Monday, June 30, 2008

movie stars! - back to the Calif trip

Well, after a long haul through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, we finally made it to the promised land! We were heading right to Bill Marx's house in Palm Springs, Calif. Bill is a Wonderful guy, a man who should be made a saint someday. The patron saint of music and jazz. The man - well, more about him later.

Here we have a selection of photos Mayu took while we were driving into Palm Springs. I don't know how many of you have been there, but it's rather an amazing place. We were coming from the highway, and there was Nothing there. I mean, NOTHING interesting to see from the highway. I was very perplexed, because I'd heard for a long time what a haven this was to the wealthy. But from the highway all you see are mountains and green desert (as opposed to the rolling sand kind). You would Never think that life would change so dramatically once you drive quickly through those mountains.

Then it becomes the paradise it is famous for.

The photo you see of the pool is our first night's stay. From every direction, no matter where you look, you see mountains. Just like Japan.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Wall*E is GREAT

You should all go see it. Wonderful film. I know this phrase is overused today, but it really Is a film more for adults than kids. In fact, I wonder how bored kids will be with it. Very well done on every front. I don't see why the President is a real person and not a cartoon; and why the camera intentionally shakes when Wall*E is chased by the shopping carts. But it's a nearly perfect film.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

an agent for newspaper articles?

The wonderful Lon Davis, author of Silent Lives and editor of the new Three Stooges book, sent me an article on voice actors written by a Washington Post writer. It's about why movie studios today feel they have to hire big names, like Jack Black (tho he Is great), to do voices for cartoon movies. I agree - there are SO many GREAT voice actors out there no one knows who can do just as good a job, if not better, than celebs. Why aren't they hired anymore? They used to be. Mel Blanc, Paul Frees, Daws Butler. Some people know Mel, but not everyone. That makes the Nameless talent less valuable? The world's turning more corporate? People are going to see these cartoons with whole families. Are they going because of the celebrities? Or are studios really hiring the stars' PR machines to spread the word better?

Reminds me of this: why does Coke need to advertise as much as they do? I really don't know the answer.

But that article raised an introspective question with myself too. How come I'm not interviewed for newspaper articles like this? Or asked to do DVD commentary when a new cartoon series comes out which stars the voice of Daws or Paul? I don't think my grapes are completely sour; but I did write books on Frees, Daws and the upcoming Blanc. Do I need an agent to tell these people I exist?

I remember before the live-action Underdog film came out at theatres last year, someone called me to request a copy of our Underdog book because he was part of the team producing extras for the DVD. Well, there's no extra on that DVD having to do with the creator of Underdog or the book they wrote. That was disappointing.

If someone can tell me how to get to the right people, please do. When I write a book, I do my homework and try to get to the people who have the answers. Perhaps that's not really the way it works with the mainstream? There are other agendas that are more important? Or perhaps I need a pushier personality.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

an interview with me

Someone reminded me of the interview I did about Paul Frees that's online at
so I just wanted to share that.

More on the trip tomorrow, kids!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

more in Arizona

Ah, I love it that we took all these pictures. I can update the blog often without having to write a lot!

More of those beautiful blue skies and desert lands in AZ.

Monday, June 23, 2008

a new Fibber book

One of my favorite stories in the first It's That Time Again! series I put out was the first story in it, Our Miss Brooks by Clair Schulz. Imagine my great surprise when he came to me with the idea of wanting to do a Fibber McGee & Molly book. I knew his eye for perfection and detail, so I knew it would be good.

Well, it's almost ready. Have a look at the nifty cover now.

on the passing of the great George Carlin

George Carlin was one of the greats, and possibly my favorite American comedian. Very smart. But not show off smart. Personal, but not "my girlfriend told me" and "I hate airline food because" personal. Political, but not so proper noun oriented that you can't watch a rerun without streaming footnotes or a perfect memory. He was a perfect dividing line between Bill Mahr and your average comic who stands up and just tells everyday life stuff He thinks is funny.

