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Tales of Something or Other #9

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I attended Ralph Waldo Emerson Junior High School in West Los Angeles. Somewhere on this blog, I've doubtlessly used the joke I used all through my time there: That I was the only person on campus who knew who Ralph Waldo Emerson was. The principal thought he made radios.

There were things I liked about being at Emerson…and if I could think of one just now, I'd lead off with it. Mostly, I view my three years there as a waste of time, at least in the classrooms. Outside the classrooms, one could do a certain amount of the kind of growing-up you have to do at that age, learning (somewhat) how to get along with others. But inside the classrooms…well, I can't remember a whole lot that went in one ear and didn't trickle quickly out the other. Oddly enough, I may have gained the most valuable "taught" knowledge (as opposed to the self-taught kind) in a group of classes I absolutely hated at the time.

Students were required then to take half a semester of Wood Shop, half a semester of Electronics, half a semester of Metal Shop and half a semester of Drafting. That's if the students were male. The female ones took classes in Homemaking and Cooking and things like that. This was, of course, back when the best thing a female could aspire to be was a wife and mother. It did not escape me even then that boys could stand to learn some things the girls were studying and vice-versa. I still don't know how to sew a button on a shirt and I seem to have passed the age where that's learnable.

My problems at Emerson were not so much the classes as the teachers. Metal Shop was taught by Mr. Delak who was also a gym teacher and who talked like a prize fighter who'd taken one too many to the head. He talked in halting phrases and rarely employed a word with more syllables than letters. He was okay, I guess. My problem there was that I can't think of too many skills I've ever been less likely to need in my life than riveting.

Less okay was Mr. Platt, who taught Electronics and explained things with a thick Southern accent. He kept talking about "sotta" and I wasn't the only student who took half a semester to figure out he was referring to "solder." I had other problems with him but I had them all on a grander scale with Mr. Mitchell.

Mr. Mitchell, who taught the Drafting class and Wood Shop, was the least okay. Both he and Mr. Platt had this fixed idea of what a guy was supposed to like and be like. He was supposed to revel in the shop classes and there was something wrong with any male who didn't love that stuff. Their attitude was along the lines of "A man builds things with his hands" and you could detect the subtle insinuation that if you didn't run a drill press once a week, you were probably queer. (I typed that sentence before I realized how phallic it sounds…)

Mr. Mitchell took an instant dislike to me and I, therefore, took one to him. He obviously thought I was a smartass…which was probably true but I still think that's not necessarily a bad thing to be when you're 13. If you think you know better than everyone else at that age, there's a good chance you do…and if you don't, well, that's a good time to learn you don't.

I got through Drafting class with Mr. Mitchell and may even have shown a teensy flair for it. It was, after all, drawing of a sort and I had some interest in drawing. Also, I was the best letterer he'd seen in years. Well, why not? I'd learned from the masters, not of Architecture but comic books. At any rate, my lettering impressed him and I didn't broadcast the fact that I had zero interest in a career doing what he was teaching us.

It was when we got to the Wood Shop class that things splintered. Mr. Mitchell treated woodwork as some sort of sacred male ritual. I was not able to hide how silly I thought a lot of it was. What he taught was, to me, a potentially useful skill, not a rite of male passage and a future profession.

And yes, I know woodwork can also be an art and a very fine one…but not at the level Mr. Mitchell taught it. Over the course of our ten weeks, we were to build three items: A key rack, a memo pad holder and one project of our own choosing from a catalog of plans he had. Our grades were based not on how creative we were but on how precisely what we made adhered to the diagrams we were given.

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The memo pad holder I made in Wood Shop.

My key rack got a "D," not because it didn't look nice or hold keys but because it didn't look exactly like everyone else's. And he further marked me down as a problem student because I couldn't hide my disinterest in Wood Shop. "We need to work on that attitude of yours," he'd say to me, once while he was holding a circular saw. It felt…threatening. My memo pad holder notched a "C-minus" and the less said about my elective project, the better. By that point, Mr. Mitchell thought I was the worst student he'd seen in years.

