Monthly Archives: October 2014

R.I.P.

holder

 

Geoffrey Holder, 1930-2014

Although he apparently had a distinguished and wonderful and varied career as an actor, choreographer, director, dancer, painter, costume designer, singer, and voice-over artist, those of us of a certain age remember Geoffrey Holder for his 7-Up commercials. Who among us doesn’t recall attempting to lay on a thick Caribbean accent and declaring “This is a cola nut. It grows here. This is un-cola nut. It grows here, too.”

Don’t Give Them Any Ideas

The Utah Jazz basketball team announced that it has signed a five-year-old boy with leukemia who is a big fan of their team to a one-day player contract.

This was truly a lovely gesture by the team, but The Curmudgeon worries that it’s going to put ideas into the heads of the people who run the Philadelphia 76ers. For the second consecutive year, the 76ers plan to field a team that’s so profoundly bad that it will lose most of its games, thereby entitling the team to the pick of the litter of the best players coming out of college basketball next year.

Can you picture a starting lineup inspired by the Jazz’s wonderful idea?

For Sale: Lawyers

For reasons that have never been explained but probably have to do with empire-building and neighbor-envy – The Curmudgeon has speculated about this before ­– Philadelphia’s Drexel University launched a new law school in 2006.

Because that’s exactly what America was clamoring for: more lawyers.

In 2008 the school was renamed after a major donor: $15 million will do that for you.

But just last week, Drexel announced that it would rename the school after yet another large donor: a Philadelphia lawyer. Lawyers may be craven but they’re not stupid, so even they were able to do the math and figure out that $50 million trumps $15 million.

All of which goes to confirm what most of us have long suspected: that lawyers are always for sale to the highest bidder.

Sports Fans’ Real Priorities

(This piece looks like it’s about sports, but when The Curmudgeon writes about sports, it’s never really about sports, so non-sports fans, please hang in there.)

As The Curmudgeon has written in the past, he is a long-time hockey fan, and his team is the Philadelphia team – the Philadelphia Flyers.

Prospects for this year’s team are not bright. In hockey, teams succeed by scoring more goals than their opponents, but this year’s team doesn’t have much goal-scoring talent.

Teams that don’t score many goals often put a greater emphasis on preventing their opponents from scoring, but this year’s team is notoriously weak defensively – and even worse than anticipated because it lost its best defensive player to illness and he will not be returning.

And in the off-season, burdened by a high payroll and a league limit on how much it can spend on player salaries, a new management team was virtually powerless to do things to improve the team and is now preaching patience in a city not known for its patience.

In other words, the team’s prospects for the coming season are pretty bleak, but in the exhibition games the team plays before the regular season begins, the biggest concern of the team’s fans has been the people who clear loose ice off the playing surface.

That’s right.

When players skate, and especially when they turn and stop, the friction of their sharp blades against the ice creates snow. Several times during the course of a game, during long breaks for television commercials, a crew of people will skate onto the ice with shovels and squeegees and remove some of the snow in an effort to improve the quality of the playing surface.

flyer girlsFor a number of years, the people who have been doing this in Philadelphia have been the team’s “Ice Girls.” Ice girls are young, slender, and shapely; they wear short skirts or short-shorts in the team’s colors; their midriffs are bare; and their tops usually reveal a little cleavage. They are part of the show for the hometown fans.

During this year’s exhibition games, however, the Ice Girls were replaced by a crew of young men – and the fans booed them.

A lot. Long and loud. Every time they set foot in the ice.

So after several games of non-stop booing when the young men appeared to clean the ice, the team relented and announced that it will hold a casting call for new Ice Girls and the girls will return to duty when the season begins this week.

Because sports fans have their priorities and then they have their priorities, and it’s not enough that professional hockey is the only major sport that sanctions – and even encourages – fighting among its participants. No, the fans have their violence, and they are grateful for that and very protective of retaining it (The Curmudgeon has written about this before) but they need their sex, too, in the form of scantily clad young women parading around on the ice for sixty to ninety seconds at a time.

So when the team takes to the ice for its first home game tonight, the fans will cheer the return of the Ice Girls and they will be happy.

Until the team’s performance makes them unhappy. Then, all they will have is cute young women in short skirts, bare midriffs, and cleavage-baring tops.

The Curmudgeon hopes they are proud of themselves for understanding what’s really important.

