Moderation in all things, including moderation

The above title is a quote I heard from Alan Alda, the actor most famous for playing Dr. Hawkeye Pierce in the long running TV show “MASH” about doctors and nurses during the Korean conflict. His interviewer liked it so much he commented. Alda coined this phrase when he was sixteen, “Moderation in all things, including moderation.”

His point is it is more than OK to do things in moderation, but there are occasions when a person needs to take a leap of faith and go for it. This comes from an actor who remains quite busy with various podcasts he hosts and acting roles. Plus, he is a very charitable person.

Alda was more than just the weekly doctor with a huge heart, surgical brain, skilled hands and appetite for making out with the nurses. He had a long list of movies and shows he did during and after his MASH work. I recall a couple of movies off the top of my head.

He and Ellen Burstyn turned a Neil Simon play into a wonderful movie called “Same Time Next Year.” The premise is the two meet and continue to meet up once a year at this beautiful inn overlooking the Pacific Ocean. They confide in each other and speak of problems and love they have their spouses. Seeing Burstyn change her attire and attitudes each year is what makes the movie sing, while Alda plays more of a straight man.

Carol Burnett, Rita Moreno and a wonderful cast join Alda for a very funny movie called “Four Seasons.” These three couples decide they are going to take four vacations (bad idea) together in one year. The humor heightens when one of the couples separates and the husband brings a young girlfriend to the next vacation. Like with Burstyn, seeing Alda and Burnett together is a treat, as very few people can rival the character acting of Carol Burnett.

A third movie I liked a lot was not a comedy, but a drama called “The Seduction of Senator Joe Tynan.” He played with Meryl Streep in this one, so there seems to be a pattern of his acting in movies with very talented leading ladies. Streep plays an intern who falls for the married Senator played by Alda. The premise is the rise and fall of a Senator do to his tryst.

There are of course several other movies he starred in or played key roles in. He even played the antagonist in some of the movies. That took some getting used to. He was much more enjoyable to watch when he could pull for him, even though he would make us cringe being smart-ass.

MASH was one of my favorite shows, playing each Saturday night in one of the best comedy line-ups ever. Ironically, the final show of the night was “The Carol Burnett Show” which is fitting that the two stars would play in a very funny movie together. What is also fascinating about MASH is the parade of future stars that came through the show, either for a few seasons or one or two episodes.

I recall having a crush on Blythe Danner, the mother of Gwyneth Paltrow, and a good actress in her own right, as she played a love interest. I also recall Marcia Strassman, who would go on to play in the sit-com “Welcome Back Kotter,” as another one of Alda’s love interests. I also remember Brian Dennehy, Edward Hermann, Ed Begley, Jr., Ron Howard, Patrick Swayze, Lawrence Fishburne, et all who played for an episode, most often as a wounded soldier, either mentally or physically or both.

What made the show popular went beyond the actors. The writers scoured documents about a wartime hospital in Korea and actually pulled some episodes out of those files. The one I remember vividly is when a wounded soldier had an unexploded shell in his chest, which was a true incident.

So, let me know what you think of Alda and his work on MASH and elsewhere.

You’re no day at the beach either

For some reason, my news feed includes these small banners that will highlight some female star from her younger days with a headline that says something like so-and-so is 82 and you won’t believe what she looks like now. I choose not to open these as they want to paint how someone no longer looks like they used to. My thoughts usually settle on this retort to the author of said piece, “you’re no day at the beach either.”

As an imperfect person when I was younger and more so as an older person, we each should do our best to stay in good shape for health reasons, self-esteem and to put our best foot forward for our partner. I do my best to keep my waistline manageable by walking, Yoga and Pilates and I do my best by trying to stay tone with light weightlifting and calisthenics. But, gravity is a powerful force and a full head of hair is only a dream as my monk’s cap grows. Gosh darn it.