He reached that view about four weeks into the ten-week course. One evening, Emerson had this ghastly event called "Parents Go To School Night," designed to promote better teacher-parent communication. One or both of each pupil's parents would show up at Emerson that evening, hear an address from the principal in the auditorium, then go from classroom to classroom in a compressed version of their child's daily schedule. Instead of an hour, they'd spent fifteen minutes in each classroom listening to the teacher discuss the curriculum and then answer questions.

It made sense on paper, I guess, but whoever made up the timetable gave the parents the same barely-sufficient seven minutes we had between periods to get from classroom to classroom. We could do that each day because we knew where we were going and also, it wasn't nighttime on the campus when we were there, plus we were young enough to walk up and down stairs and between buildings that were often far apart.

My father had the fine sense not to go at all. My mother, like all those parents who did attend, got repeatedly lost and was late for most "classes." She missed one entirely because even with a huge map, she and many others couldn't find Bungalow B-22. I had a class in the well-hidden Bungalow B-22 and I thought you should have received an "A" in any course taught in it if you could locate it.

Alas, she was able to make it to the Wood Shop where she listened to ten minutes of Mr. Mitchell bragging how he taught the most important class at the school…the one that made capital-M Men out of small-b boys and gave them a profession that would serve them well in later life.

Finally, Mr. Mitchell took questions and my mother — and this will explain a lot about me to my friends — asked, "What do you do when you have a student who hates the whole idea of woodworking and is only in this class because it's required?"

When she got home, she told me, "The minute I said that, Mark, I knew I'd gotten you into trouble. He scowled, jotted down my last name and said, 'If your son feels that way, ma'am, I think you have the problem, not me.'"

The next day, Mr. Mitchell called me over to his desk. "Evner," he barked — he always called us by our last names and mispronounced mine — I met your mother last night." Only Mr. Mitchell could make the word "mother" sound like an insult. "She said you hate the whole idea of woodworking. What are you doing in my class if you hate it?"

I said, "They make me take it. I don't like doing push-ups either but they make me take gym, too."

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Wood.

Once again, he told me "we" needed to work on my attitude. "I teach woodworking but I also teach discipline and learning to follow instructions." He then assigned me the messiest job he had during the clean-up session at the end of class: The paint locker. You had to be real careful not to get smears of flat gloss multi-hued latex all over your jeans. As I did it, I just told myself, "Well, if I do, my mother's the one who's going to have to get it off or buy me new pants. And it'll be her fault."

For the rest of the term, Mr. Mitchell snapped at me, snarled at me and generally acted like a bad actor playing "Sarge" in one of those Marine Corps movies about making life hell for the new recruit. And the less I cared about it — and I really didn't — the nastier he got.

I had a friend named Dave who was a year ahead of me at Emerson and one day, we got to talking about Mr. Mitchell. "Has he put you in charge of the tool inventory yet?" Dave asked. I told him he hadn't. "Well, he will," Dave explained. "And when he does, here's what he'll probably do to you…"

Sure enough, a week later, I was put in charge of the tool inventory. It was getting near the end of class and I think he thought this was his last chance to make me suffer for the sins of my mother.

When you were in charge of tool inventory, you had to check the cabinet at the end of clean-up and make sure it held the right number of hammers and screwdrivers and levels and scratch awls and such. Then you had to report to Mr. Mitchell that every tool was in its proper place. If it wasn't, everyone in the class was in trouble but you especially were. No one could be dismissed to go to their next class if even one tool was missing.

The guy in my position was in charge of finding it…and responsible if it was not located. And like I said, no one could leave even if it meant they'd all be marked tardy or A.W.O.L. for their next class or miss their bus home. Legend had it that Mr. Mitchell had once made an entire class sit there during their lunch hour because of a missing chisel.

