Archive for August, 2009

Recently, I toured the infamous Alcatraz prison facility in the San Francisco bay. This federal penitentiary went by many nicknames: “The Rock”, “The Really Large Pebble”, “Scamp Camp”, and “Motel 6/San Francisco.”

Historic photo of Birdman of Alcatraz's escape.

Picture of The Birdman's famous escape from Alcatraz.


It was where “the worst of the worst” served the hardest of times. Al Capone, ‘Machine Gun’ Kelley, ‘Stabby’ McIntree, ‘Spit on Sidewalks’ Punlips– they all attended this Bad Boy U.

I walked into a cell in cellblock D and saw a small hole in the wall between the cot and the toilet. I caught a glimpse of yellow paper and reached in. It was some handwritten notes, memoirs of an unknown prisoner about his Alcatraz experience. I quickly tucked the papers into my pocket since extracting anything from a national park is probably illegal (that didn’t stop me from swiping a sequoia from Muir Woods). I reprint the entire content of the yellow pages here to expose the horrors of life in Alcatraz prison.

“April 3. Cold day. Last night I nearly froze to death. Requested an extra down comforter but the lousy guard refused. Gave me a heavy cotton blanket instead. Refused to tuck me in or tell a story. The sheets on this cot are like sandpaper. Thread count is 300–or less. No down pillow, either. How do they expect people to live like this?”

“April 12. Had a visit from the ol’ ball and chain with my kids. Bobbie’s growing like a weed. Pam’s almost tall as her mother (Alice is so competitive, she’s taken to standing on tippy toes). They were going to visit Coit Tower that afternoon. I asked the guard if I could join them– I’d come right back. I pinky promised, too. Guard said, ‘No.’ What a cruel bastard!”

“May 1. Sick of ‘The Birdman’– all he does is beg for bread then crap all over the place.”

“May 22. I swear I can’t take this place much longer. This morning, I ordered a Denver omelette with egg whites only. No dice. The stupid chef used whole eggs– yolks and all! My butt’s starting to look huge in my prison pants. It’s impossible to diet in here and these get-ups are hardly flattering. That does it, I’m letting myself go…”

“May 23. Chef has it in for me. Last night, I ordered my ribeye steak medium rare. I got it well done. The watercress in my salad was wilted and the candied walnuts were stale. My potatoes lyonnaise had a heavy peppering and the wine was pedestrian, at best. At least the cherries jubiliee were acceptable. How’s a guy supposed to live on this garbage?!”

“May 24. Enough! The dining situation here is unacceptable! For last evening’s service, the linen tablecloths were as yellow as a dog’s teeth. The candles were nubs. AND– I still can’t believe this– there were no crab forks for our shellfish– we had to use our salad forks!!! How much longer can I endure this living hell?!!”

A decorator's nightmare!

A decorator's nightmare!

“May 25. Tired of this cell. It feels so confining. Asked guard if I could decorate– maybe paint it a lighter color, add some fabric curtains, some throw pillows, object d’Arts, maybe a little fountain. He said it was against regulations. The uncouth commoner!”

“May 29. Bennie and Hank are planning an escape. Said they are going to build a tunnel from under their cell all the way to center field at Wrigley. They are idiots. Center field is way too exposed.”

“June 2. Bidet broken–AGAIN! If the water’s not too cold, it’s scalding. Now it’s busted all together. This place is hell with bad plumbing.”

“June 4. Got a manicure and pedicure today but my cuticles still look atrocious. Am starting to think the warden has it in for me.”

“June 8. Was an incident in the showers today. Manny ran out of conditioner and asked the guard for some. The guard said his hair looked fine– said it had good volume, a saucy bounce to it and appeared quite manageable. Manny’s been pouting ever since. He knows his hair is thin and requires body enhancement– he NEEDS conditioner. I swear these guards are sadists., to tell a man he has good hair when he himself knows he does not is absolutely criminal!”