I recognize these stars made a living off their beauty and a sad indictment of Hollywood is the business is cruel moreso to women as they age than men. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but for the most part the roles are less plentiful for older actresses. That is truly sad as there are countless older actresses who the public would like to see. It is like watching an old friend.

So, for those guys who want to highlight that some former femme-fatale is not as beautiful as she once was, please remember what you might look like if your picture was flashed up on the newsfeed. Let me close with a funny retort from a friend. After my wife and I saw Tina Turner perform in early 60’s, I made a comment to a friend that “I hope I look as good as she does when I get to her age.” He immediately responded, “You don’t look that good now.” Touche.

A few sayings to help us through the day

Here a few sayings that I have picked up along the way. Please feel free to offer some of yours that who add some relish to this grouping.

Have you ever felt like the whole world is a tuxedo and you’re just a pair of old brown shoes? (George Goebbels)

I have noticed the more I practice, the luckier I get. (Gary Player)

Opportunity is often missed as it is dressed up as hard work. (Malcolm Gladwell)

I have noticed common sense is not all that common. (Mark Twain)

A man will never be shot while doing the dishes. (Unknown)

More shots are missed because they are never taken. (Unknown)

If you always tell the truth, you don’t have to remember as much. (Unknown)

We tend to spend more practice on what we do well and less on what we don’t. It should be the other way around. (Harvey Penick)

No is just an answer. Don’t be afraid of hearing it. (Unknown)

I took the last shot because I knew I could handle missing it. (Jim Furyk)

You cannot have too many cups of coffee with people. It is my fault should not be a frightening thing to say. (a friend and colleague)

Don’t ever be surprised when an ego-centric person turns on you. It will happen. (Unknown)

People should get more credit for doing the right thing than going along with the crowd. (Unknown)

Paying it forward may be the most selfless of gifts. The gift of your time is the best thing you can do for your kids. (Unknown)

The greatest lights in our community or family are the people who always visit or help when it is needed. (Unknown)

Helping people climb a ladder out of the hole they dug is better than just pulling them up. If they climb it, they may avoid digging a new one. (a friend and social worker)

You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion. (an old boss)

Humor abounds in all relationships

We have been watching several Rom-Com movies where relationship humor between the lead characters seasons what would be a dry movie plot. Just yesterday, in the movie “Sleeping with other people,” the main, opposite gender characters (played by Jason Sudekis and Alison Brie) became best friends. If they ever had romantic feelings for each other, they would say the word “mousetrap” to stop those thoughts. That is a neat ploy.

It got me thinking about humor in all kinds of relationships – partners, friends, relatives, etc. I won’t repeat several stories that I have written about a few times before, but here are a few I have not.

Make sure the door can lock – when I moved to a new city, I was in a temporary apartment before we sold our house. When my family was visiting, the kids slept on a sleeper sofa, while my wife and I were in the lone bedroom. During, shall we say a romantic interlude, in walks my oldest son who was about seven and he said an audible “ooh” and left the room. Note to self, make sure the bedroom door can actually lock.

Old dogs can be taught – having learned the above lesson, we went on vacation and stayed in an old lake house, whose bedroom door would not fully shut and lock. Part of our foreplay was made to include placing a chair in front of the door to keep it from opening.

Yes, your parents had sex after you were born – growing up, my parents’ bedroom was adjacent to my brother’s and mine. Since my bed was on the nearest wall to theirs, it enabled me to hear things a boy probably should not hear in the room next door. Yes, my parents had sex after I was born; I am sure they enjoyed it.

Speaking of discovery – some good friends were visiting her mother and father and were sleeping in the guest room downstairs. After one of those romantic interludes, in walks the husband’s mother-in-law. It should be noted my friend is in bed, sans clothing, with one leg positioned outside of the covers. His mother-in-law sits on the bed while they are talking and starts to pat his leg and pats it again. Then, it hits her what has just transpired and she gets wide-eyed and immediately leaves the room. See number one about locking bedroom doors.