As an alternative, he also had a piece of paper that the person in my appointed position could sign. On it, I would admit I was responsible for the lost tool and I would promise to pay the full cost of replacing it. Another legend had it that a couple of students over the years had had to cough up the cost of a hammer or two.

But Dave had warned me of how this game was played. The day I was placed in charge of tool inventory, I never took my eye off the cabinet. I wasn't watching my fellow students so much as I was watching Mr. Mitchell. And sure enough, at a moment when he thought no one would notice, Mr. Mitchell slithered over to the cabinet, took a screwdriver and one of those long metal files with a wooden handle, then put them in his bottom desk drawer. Dave had told me he'd do something like that.

Clean-up that day proceeded apace. When we'd all put our stuff away, all the other students took their seats in the classroom area to await my inspection, my report to Mr. Mitchell and then their dismissal. I marched up to him and in front of the class proclaimed, "All of the tools are present or accounted for, sir." The other students, assuming they were about to be released, gathered up their books and got ready to stand and go.

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Hammer.

"Not so fast," Mr. Mitchell told everyone. He marched over to the tool cabinet, peeked in and then returned to his desk where I was waiting. "Evner," he said. "There's a screwdriver and a file missing and you're responsible for them. No one's leaving — do you hear me? No one! — until you either find them or pay for them!"

I opened my notebook and showed him a page on which I'd written, "Mr. Mitchell's lower desk drawer: 1 screwdriver, 1 file." Then I added, "They've been accounted for, sir. You have them."

He yanked open the drawer, pulled them out and turned to the class, accusingly: "Who put these in there?"

I said, "You did, sir. At 11:44."

Mr. Mitchell glared at me. Then he glared at the students, all of whom wanted to laugh and cheer but knew enough not to do that until they were at least a hundred yards from that building. Then he chuckled like he was pleased I'd outfoxed him (he wasn't) and said, "Class dismissed."

I tried to follow them out but he motioned for me to stay. When everyone else had gone, he said to me, "You know, learning to make things and work with tools can be a very valuable skill. Now, get out of here." I got out of there.

And y'know, he was right. In the half-century since I took his class, I have occasionally had to do things I learned how to do in his class. I can't say that for Chemistry or the Anthropology courses I took later at U.C.L.A. or even for Mr. Delak's Metal Shop class at Emerson. But I do occasionally have to do something with a hammer or a saw and I know better how to use them because of Mr. Mitchell. That doesn't make up for the hard time he gave me, quite unnecessarily. It's just something worth noting.

He never apologized to me or admitted he was wrong and I never did either of those things to him. He did give me a "D" in Wood Shop, the only one I ever got in any class. When my mother saw it on my report card, she said, "Son, I'm very proud of you…but why couldn't you have gotten that horrible man to give you an "F"?

I told her, "I'll try to do better next time."

Sunday Morning

Too much to do this morning. But check back this evening for a long, scary tale from my days in junior high school. It's me versus the guy who taught shop class…and only one of us walks out alive.

Oh — and I have to write a Groo letter page this evening. If you've been thinking of sending us an e-mail for possible publication, this would be a good time to do it. The address is letters@groothewanderer.com. As usual, if you want to see your letter in print, it's a good idea to not be funnier than the comic.

Martha Sigall, R.I.P.

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Photo by Tom Sito

Martha Sigall worked in the animation business for 53 years as an inker and painter of animation cels. Animators did the drawings in pencil and then it was up to folks like Martha to trace them onto sheets of celluloid and paint them with colors. If you ever saw a vintage Looney Tune or Merrie Melodie made after 1936, you saw Martha's handiwork and she labored for most of the other studios in town at one time or another.

In the last few decades, Martha became a great source for anyone researching the industry. She was sharp and bright and helpful and she had a good memory and — perhaps best of all — the wisdom to say "I don't know" when she didn't know. A lot of spurious history has been written because those who didn't know or remember felt they had to make something up or take a wild guess. Not Martha. She knew so much that it didn't bother her to occasionally say "I don't know."