Gasoline

$2.99 a gallon this weekend, baby!

(Of course, who ever thought we’d get excited about gasoline that was “only” $2.99 a gallon?)

gasoline

They Get All the Good Lines

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that a stage production of King Lear, The Curmudgeon’s favorite of Shakespeare’s tragedies – surely you knew The Curmudgeon would have a favorite Shakespeare tragedy – recently passed through town. (As he has written before, he also has a soft spot in his heart for the comedy Midsummer Night’s Dream because of his own stirring portrayal of the star-crossed lover Demetrius in his fifth-grade class production of the play.)

Playing the title role was actor Joseph Marcell, whose name may not ring a bell. Marcell is a real Shakespearean actor, a player with the Royal Shakespeare Company for more than forty years. Americans know Marcell best, though, for his role as the wise-cracking butler Geoffrey on the Will Smith television comedy Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

lurchReading about Marcell and his performance set the wheels turning in The Curmudgeon’s mind as he realized that on television, the butlers are almost all wise-cracking and usually get to deliver a comedy’s best lines. Whether it’s Marcell as Geoffrey or Robert Guillaume as Benson or Christopher Hewitt as Mr. Belvedere or Daniel Davis as Niles on The Nanny or even Sammee Tong (had to look that one up) on the old series Bachelor Father, and putting aside the Addams Family’s Lurch, who got good grunts but not good lines, and Family Affair’s Mr. French and the stiff who replaced him, you can be pretty sure that on a television series that includes a butler in the cast, if someone says something funny, well…

You know what’s coming next…

Seriously, you can’t have missed this, but…

The butler did it.

 

No Matter What They Say, It’s About the Porn

Controversy rages in Pennsylvania, where the state’s Democratic attorney general has discovered state employees sending, receiving, and viewing emails with pornographic pictures and videos on state-owned computers during their state-paid work day. The attorney general, quickly cultivating a reputation as a full-blown nitwit, muddled the issue when the only names she revealed were Republicans who have worked directly for the state’s Republican governor, who just so happens to be in the midst of a tough campaign for re-election.

The attorney general reportedly has information about many other state employees guilty of the same act but is at least temporarily withholding them. By all appearances, the only names she’s going to reveal voluntarily are Republican names until at least after the election.

pornAs of this writing, two people have resigned over this matter, including the secretary of a major state department who says he doesn’t even recall any porn crossing his path – although he doesn’t reject the possibility that it did (wink wink) – but who says he resigned because it was becoming a distraction to the operation of his department.

But is this a firing offense? Of course not. Without question, the people involved shouldn’t have done it. They shouldn’t be sending, receiving, or viewing porn during work hours on their state-owned computers and they should receive a stern talking-to from their supervisors and told in no uncertain terms that they shouldn’t do it again.

But really, should people lose their jobs over this?

No, no, a thousand times no.

But the far more interesting questions are whether these people have broken any laws or rules and why they, in particular, are being singled out for it when it seems certain that many others have engaged in the same behavior.

All of the public complaints have emphasized the inappropriateness of people engaging in these activities on state time, with state computers. If that’s really the problem, though, why are we only talking about people who’ve been caught sending, receiving, or viewing porn? After all, it’s not like viewing porn is against the law. Why are we not talking about people who go online during their lunch hour and shop at Amazon.com? Those who circulate office football and basketball pools? Folks who use their state computers to share links to cute cat videos? Colleagues confirming arrangements to get together for a drink after work, or to watch a ballgame together over the weekend? People taking a quick peek to see if NCIS is a new episode or a rerun that night? People checking their Facebook pages (come on, you know you’ve done it). Are we saying that people working in cubicles shouldn’t be able to take a minute to check the day’s headlines after being isolated from the world for a few hours?

Why isn’t the attorney general going after any of these violations and the violators? Are we saying that some personal uses of state computers on state time are acceptable and some are not? And if so, is there a list? And if there isn’t a list, how are state employees supposed to know where the line is drawn and what the difference is?

