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Late Night Loot

In this article, CBS CEO Les Moonves says than his two new late night shows — Colbert's and Corden's — cost less to produce that the shows being replaced. I'm sure Colbert's will cost less than Letterman's just because the star will be making less moola, as well as other reasons. But I don't see how The Late Late Show with James Corden can be costing less than The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson unless Corden's working for scale.

Corden has a band. He has a larger writing staff and it has a few writers and producers who have to be getting paid real well. That opening film piece last night must have cost more than they ever let CraigyFerg spend on any one segment and more like that are promised. Ferguson's biggest expense was two guys in a horse suit. (I have an odd feeling we're going to see "Secretariat" wander onto Corden's stage one of these days looking sadly for his former owner.)

Oh, wait. Corden has one other thing Ferguson didn't: Product placement. Okay, maybe that's it.

First Look

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Okay, I thought the first episode of The Late, Late Show with James Corden was fine. Not a lot of new talk show ground was broken but the host is personable and unafraid of real conversation. I don't know that they'll always be able to have folks on the couch who are as good at talking as Tom Hanks and Mila Kunis but if they can keep the level high — and the remaining two shows this week do look promising — I think they just might have something.

What didn't I like? The first main title looked fine. The second one not only seemed unnecessary but it looked like a reprise of Craig Ferguson's, complete with visits to some of the same local landmarks. Peeking into the guests' dressing rooms in the opening seemed awkward and I'll bet they dump that before long. The set seemed big and cluttered and it felt like the audience was a mile from him. (This was one of the things I think hurt Conan O'Brien's Tonight Show.) The Bud Lite bar on the set seemed like nothing more than shameless product placement but perhaps they have things planned that will make it seem less gratuitous.

The studio audience seemed way too overstimulated, like the warm-up comic had threatened them with immediate eviction if they didn't laugh at every joke and leap to their feet for every conceivable standing ovation. That's the way it is on most talk shows these days but it seemed to be working against a lot of what Corden was selling, which was excessive humility. I get that he is honored and overwhelmed by this opportunity but I think he made that point a few too many times.

So what did I like? Pretty much everything else though with minor reservations. The opening bit with various celebs teaching him his job was clever and so was the sketch with Corden and Hanks acting out moments from most of the latter's films…but both went on too long. The opening monologue was okay. The conversation was pretty good. I liked what little we saw and heard from Reggie Watts…though when Corden was standing next to him, it did look like a split-screen with images from two separate shows. Corden's closing song, which I presume was written by David Javerbaum, was a real nice way to end a good first outing.

It's unfair to dump on a first episode and almost as unfair to declare a great success…but I already like Corden more than anyone else in late night who shares his first name. And if the show slowly improves as most talk shows do their first year or three, it oughta become real good. I assume he's got time. Unless the ratings are an utter disaster (highly unlikely), CBS will keep him on until the measure of his success is how much of Colbert's audience he holds. For several months, he's going to follow prime-time reruns before that happens which won't help him…but they won't blame him if the numbers are bad during that period.

I would have liked to have seen them go with a host who didn't seem quite as committed to doing a conventional talk show with a few tweaks. Still, if they had to have one of them, I think they made a good choice. I have a feeling I'll be keeping my TiVo Season Pass.

Something Else I Won't Be Buying

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Up until a day or so ago, someone in Tampa, Florida was offering on eBay what they said was an original Walt Disney World Monorail Car. How could someone even have an original Walt Disney World Monorail Car? Well, according to the posted explanation…

It was our Last Spectacular Day at the Magic Kingdom. We were staying at the Polynesian resort at WDW. My wife and i were honeymooning at and having the trip of our lives. At the firework show we wished that we could have a cute little monorail of our own. When my wife went to bed, i snuck into the depot at WDW and threw it in the back of my f350 and drove away. In the morning we went to drive home and she saw it in the back of my truck. My wife was extremely happy to say the least.