Invariably, kids will walk through when the movie gets racy – with one adult-child staying with us since the pandemic staying upstairs when home, he will occasionally walk through our main TV area to go the kitchen. Often, if our movie has a racy scene come on the screen, that is when he walks through the room. My wife and I will say to each other “I thought this was PG-13.” That and the surprise “f-bombs” that are used in movies cause some parental cringing. He will say, “it is nothing I have not heard before.”

Yes, a squeaky bed can be heard downstairs – when we travel, we often stay in a bed and breakfast which is usually an old house. At one place, we learned, after the fact, our bedroom and another was above the downstairs parlor. The reason we know there was another bedroom is the guests were having one of those romantic interludes as we had done earlier. And, we heard the squeaky bed while sitting in the parlor below. Oops. Our bed was squeaky as well.

When it rains it pours – staying at another bed and breakfast, we arrived during a torrential rainstorm. Our room was in the back of the home with an elevated poster bed which needed a stepping stool to get into. It also was underneath a veranda with a partially covered roof accessible by the second-floor rooms. Since this story is about romantic interludes, when we were about to Christen the poster bed, we saw rain leaking down the wall. This was a few seconds before the ceiling caved in from the rain on top of us. After getting dressed and letting the owners know of our travails, we were moved to another room across the hall, but it had water running down the walls as well. So, we ended up in a third room.

So, the moral to this story is not to avoid having romantic interludes. The moral is lock or block the bedroom door, test the squeakiness of the beds, and watch out for B&B poster beds in rainstorms. And, yes your parents did these kinds of things as well and enjoyed them. As for those movies, don’t trust a PG-13 rating.

Is it Agnes or Maggies? – a reprise

Given time constraints, the following is a repeat of an earlier post.

My wife says “Goodness gracious Maggies!” I was brought up hearing “Goodness gracious Agnes!” She was raised in South Carolina while I grew up in Florida. We don’t know where Agnes and Maggie were raised.

Geography seems to play a role in variations in similar sayings. In the South, I often heard “Bless his (or her) heart” to reference someone prone to inanity. Our friends from Pennsylvania say “God love him (or her)” meaning the same thing. A minister once said, if you add “Bless his heart,” one can say some less than flattering things before that point.

The more religiously influenced have a variety of sayings. I think the Catholic influence might lead a surprised person to say “Holy Mary mother of God!” which is quite the mouhful. Often, it is shortened to “Holy Mary!” leaving the longer version for more awe-inspiring events.

“Jesus Christ! or the shortened “Jesus!” is uttered when a religious mother is out of earshot. Otherwise, the child might get a look or rebuke. Often, it is shortened to “Jeez,” “Jeepers,” or “Gee whiz,” depending on the generation or religious zeal of the mother. Of course, the more formal rendering is “Jesus H. Christ,” but I have no idea where the “H” comes from.

We can thank Walt Disney for popularizing another replacement with his character “Jiminy Cricket.” Making his name plural makes another saying of surprise. A variation is “Jiminy Christmas” for more exasperating events.

“Dammit,” has long been a shortened version of GD which would have gotten a strong rebuke in my house. The rebuke for Dammit would be less severe. Either phrase reveals disappointment in some failure. I am reminded of Strother Martin’s character in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” The tobacco chewing character would say “Dammit” when his tobacco spittle got on his chin, yelling “bingo” when it did not.

It saddens me to think of the humor of Bill Cosby given his off-stage criminal acts of sexual assault. But, one of his funnier routines was of his father trying to edit his language around his kids. When mad, Cosby said his father could not complete a sentence due to self-censure. He also had routine where his father referred to Cosby as “Dammit” and his brother as “Jesus Christ” when mad. “Dammit” get in here. “Jesus Christ” why did you do that? When he mixed up the two, his brother would say “But Dad, I’m Jesus Christ.”

I have shared before the saying of my wonderful colleague whose father was a minister. When very frustrated, she would say, “Bad word, bad word!” Her saying would lighten the moment if others heard her saying it given her temperament.