But in the current climate, what public official dares to be the first to ask what that difference is? As it is, people are fighting for the opportunity to be the next to jump onto the “how dare they!” bandwagon. When the governor asked for the resignation of one official whom he technically does not have the authority to fire, a spokesman for the head of the state senate – a professional blowhard – helpfully jumped in by declaring that the senate would be happy to convene immediately to revokes its confirmation of the official in question, thereby paving the way for his firing. (And The Curmudgeon thinks that before he made this generous offer, the blowhard should have taken a quick survey of the fifty members of the state senate and the hundreds of people who work for them to see how many of them would survive this new employment litmus test he now enthusiastically proposes enforcing.)

At this point no one is willing, no one has the courage, to step up and declare “Wait a minute, people, what are we doing here?” because ultimately, this isn’t about people attending to personal matters on state time or using state equipment to do it. It’s about porn and it’s about politics. No one cares if state employees share recipes using state computers on state time, no one cares if they exchange quick emails with their spouse to confirm whose turn it is to pick up the little one at day care, no one’s complaining that people might be taking a quick look on their child’s school’s web site to see if the results of last week’s big math test have been posted, but you can’t look at or share pictures and videos of naked women (or, most likely, in some cases, naked men). No one’s complaining that people pick up the state-issued phone on their desk during their work day to call their doctor to make an appointment, to check in on their sick child at home, or to call a plumber to arrange for someone to come to their home to fix a leaking faucet. Is there a law some people have broken? Is there a rule they’ve broken? And if it’s the latter, how many ways are there to break that rule and will that rule be applied to all of those ways or just to the ways that some nineteenth century holier-than-thou types or idiot attorneys general laying the groundwork for future runs for public office find offensive?

Because ultimately, this is all about two things: embarrassing political opponents and flashing back to the eighties – the 1880s – to preach about the evils of porn.

We should be past both.

 

Look – They’re Interchangeable!

The USA network has two series, Suits and White Collar, that appear, based on the commercials for them that The Curmudgeon occasionally sees, to be pretty much the same show. (He doesn’t watch either; his current perspective is that if USA produces it, it can’t possibly be worth watching.)

In fact, it appears to The Curmudgeon as if both shows star the same two actors: two bland, pasty-faced white guys.

Below are the four male lead actors in the two shows. Do you think anyone would notice if they just traded roles? Or is it possible they’re already doing exactly that?

 

machtadams

bomer

mckay

Worst American Accent?

When he was in college, The Curmudgeon took a course on sociolinguistics. On the first day of classes, the teacher asked if anyone in the group was from Philadelphia. The Curmudgeon raised his hand.

“On your feet,” the teacher ordered.

The Curmudgeon rose, the teacher wrote a half-dozen or so words on the blackboard, and The Curmudgeon was directed to pronounce them. He did, and the teacher declared The Curmudgeon’s Philadelphia accent to be present but extremely mild.

This came to mind the other day when The Curmudgeon read that Gawker, the web site that is to the internet what Andy Cohen and the schlockmeisters at Bravo are to television, is conducting a contest to determine “America’s Ugliest Accent,” leading the Philadelphia Inquirer to question whether that’s a contest Philadelphia should win.

So should it?

Not unless Brooklyn, Staten Island, and da Bronx fall victim to a terrible nuclear accident.

Maybe It Was the Fumes in His Mascara

KISS member and rock ’n’ roll has-been Gene Simmons recently put his foot in the mouth large enough to hold that enormous tongue when he decided to set some people straight on who’s paying the freight in the U.S. these days.

The one percent pays 80 percent of all taxes, he announced.

Fifty percent of the population of the U.S. pays no taxes, he declared.

Pretty damning indictment, wouldn’t you say?

Well, actually, pretty inaccurate indictment, The Curmudgeon would say.

The one percent pays 80 percent of all taxes? Well, Simmons was off by a little on that one. It turns out that the one percent pays 26 percent of all federal taxes and 24 percent if state and local taxes are included. Even if you include only federal income taxes, the one percent pays 34 percent.

Not 80 percent.

So Simmons was off there.

simmonsJust a little.

And his other assertion, that fifty percent of the population pays no taxes?

Well, here again, he was off by a little. When all federal taxes are taken into consideration, 14 percent of the population pays no taxes. Those people? Most are elderly and the rest have annual incomes of less than $20,000.

Yet again, Simmons swings and misses by just a bit.

So maybe Simmons is stupid, maybe he’s misinformed, or maybe he fell off his platform shoes and hit his head. Whichever it is, maybe the smart thing for him to do would be to stick to sticking out his tongue and making what some people consider to be music.