When I read that on the eBay page, I had the feeling that wasn't the real story…or if it was, that something was missing…like a line that said "I saw they had some old, unwanted Monorail Cars lined up waiting to be hauled away to the dump so I grabbed one." Or some other innocent circumstance. As written, it sounded like he stole the thing and I'm not saying he did; just that he left out the part of the story that would explain how he acquired it legally. Anyway, he had it listed with an asking price of $260,000 and a starting bid of $169,000 — with Free Shipping. But in the last day or so, the listing has disappeared off America's Auction Place.

A search of the 'net however discovered something else. The gent selling it was apparently named Christopher Nowak and this story from CNN says he bought the monorail car from someone else but wouldn't say who…

The couple from Chico, California, purchased the cab in 2014, dreaming of the day they might use it to drive their kids to school or bring it to the annual Burning Man festival. But plans change, and now the ultimate Disney collectible could be yours with just a few clicks and a whole lot of cash. Nowak declined to say what he paid for the rail car.

It also says, "Nowak says he did not receive a title or certificate of authenticity when he purchased the cab but he is confident that it’s the real deal. 'I guess there’s a chance it could be a reproduction but I’m not too worried,' he said." And now like I said, the listing seems to have disappeared from eBay.

So what do we think happened here? Did he find out it was a reproduction? Did Disney step in and say he was selling something he shouldn't be selling or maybe even possessing? Did someone swoop in and buy it in some deal that expunged it from eBay? Your guess is not only as good as mine, it's probably better.

Road to Ruin

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Out in Santa Monica, there's a road called the California Incline. It leads down from the city streets to the Pacific Coast Highway. If you've ever been out there, you've been up and down it many times.

To us lovers of the movie It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, the California Incline has a special significance. A number of scenes in the movie take place at the top of it (like the one in the screen grab above) and a number take place on it or right below it on that stretch of P.C.H. Remember the moment where all the stars pile into two cabs and as they take off chasing Spencer Tracy, Jonathan Winters (actually, his stuntman) is hanging onto the door of one of them? That was shot on P.C.H. at the base of the California Incline.

I get a lot of messages from people who are fans of that movie asking me if they can visit shooting locations. The one I always send them to is the California Incline. I tell them it's one of the few that are easily recognizable from the film and it's utterly accessible. Well, it won't be for long. Around this time next month, they're going to tear it down and build a new incline in its place. This article will tell you what's going to happen and how this will cause many traffic headaches for more than a year. More details can be found over here.

As one who feels this nation doesn't spend nearly enough on infrastructure and fixing old roads and bridges and sewer lines, I can't very well object to this just because it was a location for a movie I like. But it'll be hard to see it go…

…and until Memorial Day of 2016 when the new one is expected to be ready for business, a lot harder to get to the beach.

Slippery Slope

Something like 15% of the ketchup in a bottle never makes it out of the bottle and is therefore wasted. The same thing is true with a container of mayonnaise and many other foods and many non-foods like glue. Someone in Massachusetts has invented a solution to this problem.

Today's Video Link

We interrupt this blog for a commercial. We do not accept paid advertising here at newsfromme.com but we do plug that which we find miraculous. Every so often, there's a product that we think will do our readers so much good, we have to turn our enthusiasm for it into a blog post.

I am speaking of course of Pop Haydn's Original Magnetized Water. In case some of you are unfamiliar with the benefits of magnetized water, here's a video of Pop himself in the Palace of Mystery at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, explaining and demonstrating this invaluable commodity…

Cruz Control

To the surprise of zero people, Ted Cruz has announced he's seeking the Republican presidential nomination. I just wrote a post about how I think he's one of those guys who will run and run and run for it and never get it, ultimately receiving the same number of electoral votes in his lifetime as me. In it, I directed you to this article entitled, A Brief Guide To What Ted Cruz Actually Believes. and I explained how with anyone of either party, I think a piece like this should be titled, What He or She Actually Believes They Should Say.

