, in November 1968, I decided to become a writer.

Then my local store apparently ran out of Nostalgia Wax (I had a coupon, too), and despite my professed love of writing I didn't do any more blogging last month. So far, I think it's the only month in which I've had only one item.

I didn't mean to stay away, but the last few weeks of this year seem to be slipping by quickly, as if Father Time himself had slipped on a patch of black ice. (As I did many years ago.)

So, in an attempt to catch up, I offer the following detritus from my alleged mind....

Am I the only one who thinks that Gary Sinise, of "CSI," might be perfect casting if any movie maker decides to film "The Robert Young Story"? Something about his eyes, I think. Heck, if the erstwhile Jim Anderson were still alive and working, he and Sinise could have played father and son, I think.

And who knows? Maybe after "CSI" and all its spinoffs have run their course, Sinise might settle down as "Marcus Welby Jr." And maybe he could have a young assistant, played by Josh Brolin....

Irving Brecher died last month.

"Irving who?" you might be saying, and perhaps that's understandable; his was hardly a household name.

But he was perhaps the last living person who had written for the Marx Brothers. He wrote two of their movies, in fact: "A Day at the Circus" and "Go West." He also created "The Life of Riley," a radio and later TV show that I never could warm up to, though it probably gave William Bendix his best role.

Are any other writers for the Marx Brothers still alive? I doubt it (though I suspect someone who wrote for only Groucho in later years might still be around). Anyway, feel free to let me know if you know of any....


Actress Anita Page, 98, died in September. She was quite possibly the last living person to have appeared in a movie with Lon Chaney (Sr.), "While the City Sleeps," in 1928. And she was certainly one of the last living performers to have appeared in a silent movie. I can think of two who are still alive: Baby Peggy, a child star who now goes by the name of Diana Sera Carey and just turned 90, and Mickey Rooney, who starred in many short subjects under the name Mickey McGuire.

Anyone know of anyone else?....

Also similarly....

The death of Studs Terkel, who at one point made money by playing gangsters on radio shows, prompts this question: Is anyone else from the old days of radio still around? I believe Hugh Downs used to announce a soap opera. (Was it "Hawkins Falls"?) And Anne Francis, whom guys of a certain age (namely mine) fondly remember as the 1960s TV detective Honey West, was a child actress on radio. If any listeners (oops, I mean readers) out there know of any others, the number to call is -- oops, there I go again; heck, just e-mail me.