“June 14. Asked guard if I could take a vacation– need a nice break and want to go to New York, catch some shows, try some new restaurants. Guard said he’d check with the warden. Got my fingers crossed…”

“June 15. Warden said NO to NYC trip! Unbelievable. Apparently it would kill them to let me take a little vacation. Can’t believe this joint. I swear, these people are so rigid it drives me nuts! I’m starting to think maybe I should join Bennie and Hank in their tunnel project…”

“June 18. Asked guard if I could get a pet for some companionship. What kind of pet, he asked. A pony, I said. He didn’t think it would be allowed. Now they apparently have a ‘no-pony-policy.’ Oh, the misery of this place…”

Julie & Julia meet Inglourious Basterds. One movie features Nazis, the other Beef Bourguignon. One has sadistic scenes, and to stay engaged with the other can be a sadistic challenge at times.

The movie falls flatter than a one egg souffle.

The movie falls flatter than a one egg souffle.

I’d heard good things about Julie & Julia, and I always liked watching Julia Child on TV cooking some complex recipe mere mortals would never attempt. So, I walked into the theatre with great expectations. Exiting the theatre, my expectations were crushed like a one egg souffle. Julie & Julia didn’t deliver for me.

Yes, Meryl is phenomenal as Julia, but Meryl is always terrific and this performance is more impersonation than character creation. Stanley Tucci brings a nice performance as Julia’s hubby and Jane Lynch steals every scene as Julia’s sister. But, the story of making a French cookbook for English speaking people is hardly interesting and rarely entertaining.

NOW, gently fold that story in with another story about a frustrated writer who cooks the entire Child cookbook over a one year span and blogs about it, and well, you have an odd stew of a film.

Julie is played by Amy Adams, who is usually fun to watch. Her character here is an insecure narcissist in an apron. She’s married to a milquetoasty guy played by Chris Messina who is supportive but frustrated by the blogging project. Wah wah wah.

The movie written and directed by Nora Ephron, usually a gifted writer. The screenplay was based on two separate books, Julia’s memoirs from 1949 and Julie’s book of recent time recounting her blogging project. But just because the subject matter is common to both, the flavors do not belong together. This movie is like vanilla and vinegar. A disappointment, a bad taste. Pity.

Now let’s cleanse our palates with a sorbet of Basterds.

Well, now look what QT's got cooking this time around...

Now look what QT's got cooking this time around...

Like the Coen Brothers, Quentin Tarantino makes films you have to see for no other reason than to get his unique perspective on whatever the film’s about. This time it’s about Nazis and a history re-write with a band of Jewish American soldiers (Inglourious Basterds) giving the goosesteppers what-for behind enemy lines. Even ol’ Adolf gets his comeuppance.

Like any Tarantino film, the dialogue is terrific in developing memorable characters as plotlines intertwine like origami figures. Like any Tarantino film, there’s tension built to keep your eyes riveted to the screen, followed by hyper-violence that begs you to look away. Like any Tarantino film, it is a celebration of film genres, movie magic, cinematography and interesting camerawork.

Yes, it’s chatty at times, but with Tarantino dialogue you won’t mind. Brad Pitt is wonderful as the Tennessee Basterd leader, Lt. Aldo Raine. He lays on a southern accent thick as cold molasses on dog fur. The powerhouse performance comes from Austrian actor Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa. Waltz may be shaking hands with Oscar for this gem.

While not Tarantino’s best film, the Basterds are worth spending some time with and will give you plenty of images to replay for a long time afterwards.

The economy’s ugly and it’s hurting a lot of people. Political pundits point fingers and flap their yaps endlessly about who is at fault. Not to worry, there’s plenty of blame to go around.

The little film does a brilliant job of explaining the entire sorted stew in just over 11 minutes. The staff of economists at The Lint Screen vouch that as far as we can tell it’s pretty spot-on about who did what, when, where, how and why.