It was a much longer piece than this but as I was finishing, I thought, "It's way too soon for me to be paying that much attention to this race. This one's going to be a roller coaster of changing front runners — obviously on the Republican side and maybe on the Democratic, as well — and hysterical charges and people predicting Doomsday if X is elected and I just don't have the stomach for this. I'm going to try to not watch or read much about this election until it gets down to the point where two people are actually going to get their respective parties' nominations. I probably won't succeed but then neither will most of the people seeking those nominations, either.

The thing to remember is this: Just because someone is running for president, that doesn't mean we have to listen to them. Now, anyway. Watch old Bilko episodes instead.

Ten-Hut!

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Here's one of those "Act Fast!" bargains! Today only, Amazon has discounted the boxed DVD set of Sgt. Bilko to $56.00. That's 20 DVDs containing all 143 episodes of one of the five-or-so best situation comedies ever done…and it's one of those old ones that really stands up well. Not all of them do but TV comedy never got a whole lot better than watching Phil Silvers as M/Sgt. Ernest T. Bilko wheel and deal and just perform the hell out of those scripts by Nat Hiken and friends. The set also contains a lot of special features, videos of other shows where Silvers played Bilko, a rare audition/pilot for the series, commentary tracks, etc.

I don't have to do a hard sell on this. If you know the show, you want this. Order here and remember that price is just for today.

My Lunch, Part Two

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Continuing from yesterday, here's a piece that first turned up on this here blog on 7/3/06. If you've been visiting here that long, I presume you've forgotten it and could stand to read it again…

As you may remember, they had just opened the long-awaited cafeteria at Westwood Elementary School. Foolishly — I was young at the time, remember — I'd assumed the cafeteria would be like other cafeterias that I visited with my parents…places where you had some selection as to what you'd eat. Not so with the one at my school. There was one meal each day, take it or leave it — and if you took it, you had to eat it.

Students were deputized to police the lunchroom and hover around the trash cans…and if someone didn't finish their lima beans or their Spanish rice, they were sent back to the table to clean the plate. This was among my worst nightmares: Being forced to eat that which my instincts told me I shouldn't eat. All my life, I had problems with certain foods. I later found out from doctor-type people that it was a complex array of food allergies and intolerances but even at the time, I knew that if I ate raw tomato or lettuce, for instance, I was in for stomach cramps, pains, upchucking and other unpleasantness.

A great lie that was told to kids back then — and is probably still told to some — is that you always had to eat everything put in front of you. No, you most assuredly don't. Some foods don't agree with some stomaches and it's foolish to regard Not Wasting Food as more critical than your own health. It also, of course, isn't good for one's weight to approach every meal with the idea that you have to stuff every scrap they give you down your throat. If early on, I'd gotten in the habit of stopping when I felt I'd had enough, I might not have had to recently undergo Gastric Bypass Surgery.

I love cafeterias — the kind where you can see the food and then decide what to eat. There are no surprises…no finding out that the sandwich — automatically and without warning — comes with cole slaw on it or that the fried chicken is unexpectedly battered in shredded coconut or that the veal parmesan includes a gratuitous, offending layer of eggplant. You can even usually see if the portion size is more than you want to swallow. I also have always favored cafeterias because in every "real" one I've ever been in, there's a person standing there who'll carve slices of fresh, just-out-of-an-oven turkey for you, right off the bird. This may be my favorite meal in the world and when I heard my school was opening a cafeteria, I thought, "Oh boy! I can have sandwich of real, just-cooked turkey every day for lunch." It was a shock to learn that I could not.

I recall the horrifying sequence of events with a shudder. They announced on a Friday that the new cafeteria would begin serving lunch on Monday, and many students cheered the end of hauling in mom-made peanut butter-and-jelly concoctions. I told my mother not to bother filling my trusty lunch box (which may then have been the model seen in the above picture). I would henceforth be dining at the school cafeteria, which I imagined looking like the Ontra, the cafeteria in Beverly Hills that my parents and I frequented. Monday morn, I felt almost naked, walking to school without a lunch pail.