I had the pleasure of talking with her on many occasions at animation events. She loved the field and she loved the people she worked with and she loved the newer generation of animation creators and animation historians…and we all loved her.

She died this afternoon at the age of 97. Her autobiography, Living Life Inside The Lines: Tales From The Golden Age of Animation can tell you more about her and so can her good friend, Jerry Beck. We'll miss you, Martha.

Today's Video Link

I never got to see the Broadway musical based on the movie, The Sweet Smell of Success. It only lasted three months and I was nowhere near New York during those three months. It closed shortly after winning but one of its Tony nominations — John Lithgow for Best Actor in a Musical.

The show had a book by John Guare, lyrics by Craig Carnelia and tunes by Marvin Hamlisch. Several of its songs became staples on the cabaret circuit, including this one which was cut from the show. It's sung here by Kelli O'Hara, who performed it on stage until it was excised. I think it's a great number and I hope you do, too. This is from a concert done to honor the late Mr. Hamlisch…

Saturday Morning

And remember when you could get up on Saturday morning and watch the best children's shows on the major networks? Now, if you want to watch cartoons on Saturday morning, you have to put in a DVD or turn to Basic Cable. These kids today!

The New York Times seems to like my new book, The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio.

People write to ask if I've recovered yet from that fall I took a week ago last Monday. Almost. My arm is still sporting a bruise the size of Shemp Howard…and it even looks a little like him, too. My doctor x-rayed it so many times, I am now incapable of reproducing but he found no cracks so I just need regular doses of Ibuprofen. My knee is pretty much healed. My big problem now is that muscles are stiff and I feel like my body is even less coordinated than usual. Daily walks seem to be helping that and once they do, I'll start driving again.

So…is the last Colbert Report going to involve the "death" of that Stephen Colbert? Or will he wake up in bed with Suzanne Pleshette?

Happy Birthday today to Mr. Dick Van Dyke, my all-time favorite performer and, I'm pleased to report, a very nice person. I'm also pleased to report that though he's 89 in real years, he could pass for 70. The guy dances and works out and just seems to defy age. I don't know how he does it but I'm going to start tripping over footstools and speaking in a fake British accent. Maybe one of those is the secret.

The Write Stuff

At the Miami Book Fair, I was approached by a young man who wanted advice on how to become a professional writer. I asked him if he was a non-professional writer. He said no. But if and when he gets the chance to make a living doing it, he'll start writing. That's the wrong time and reason to start.

I told him he's kind of missed the point of the profession he's looking to get into. You don't start by getting people to pay you for your work. You have a lot of bad writing to get out of your system before you'll produce any of the stuff that's worth money. (And yes, there are the occasional exceptions. There are also people who win the lottery. Don't bet your life you'll be one of them.)

He asked me what I loved about writing and wasn't satisfied with my answer…but I was quite serious. The lesser reason is that I enjoy sitting here, creating something out of nothing, winding up with a script or an article or an essay that someone will enjoy. That I'll also get paid for it is a nice bonus but really, it's that feeling of building something that is the core of my secondary reason.

My primary reason? It's because it's what I do best.

Now, let me clarify that: I don't mean "best" compared to anyone else. I mean "best" compared to other things I might do. I've always been terrible at most activities that involve manual labor, especially if they call for a sense of balance, great manual dexterity or selling. If I ever had to be a salesman, I'd be the kind who couldn't get anyone at a Tea Party convention to buy an Obama Voodoo Doll. I can do math but only in short spurts. (That was another reason, along with those I mentioned in a recent post why I gave up counting cards in Vegas.)

I'd also be terrible in any profession that involved essentially doing the same thing day after day. I know non-writers who look at folks like me and think we do the same thing over and over but unless I'm writing the same story — e.g., Scooby Doo scripts — it doesn't feel that way to me. (And yes, I'm kidding about the Scooby Doo scripts. In fact, one of the things I've enjoyed about them is the challenge of trying to make them not the same story again and again.)