Spend a little time and learn a lot. Let’s hear your reactions. Accurate? Bull? Fluff? And how do you feel about these same scumbuckets still getting paid bonuses out the wazoo? Sorry, that was neither fair nor balanced…

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

A wife can forgive the 'other woman', can't she?

A wife can forgive the 'other woman', can't she?

Bernie Madoff is serving a 150-year prison sentence for hoodwinking investors out of millions. Now one of those investors, Sheryl Weinstein, claims Bernie also stole her heart. In her soon to be published book, she confesses to have been involved in an affair with Madoff for over 20 years. Despite this new scandalous revelation, Bernie Madoff’s legal wife, Ruth, sent the following letter to the judge overseeing Mr. Madoff’s case.

Dear Your Most Honored Honor:

Back in June, you sentenced my loving husband, Bernard Madoff (Prisoner #61727-054), to serve 150-years in federal prison for his crimes of bilking innocent investors out of countless millions, their precious dreams and the remains of their sacred lives.

My husband is a good man, an honorable man, a 71-year old man. I am writing you with a sincere request.

If he serves his full term, Bernie will not be released until June 4, 2159. Your Honorable Honor, if you would shed some mercy, I implore you to reduce his sentence to an early release date of June 4, 2158. Please, let him enjoy some free time before his time is up.

Thank you, kind sir. In closing, I must mention that Bernie told me that you appear to be gaining a lot of weight. He said even in your black robe, you appear to be morbidly obese.

Best wishes,

Ms. Ruth Madoff
Standing By Her Man As Best She Can

See me? 481st row, 134th from left, wearing a porkpie hat. Winking.

See me? 281st row, 134th from left, wearing a porkpie hat. Winking.

It was supposed to be a little concert in upstate New York. Just some friends, some music, some good times. It became a legendary rock concert and historic event. Even though I was just a kid from northeastern Ohio, I was there and kept a haphazard journal. Here are my notes from 40 years ago (scribbled on a Big Chief tablet):

Met some black dude named Jimi. Says he’s playing guitar on Sunday and wants to make a political statement. Says he’s thinking of playing “The Hokey-Pokey” because in Vietnam, you’re either in, you’re out, or you’re shaking it all about. I tell him it seems kinda heavy-handed. I suggest he plays “The Star Spangled Banner” and let people draw their own conclusions. He threw me his guitar and said, “Thanks, kid.” I wonder if he’s really playing or just kidding me…

Some of the younger kids are talking. Rumors going ’round is that the yellow Pez are cool. Orange are nice. BUT DO NOT take the purple Pez. They’re really, really sour.

Have given up on the idea of introducing myself to everyone here. After 14 straight hours of doing it, feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. It’s also nearly impossible to remember all their names.

Rain. Mud. Stink like a wet monkey riding a wet donkey. Apparently there is no deodorant concession stand. Moisture also makes hair unmanageable.

Met a dude named Willie and his old lady Mildred. She was having a hard time getting her walker through the mud.

Where’s The 1910 Fruitgum Company? I thought they were playing… No Cowsills, yet, either… Herb Alpert & The Tiajuana Brass?

A Woodstock Poem: Love is in the air. Love is everywhere. Love to love this loving love. Love. Love. I hate those who can’t love. Love or die. Love or die. Love or I spit in your eye. Love, for crying out loud–LOVE!!!

Been holding this pee in for nine hours. I wish this bathroom line would move.

All these incredible young people, free spirits, open minds, all gathered together– baptized by rain, rock, and love. This world is going to be such a trippy, beautiful, peaceful place when these hippies take over and everyone just loves everyone and digs on everything. No more war, hate, pollution, prejudice, pain, flat tires, hunger, fallen arches, poverty, charlie horses in the middle of the night… no, man, it’s all going to be better. The world will change and it’s all going to be cool. Of this I am sure.

Came across this cool trailer for a movie that’s out. How many of these people do you recognize? If you’re not in advertising, you’re forgiven for seeing strangers. If you’re in advertising and they’re strangers, wallow in ignorance and shame.