Then, around 10 AM, the vice-principal came in and read a little memo about the cafeteria, hailing its creation and telling us all how to line up for it and how to behave and to do a lot of the same things advised in this film. Everything sounded fine until she got to the part that said that the meal today would be Chicken Tostadas. I waited to hear the other options but there weren't any. It was Chicken Tostada or go hungry. Furthermore, she told us about the monitors who'd make sure you didn't leave the cafeteria until you had completely consumed every last bit of your Chicken Tostada.

I wasn't sure exactly what a Chicken Tostada was but I had the chilling sense it meant trouble. During a break, I turned to the classroom dictionary, looked up "tostada" and read that it was "a tortilla fried until crisp, garnished with fillings including shredded lettuce, salsa and other things Mark can't eat." At least, I think it said something like that. I also looked up "cafeteria" and found the definition, "A self-service restaurant in which food is displayed on counters, allowing a choice from among different selections." For a moment, I thought of chasing the vice-principal down the hall and showing her proof that, according to the Webster's people, my school had the whole concept of a cafeteria wrong…but I had the feeling it wouldn't do a whole lot of good.

I went without lunch that day…and don't think that was easy. During lunch period, they expected to see you dining either in the cafeteria or at our assigned lunch benches, and I couldn't show up at the latter, sans food without facing embarrassing questions and probably even more embarrassing explanations…so I hid out in the Boys' Room until the bell rang that said we could go out and play Dodgeball. The next morn, you could find me carrying my once-again-trusty lunch box to school.

Interestingly, the new cafeteria was a flop. Most of my friends tried it. Few of them liked it. I got the feeling that the only ones eating there were those with mothers who didn't want to bother making sandwiches in the morning. Those poor kids had to go in and eat the Chicken Tostada, which was a weekly feature and which was disliked even by kids who could and did eat Chicken Tostadas in other restaurants.

One day, the vice-principal came around to each class for a brief discussion as to how they could get more pupils to patronize the new, expensive-to-build cafeteria. What struck me about the dialogue was that she more or less ruled out "the food is bad" as a reason. When someone suggested this, she launched into a little speech about how it was necessary to keep prices down so that every student could afford to eat there…and for what they charged, that was the best food that could be offered. With that off the table (so to speak), she pressed us for other reasons. What if we staggered the times different classes were dismissed for lunch so the lines at the cafeteria would be shorter? What if the plastic silverware was at the end of the line instead of the beginning? The one comment no one was allowed to make was that the food stunk, and I could see that that was the only thing on everyone's mind.

Finally, I raised my hand and made a little speech, ever so politely, about how I didn't understand why a place that served only one meal was called a "cafeteria." I read the definition and suggested that maybe, just maybe, our cafeteria could offer a choice. Maybe?

The other students actually applauded. I had found a way to skirt the ban on suggesting the quality of the food was the problem. The vice-principal listened and said, "Hmm…that might be worth looking into," and I wondered why a grown-up needed a ten-year-old boy to suggest to her that maybe the reason no one was buying the product was that they didn't like the product. I mean, I'd figured that out a few years earlier when my friend Johanna and I had run a lemonade stand with neither repeat business nor enough sugar in the lemonade.

But I'll say this for the vice-principal: She took my suggestion, looked into it and — sure enough — the cafeteria began experimenting with offering a choice of entrees. For instance, the first day they did this, you could have your choice of the Chicken Tostada or the Beef Tostada. I went for the peanut butter-and-jelly on white and so did almost everyone else.