Let's see what else: I can't cook very well. I'm terrible at foreign languages. I don't like driving. I used to be pretty good at lettering and passable at simple drawing but that skill has atrophied since I got a computer with Adobe Photoshop and a lot of fonts on it. I certainly can't sing or dance and my upper limit of "performing" for audiences maxes out when we do "Quick Draw!" at Comic-Con.

And maybe the biggest impediment to me doing anything other than what I do is this: When I'm not writing, my mind tends to wander to what I might be writing if I was home writing. So I'm a writer. And the reason is, honest to God, that I'm lousier at anything else I might be.

Whether I'm as good as or better than others is irrelevant. I figure I'm better than some, worse than some and that's as far as I want to think about that. All I know is I'm better at writing than I would be fixing drain spouts or running a drill press. (To drive that last point home, I have an essay coming up here about how I suffered when I had to take Woodshop in junior high school. To steal an old joke from George S. Kaufman, I managed to make it through without ever grasping the scientific principle of a hammer.)

But, getting back to writing…

There's that quote from Dorothy Parker which I cite here every so often just so I can disagree with it: "I hate writing. I love having written." I don't hate writing and wonder why anyone who did would choose that as a profession. That's like someone who hates dogs becoming a dog groomer. Or someone who hates having to lie getting a job at Fox News.

I love writing. I don't mean I love every assignment, of course. But even the worst one I've ever had to get through was better than going off and becoming a coroner's assistant or the guy who chops up the onions at Fatburger or something.

Which is why my advice to that fellow at the Miami Book Fair was not to become a writer if you have to become a writer. If you just start writing one day because you want to…and if you keep doing it whether or not there's money in it…you're off to a good start. It doesn't mean your work is any good but it does mean there's a better chance of it being good than if you get into it because it looks like an easy buck. For most writers, the buck is not easy and if there's a buck at all, there often are not many of them.

Today's Video Link

Every year, the folks at Turner Classic Movies whip up a stylish "In Memoriam" reel of folks in the film world who've died in the past year. I don't know why they release this early in December since somebody in movies is going to die in the next two weeks, but this is how they do it. In the past, they've gone back in and edited in additional people.

Here's the one for 2014 as it now stands. These are so nicely done that I've seen people wonder why the Academy Awards bothers to do their own. Why don't they just use the TCM reel? Probably because they don't agree they can't do something as good or better, want something shorter, don't want to publicize another network and also because the TCM videos aren't edited to allow for nice applause moments. But they're still great…

Today's Cosby News

I imagine anyone who cares about such things has read model Beverly Johnson on the time she (says) she was drugged by Bill Cosby, presumably as a prelude to rape. I'm guessing we're near the point where anybody who can be convinced has been convinced and the rest wouldn't believe it unless you showed them movies of it. Even then, some would probably insist it's camera trickery.

Unless I missed one, all the alleged incidents occurred long enough that the Statute of Limitations has run so no criminal prosecution is possible. So…do we think Mr. Cosby stopped doing things like that? Or do we think his people quickly "bought off" anyone since then to ensure their silence?

In all the articles I've read, I haven't seen anyone wonder about that. I also haven't seen anyone ponder how many rich and/or powerful people there are out there who are sweating, destroying evidence and/or paying off past victims of similar behavior. Even if by some hard-to-imagine twist, Bill Cosby is innocent, a lot of people have to be worried. Rape is the kind of crime that's quite under-reported for a wide array of reasons. Victims fear they'll be put on trial or that they won't be believed or that they'll let themselves in for hell from the rich rapist's lawyers or they just plain want to forget about the experience.

Women coming forth as Cosby's accusers have done is every rapist's nightmare. They count on all the above reasons plus others to keep their sick deeds secret. A lot of them have to be thinking, "If they could expose what Cosby did, they could dig up my transgressions, too."

I guess that's a good thing. Make 'em sweat. And make them and others think twice about doing that kind of thing in the future.