What are some of your family, friends and region’s sayings? Are they unique to your area or more widespread?

Southern sandwiches

If South Carolina were a sandwich it would be a tomato sandwich with plenty of mayo on white bread.

If Georgia were a sandwich if would be a pimento cheese sandwich.

If North Carolina were a sandwich it would be pulled pork on a bun with a touch of sauce.

If Florida were a sandwich it wound be a Cuban on that long bread.

If Kentucky were a sandwich it would be a Hot Brown.

If Tennessee were a sandwich it would honor Elvis with a peanut butter and banana sandwich.

If Virginia were a sandwich it would be a country ham biscuit.

If Maryland were a sandwich it would be a soft shell crab sandwich.

If Louisiana were a sandwich it would be a shrimp po’ boy.

If Alabama were a sandwich it would be ribs with white bread, not a sandwich per se, but the folks in Tuscaloosa will know what this means.

If Mississippi were a sandwich it would be a standard peanut butter and jelly sandwich using your favorite jelly.

Note, there are no right answers to the above, only my and other opinions. Where have I strayed? What are your thoughts? I limited this to the south, but let me know of other states.

Friday fish stories

I don’t know how Catholics became known for eating fish on Fridays, but I have heard this all my life. My wife’s family is Catholic, but even they don’t know. *

Maybe it is due to an abundance of fish in predominant Catholic towns along the coasts of Ireland, Spain, Italy or America. Or maybe it is an economical meal for a big family. (Note the rhythm method is not the best of birth control methods).

I do know my grandfather was the chief cooker of fish when we visited. This is primarily due to his being a highly prolific fisherman. Before he passed, my father, brother, uncle and I would go fishing with him.

He was a quiet and patient man which are ideal attributes for good fishing. While my brother and I would celebrate our catches, Granddaddy would quietly reel them in, re-bait the hooks and recast the lines. I have seen him regularly catch over 50 fish at a time.

We mainly used crickets as bait. That only presented a problem once as I knocked over the cricket basket in his house. My grandmother said she heard crickets for weeks. Truly, my bad.

I do know fishing was Granddaddy’s passion. He showed me not only how to fish, but how to clean them. I have a picture of me around ten holding a line of twenty-six fish before I cleaned them. Of course, I remember the tally. That was a great day.

Friday fish stories. And, they were actually true and memorable. 

* My wife read it is due to the avoidance of eating warm blooded animals on Friday to honor Jesus by fasting, which may or may not be true.

More movies to take a peek at

Here are a few more movies that I have enjoyed watching to varying degrees. Most of these were found on the free-service Tubi, but a few came from HBO and Showtime.

“Once upon a river” starring Kenadi DelaCerna, John Ashton, Tataka Means, Ajuawak Kapashasit, Coburn Gross, Lindsey Pulsipher and Kenn Head is about a half Native American teen whose father is killed. She travels up river to find her mother who left several years before. She befriends an elderly man who gives her shelter on her journey. The movie is compelling in the uphill struggle for this disenfranchised young woman as she seeks help.

“Nothing special” starring Julia Garcia Combs, Karen Black, Barbara Bain and David Hardie is about a woman (Garcia Combs) who is having difficulty taking care of her bipolar mother (Black) while trying to serve a demanding, but supportive boss (Bains) and find time for some kind of love life. The three lead women are each excellent in their roles. You feel for this young woman as she comes close to her wits end.

“Small town crimes” underlines what an imperfect hero looks like. John Hawkes is excellent as a suspended, alcohol and drug addicted cop trying to solve a murder case as an unregistered private investigator. Anthony Anderson and Octavia Spencer are his only support, with Spencer playing his foster sister. Michael Voltan, Clifton Collins, and Robert Frasler play key roles.

“Peaks and valleys” starring Kitty Mahoney, Kevin T. Bennett and Ted Carney is also excellent as it shows Bennett taking care of a woman in a mountain cabin after he witnesses her body being cast out of a small plane into a lake. This cantankerous man nurses her back to health and teaches her how to hunt and fish. She will return the favor as his own issues become apparent. Given the verbal volleying back and forth, the movie remains interesting.