Today's Video Link

The group Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS raises a ton o' dough each year to help folks in and around the theatrical community, mainly though not exclusively those afflicted with HIV/AIDS. They also support other, non-theatrical efforts in that direction. Among the ways they raise funds is to stage some wonderful shows and this clip is from the 2007 Gypsy of the Year Awards, which I wish I'd seen in person.

2007 marked the 50th anniversary of the Broadway milestone, West Side Story. In the number you're about to see (assuming you're smart enough to click below), several moments from that show were re-created on stage with then-current Broadway dancers and they were joined in the effort with members of the original cast. I wasn't there but even out here, I could hear the audience back there applauding…

Getting Over Rainbows

Over on Facebook a few weeks ago, Dale Herbest put this question to me and I thought I'd answer it here…

I agree with you that the song "When You Wish Upon a Star" has an ultimately misguided message but how do you feel about the song "Rainbow Connection" from The Muppet Movie? While it has a similar message to WYWUAS, it doesn't seem (to me at least) to be as naïve or as overly idealistic. RC seems to have a more practical moral that has equal appeal to both the realists and idealists of the world. Any thoughts?

I like "The Rainbow Connection" but I'm not entirely certain what its moral is. In fact, back when that movie first came out, I asked a few different friends about it and got varying answers, one of which was "Who cares? It's Kermit singing so I love it."

The others ranged from "Anything can happen if you wish for it" to "Wishing is a waste of time." After discussing it with friends and thinking about it a bit, I decided the correct answer was "Who cares? It's Kermit singing so I love it."

Generally speaking, I am against telling people — especially people who will believe it and carry it to ridiculous extremes — that anything is possible in life if you want it badly enough or try hard enough. The career I have now was possible and attainable. Becoming a professional jockey — not that I ever so fantasized — was not, especially after my height topped six feet. We all have limitations of physicality, talent and opportunity. There are also numerical limitations. A microscopic percentage of those who dream and strive and Wish Upon A Star to become President of the United States will ever get anywhere near that achievement. There simply are not enough openings.

Great things are possible…and the key word in that statement is "possible." It's fine to have a fantasy but, you know, if a guy decides he's never going to settle for any woman in his life who isn't Kate Upton, he's going to get awfully lonely.

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"The Rainbow Connection" asks, "Who said that every wish would be heard and answered when wished on the morning star?" Well, a lot of people say that as they prey on people with dreams, offering to help them make those dreams come true…for a price. I've heard way too many stories of wannabes handing money they can ill afford over to teachers and coaches and agents and managers and spiritual leaders and others who profit by promising that which they cannot deliver. And the money sometimes isn't the worst part. It's raising false hopes and leading aspiring writers or actors or whatevers down false paths.

If the point of that song was that wishes do not all become reality, then I think it's a much better song (moral-wise) than "When You Wish Upon a Star." The latter is a lovely tune but back when Jiminy Cricket sang it, it did make a difference who you were. Your chances of attaining your dream were pretty low if you were black, even if your dream was just to use the same water fountain as white people in some states. There was also a cap on your dreams if you were a woman and, truth be told, a lot of white males weren't about to get their dreams, either.

I don't think most people who heard "The Rainbow Connection" paid a whole lot of attention to its lyrics which, like I said, I'm not sure I understand because the last part seems to say you'll find your rainbow connection (i.e., the path to your dream) if you hang out with the lovers and dreamers. There's certainly nothing wrong with loving. Loving is a very good thing and I don't know how anyone can survive without it.

And there's nothing wrong with dreaming as long as you don't go through life half-asleep. I just see way too many people around me who confuse wishing and dreaming with actually doing something…including facing reality.

Instant Brilliance

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I am once again recommending this show to those of you who live anywhere near Southern California. I have been around improv comedy and its practitioners for many years. I have never seen better than what is concocted by the players of Instaplay.