This Morning's Tortured Thinking

To those who wish I'd get back to talking about Show Biz and Comics: Sorry but this blog is largely about what's on my little mind at the time and what's on it right now is this: The moral disconnect in a nation where folks who are hysterical at the tiniest, arguable failing of their political opponents can then dismiss a program of torture that was both misrepresented and ineffective.

I'm starting to buy into the theory — Daniel Larison is one of many advancing it — that we didn't really torture to stop that utterly-mythical ticking a-bomb in Times Square. We tortured because the folks in charge had to prove to themselves and each other how tough they were.

Today's Video Link

Dr. Tongue welcomes us into The 3-D House of Beef…

Recommended Reading

There's one thing Fred Kaplan doesn't believe in the Senate Report on Torture. He doesn't believe George W. Bush didn't know about it earlier than the report says.

Oddly enough, I think this puts Fred in agreement with Dick Cheney. Cheney denounced the report (which he claimed to not have read much of) as "crap" and one of his assertions was reported as follows…

Cheney said he also rejects the allegation that his boss, President George W. Bush, was kept in the dark. "He was in fact an integral part of the program. He had to approve it before we moved forward with it," Cheney said. "He knew everything he needed to know and wanted to know about the program."

That's not a very stirring endorsement of Bush, and the last part of Cheney's statement in a way contradicts the first part. Did Bush know everything or did he avoid learning everything in order to have the kind of "plausible deniability" that Fred writes about? Fred says there's no way what the C.I.A. did was a rogue operation. Cheney said the same thing. On other matters, I think they disagree.

Today's Enhanced Interrogation Comment

Okay, so I've read a whole mess of articles about the Torture Report…about as many as I can stand. If you want to read one good commentary, read Andrew Sullivan as he points out how past defenses of torture based on theory look rather foolish given the realities revealed in the report.

My view is just my view but here it is. If you believe torture is a barbaric war crime that does little good but to make us the Bad Guys in the eyes of the world, you ought to be outraged at the people who did this.

If you believe torture is morally justified and effective — and to do that, you usually have to make up a science-fiction story about a ticking A-bomb somewhere in Manhattan — then you ought to be outraged at the people who did this. You should be outraged because they did it so badly and recklessly, including torturing innocent people and people who were misidentified, and who had to hide what they'd done from our own leaders…and who didn't get any real useful information out of it.

When all is said and done, Martha Stewart will have served more jail time than all of the people who did it and authorized it and hid it and lied about it, put together. And there will probably be more people in this country who will be furious at those who gave us Obamacare than at those who gave us Abu Ghraib.

Today's Video Link

For a few years of my life, I was frequently found not in Los Angeles but Las Vegas. There were about nine reasons I was there so often but one was that I was interested in Blackjack, more specifically in counting cards in Blackjack. It was, I swear to you, not so much for the money as the personal challenge. I just wanted to see if I could do it, I did it and then I quit.

I never had what they call a Gambling Problem. Even though I've been to Vegas every year or two since then, I haven't bet so much as a nickel…and I never in my whole life played craps, roulette, poker or most of the other games there. I just liked Blackjack.

One reason I stopped because I was significantly "ahead" in playing that game; not "ahead" enough to live off for a long time or anything. But I was "ahead" enough to feel I'd won and I knew that if I kept playing, no matter how well I played, I would hit a streak of dark luck and give it all back. And then I'd feel stupid and maybe even that I had to start all over again and get back to that number — which would make me feel even stupider if I then dug myself deeper into a monetary hole.

Counting cards was starting to feel less like sport and more like work. In fact, some times, it paid less per hour than going back up to the room and working on those scripts. So I went Cold Turkey and gave it up…and have never had the slightest urge to do it again. I'm not even sure I could do it again today; not without a load of practice.

Another reason I gave it up was that I was hearing a rush of stories of nastiness and threats when the casinos "backed off" card counters. That basically means they stop you from playing, which is their legal right. They can do it at any time for any reason. They can eject you because they don't like the color of your socks and that, by God, is that.