“Road to Perth” starring Tommy O’Brien, Hannah Lehman, Ellen Grimshaw and Kat Kaevich is an Australian movie about an American who travels alone after his girlfriend declines his marriage proposal. He is intent on taking pictures and interviewing Australians along his journey. He befriends and gives a ride from Adelaide to Perth to a woman who is the sister of an internet friend as she scatters her Dad’s ashes in places he held dear. Along the way, he speaks by phone with his own sister who offers milepost check-ins as the travelers become mutually infatuated.

“The Honeymooners” (not that one) starring Jonathan Byrne, Alex Reid, Justine Mitchell and Conner Mullen is an Irish film about a man who gets stood up at his wedding (at least she tells him) and after drinking too much of his wedding champagne pays a waitress who just got fired (and whose married boyfriend can’t be with her) to drive him to a cottage on the coast. They butt heads often and the say hurtful things,but do have enough fun and good conversation as their hard feelings soften. Like the “Road to Perth,” the movies are more about the journey and travails, where two people in angst can lift each other up.

“Wanderland” starring Tate Ellington, Tara Summers, Victoria Clark, Harris Yulin and a host of others is about a relatively rational man who accepts an invitation to house sit over a weekend in a Long Island coastal village. He befriends a charming woman on the beach and she invites him to a party later, which he surprisingly declines, but we learn later he too often says no. So, he goes from party to party meeting a wide assortment of characters as he tries to track down this woman . The name of the movie connotes wandering, but the similarities to a male Alice in Wonderland are not unfounded. His journey and the bohemian characters make you want to watch.

“Jackie and Ryan” starring Katherine Heigl, Ben Barnes and Emily Alyn Lind is about a hobo traveling musician trying to put a band back together. He winds up in a beautiful mountain town and befriends a woman who has had success as a musician, but has moved back home with her daughter to live with her mother as she is finalizing her divorce. The movie is a little trite, but the music is good and we learn Heigl can sing, especially with a lovely duet with her daughter played by Lind. Barnes also sings a poignant song that he is encouraged to finish by Heigl.

“Bonneville” starring Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Joan Allen, Christine Baranski and Tom Skerrit offers an interesting road trip plot as Lange takes her husband’s ashes to a funeral arranged by her step-daughter. “Surviving love” stars actual life married couple Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen as they get stranded in the Maine mountains and is worth the watch. “Christmas Eve” with Loretta Young, Arthur Hill and Trevor Howard offers a cheesy, but feel good movie about a dying woman wanting to see her grandchildren who escaped from her controlling son’s grip. Finally, we just watched “Being Rose” with Cybil Shepherd and James Brolin who play late in life lovers as Shepherd is dying.

Each of these movies is worth the watch and I don’t think any have things that are too risque for younger eyes, even the two jilted lover stories, although the adult themes and language on some may need to be factored in. The ones in the final paragraph are neat as they give a glimpse of actors who are later in their careers. Let me know if you have seen any of these.

A documentary on George Carlin reveals much

“I am optimistic, but I would not take any comfort from that.” George Carlin

The above is one of the many quotes from the talented and funny satirical comedian, George Carlin which is highlighted in a HBO two-part documentary. On top of learning about Carlin’s rise to fame, as well as his fall and rise again, we see a glimpse of American culture from the 1960’s forward.

Like most good documentaries, it presents the good, bad and the ugly side of fame and how it impacted both Carlin and his first wife, Brenda, whom he was married for 36 years. Brenda, was his biggest fan and supported and help manage his efforts to go out on his own on two separate occasions, first after having success with Jack Burns in a comedy duo and, second, when he took off the suit and started being who he really was on stage, the bearded, witty and satirical comedian we remember most.