The director of this troupe, Bill Steinkellner, is one of the best teachers of this art form. Accomplished, experienced improv comedians like to "work out" with Bill because he coaches them into being even better than they already are. Every so often, he and a bunch of them do an Instaplay, which means that the live audience — and that includes you if you're there — suggests titles for a play they'd like to see. A dozen or so titles are suggested. Everyone in the hall gets to vote…

…and then the one that gets the most votes magically appears on stage.

Bill and his cast — the next one will feature George McGrath, Jonathan Stark, Deanna Oliver, Cheri Steinkellner and Navaris Darson — make up the entire play right then and there, including songs. (John Boswell will be at the piano for the April show.)

They do not do this very often. In fact, whenever they do this, we all kinda wonder if they'll ever do it again. But I will be there for the show on Saturday, April 11 at 8 PM and I suggest you join me. It's at the Fanatic Salon Theater, which is located at 3815 Sawtelle Blvd. in Culver City, and I'll warn you the place is lacking in opulence. It's a pretty shabby theater actually but with such a fine show, who cares? Tickets are only thirteen bucks each including the service fee and you can order yours right now at this website.

So what play will you see if you're there that evening? I don't know. They don't know. You'll have to show up and find out right along with the actors performing it.

My Lunch, Part One

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Let's roll this blog back to 6/15/06 and a remembrance of what lunch was like on the schoolyard when I was but a lad…

Lunch in elementary school could be traumatic. In junior high and high school, it was no problem: I brown-bagged it, bringing in a paper sack into which my mother had inserted either a meat loaf sandwich or a tuna sandwich or a peanut-butter-and-strawberry-jelly sandwich (something of the sort) and a little baggie containing three Nabisco Chocolate Chip Cookies. Today, they call them Chips Ahoy but back then, they were just Nabisco Chocolate Chip Cookies. I'd eat, toss the bag and that would be it.

Not so easy back at Westwood Elementary. Back there, if you didn't have a cool lunch box…well, forget it. You might as well paint a big sign on your butt that read "Mock me unmercifully." I don't recall if a bagged lunch suggested you were poor or low-class or boring or just why it was such a social faux pas. All I remember is that whenever my old lunch box had to be retired, I had to get the new one before the next school day. I didn't dare go to class with my eats in a sack.

Lunch boxes had to be replaced with alarming frequency. (So did our Student Teachers.) On our schoolgrounds, both got battered about a lot — enough that I'm amazed any lunch pails from that period still exist, let alone in "collectible" condition. But what was really vulnerable about them was the thermos bottles. Today, I'm told, they're like the black box on an airplane. Back then…drop one and it was history. Heck, just nudge one and it was goner. You'd shake it, hear the inner lining rattle about like broken glass and then pitch it into a trash can. So what did you do if the thermos in your Porky's Lunch Wagon lunch box (I had one) busted? Well, you didn't replace it with a generic thermos; not unless you wanted snide remarks from your fellow pupils. Instead, you had to get your parents to buy you a new lunch box with matching milk container.

This was how it was in first through third grades while I was at Westwood. In fourth grade, they began having someone sell milk at lunchtime — a little carton for a nickel, sold from a cart behind the cafeteria building that they'd been building since I was in Kindergarten. This simplfied the process since you no longer needed a thermos at all. This not only spared you replacing the whole lunch box every few weeks, it enabled all our mothers to pack more into our lunch kits. Mine took to adding in fruit and small packets of Laura Scudder's Potato Chips. I think each packet held about four chips.

Then in fifth grade, they finally got the cafeteria building up and running. I'll write about that wrenching experience in the second part of this post, maybe later today, maybe tomorrow.

Suite Dreams

Tuesday morn at 9 AM on the West Coast, hotel reservations will go on sale for this year's Comic-Con International. This page will tell you all sorts of things you'll need to know if you seek to reserve a room through this system. Good luck…and don't despair if you don't secure one right away. More may become available later via this system and there are ways of getting a room outside this system through unaffiliated booking sites.

Today's Video Link

I have a feeling most of you saw this but just in case…