They don't usually get nasty with people playing at my low level but, well, you never know. I was "backed off" once at the Las Vegas Club downtown…and of course, it was for the wrong reason. I was counting cards there but the specific incident that caused them to oust me was unrelated to counting. (I told that story here.) I started thinking that if it happened once, it could happen again and if it happened again, it might have been even less pleasant. So there was another reason I got out.

Our video today is of a counter being "backed off" in a casino. I'm a little suspicious this isn't staged because…well, you piss them off when you count cards but an even better way to piss them off would be to go in there with a hidden video camera and put what you shot up on YouTube. But if it's a fake, it at least replicates the real way it happens. The pit boss who stops the fellow from playing looks like every pit boss I ever had a problem with in Vegas. Every one of them, I swear, looked like Chris Christie. And they were all wearing the exact same suit.

The player, as you'll see, tries to reason with the guy and negotiate his way back into the game…or to perhaps get a refund of the money he's down at that moment. This was probably a waste of time because, like I said, they can stop you at any time for any reason and there's really no appealing that decision. What the pit boss is proposing — the guy can play as long as he "flat bets" an entire shoe — would be one of the stupidest ways imaginable for a player to play.

Really, the way pit bosses deal with counters is just to get them the hell outta there. The pit boss would never be faulted by his employer for stopping suspicious players, only for allowing them to proceed. What he's basically saying to the guy is, "I'll let you play as long as you'll probably lose." The only way to win when you gamble is to quit when you're ahead. Controlling how much you bet and when you stop are the two main advantages a player has. You need them to have a chance against games which are configured to favor the house.

Here's the video. I don't guarantee it's real but it does show you how the process works…

Late Night News

A date has finally been announced. David Letterman will host his final episode on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. Why a Wednesday? Well, they didn't mention this in the press release but that's the last day of the May ratings sweeps period that year.

Final guests have not been announced. I'm wondering if he'll even have guests on his last show — Johnny didn't. But for his last show with guests, whether it's 5/20 or the night before, I'd guess Regis Philbin or Bill Murray plus some superstar music act. I sure wouldn't mind for the last one if Dave just sat behind his desk and talked for the full hour.

Also unannounced is what Dave will do next. I heard a few months ago that he was in discussions with CBS about some future relationship. Furthermore, I heard they were holding off on announcing a final date so they could announce at the same time that Letterman would remain in the CBS "family" and would be doing…something. That they haven't doesn't mean he won't; just that if he is, they aren't ready to say what it might be.

Personally, I'd love to see him do a weekly one-on-one interview show. Dave lately seems to average about one guest per week who he seems genuinely glad to have there and is interested in. Have those folks on for the hour and let them just talk: No stunts, no stupid human tricks, just a conversation. Of course, the trouble with this idea is that Letterman is notoriously reticent to be in prime time — and such a low-key show might look chintzy in prime time — and there's real no place to put it in late night. If they put it on Saturday nights at 11:30, it would get slaughtered by SNL.

So I can't imagine what they're going to do there. I also can't imagine what they're going to air at 11:35 weeknights between May 21 and the time Late Night with Stephen Colbert is ready to go. I'm hearing that could be upwards of ten weeks. Months ago, the thinking over there was apparently to not have a talk show on that real estate (Dave reruns or guest hosts) but something like reruns of Big Brother. Wonder if they're still thinking in that direction.

And I wonder what Colbert's going to do between December 18 and whenever he debuts on CBS. That could be 30+ weeks, which is a long time to expect your fans to remember you and remain loyal. He could pop up on The Daily Show and I wouldn't even be surprised to see him guest host for a week or two to give Mr. Stewart some time off. But I'll bet he wants to do a lot more than that to remain au courant and, as they say, trending.

So…lots to think about. And isn't it nice to have a topic that isn't about rape or torture?

Least Surprising Revelation of the Year

Dick Cheney was lying about torture.