Along the way, both had drinking and drug problems. Ironically, Brenda’s exposure came when he became successful and professional managers and PR people took on her role. Their daughter Kelly noted that this put her mother to the side and she had a lot of trouble with that. They both would recover and have a loving thirty-six year marriage before Brenda passed away. Carlin would later remarry and stay married for the rest of his life.

For those who don’t know Carlin, here is a brief summary from Hollywood Life:

George Carlin is one of the most beloved comedians of all time. After beginning his career in the 1960s, George rose to fame for his often controversial subject matter and use of explicit language, best exemplified in his routine “The Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television” in 1972. He continued being a popular performer, going through many distinct shifts in style throughout the 80s and 90s, releasing a number of standup specials. His final special It’s Bad For Ya was released months before his death at 71 in June 2008. Other than his standup, George dabbled in comedic acting, appearing in films such as Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure and playing Mr. Conductor on the children’s program Shining Time Station.”

Carlin loved to play with the words and their different meanings under different contexts. One of his more memorable and safer topics is the one on oxymorons. One I vividly recall is “jumbo shrimp.” After metering is voice and eyes as he recounted this, he would say “are they little jumbos, or huge shrimp?” Yet, his most famous diatribe is the one mentioned above called “The Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television.”

Comedians like Stephen Colbert, Patton Oswalt, Jon Stewart, Steven Wright, et al could easily recite the seven words in order from this routine. They also discussed how provocative Carlin was in his heyday and became again later in his career. There was a time where he got pushed aside and was actually mocked by some newer comedians for his less evocative wordplay. Yet, he would only come back strong being the irreverent Carlin we knew and laughed with.

This special is worth the watch. I actually watched them out of order, but that is more than OK. It was actually fun to see him get started after seeing the later stages of his career first. It is also telling to see the many comedians pay homage to him for influencing their careers.

Comedians and Congress

The very astute and funny comedian Sarah Silverman said yesterday on a segment of The View, “Why is it we hold our comedians to a higher standard than our Congressional representatives?” She was responding to the trend for comedians to come under physical attack on stage and verbal abuse online. I want you to re-read the emboldened sentence of hers and let it sink in. Why, indeed?

If that is not enough to stew on, I want you to think of recent and not so recent comments by several members of Congress with names like Taylor-Greene, Cawthorn, Jordan, Gosar, Breitbart, Gohmer, Brooks, Gaetz et al. If that were not enough, fold in comments from folks like Senators Cruz, Paul. etc. Then we have the former president’s comments which take it to an even lower level.

These comedians make their living making fun of uncomfortable topics. Do they cross the line on occasion? Absolutely. Yet, we seem to vilify them more than we do for people who are supposed to represent our better angels as elected officials. I can disagree with a policy position of an elected official and that is OK. Yet, I want them to be respectful of the office they hold.

I disagree with Democrats and Republicans on various issues. I think some Democrats tend to forget we need to pay for things, e.g. But, the names I mention above are all Republican for a reason. They have a strident manner in dealing with opposing arguments. Name calling is not an argument. Parroting conspiracy theories is not an argument. Saying truly inane things does not make you more credible.

It is not ironic that the most touted leader in the world is a former comedian. President Zelenskyy of Ukraine has stood up against the invasion of Russian troops and rallied his country against the onslaught. To be frank, Vladimir Putin did not count on that stance thinking he could steam roll Ukraine in three days. He could not have been more wrong.

When I watch shows that are news centered comedy discussions, the more astute guests tend to be comedians. To be able to make fun of something, you tend to have to know what it is and why it could be funny. In this same vein, one of the best news shows on TV is actually a comedy show – John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight.” Invariably, his writers will have an in-depth discussion on issues that do not get air time elsewhere such as predatory tele-evangelists, predatory lending, predatory court fees, et al. Other new sources have actually complimented their efforts.

Since comedians seem to be more knowledgeable, maybe we should do like sports teams do. When an elected official is obviously not up to the challenge, like in a sporting event, let’s just replace him or her with a comedian. In my view, we will be far better off.