George was an actor who memorized complex ideas and tongue twisters because he, like me, loves the sound of language. What it can represent, the ideas behind why we choose certain words to fit certain ideas. I find that stuff as fascinating as he did.

Here's to you, George. Your influence will continue to be felt, but your person and your mind will be greatly missed.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

snakes & scorpions

I know this sounds weird, but I was a bit disappointed not to see any snakes or scorpions in AZ or NM as we drove thru. You often see these signs at the rest stops in those states. I'd heard that snakes prefer to come out at night when it's cooler. I've never seen a snake before that wasn't on tv or film. Maybe I really don't Want to. But it's kind of like going to LA and not getting to see a movie star or a traffic jam! :)

When I worked at Walmart when I was in high school, I worked in Pets, and we actually sold scorpions. I don't know if they still do that anywhere now. And we also sold white mice which people bought to feed to their snakes. Seriously. And I personally sold about 20, I'm sure. Poor, cute little guys.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

look at that gorgeous sky!

We're still in Arizona, boys. Look at that sky!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Japan is a great country

I was surprised to find this article on Yahoo this morning:

You see, I think Japan is rather a super nation. I mean, it's almost the perfect society. Smiling, friendly, honest, open, respectful of privacy, helpful, energetic, smart, hard working, eager. Of course that's all viewed from a distance, and from what little I know of Japanese people, they are good at disguising themselves to strangers. As opposed to the south, where I live, in which even strangers are eager to share their opinions with you, just talking out loud to themselves. Giving you more info than you need. And complaining.

The thing I like most about Japan is how positive they are, as a whole. I'm sorry to see there are a lot of sad people there too, just like the rest of the world. But rather than censor the internet, which the article states websites should do, perhaps we should all work on the rather larger, probably impossible, solution of Making People Happier. Not just Japan, but the world in general. There is SO much about Albany I would change. "Making the world a better place is tough!" you say. Yes, but I figure it's like recycling and voting. It doesn't really matter if one person does or doesn't do it. What matters is changing that mindset so that we don't think it doesn't matter. "One person counts more than the whole" is a rather Republican statement (and I'm not a Rep), but maybe if we all thought that way, humans would change, thereby changing the world without much effort.

Okay, I realize this is like changing the weather, and I'm not offering any solid solutions on how to do this. But I say - just be nicer to people. When you don't feel good, at least don't be mean. No reason to spread poison just because it's inside you.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


This was a more interesting state, made more interesting by the jack rabbits and road runners that frequent the state. We saw both as we were driving one evening, in that magic time between darkness and setting sun. Hard to see them, and at 65 miles an hour, we only had a few seconds to see both, but there they were. And that same evening, two foxes or coyotes crossed the highway at impressive speeds. They are experts at crossing that road, obviously. Just glad I didn't hit anything. And in the 3 weeks we were gone - we had No incidents! Not even when getting into the rat race that is Calif.

Well, the Howard Johnson receipt I have here reminds me that we stayed in Yuma on the 15th, but that's the return trip. The pictures you see here give a better idea of what we did on our drive going west. One thing that impressed us a lot was the Black Bear diner which was ultra-cute. Mayu and I both like theme places - restaurants, mini-golf, etc. - hence our shared love of Disneyworld. This restaurant was right next to our hotel in AZ. Mayu thought it looked cute from the outside so we went in for breakfast the next morning and were even More impressed. Very nicely arranged. And it's a chain biz. Never heard of it, but I'd like to try another one sometime.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

moving into New Mexico

Hi, kids! Here we are in New Mexico. Festive, eh? Mayu loved that sharp shootin' little fellow in the hat, so I tried one on myself.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

then comes Dallas

Here we are - in Dallas! Now, this was one of the highlights of the trip TO Calif. Big city. Stuff to do. But we were getting tired, even by this point, so we just stopped at the first mall we saw from the highway. Very nice one. And we came across a French cafe restaurant called La Madeline's (sp?) which I've been to in New Orleans once. I knew there was another in Washington, DC but didn't know it was a chain beyond that. Lovely, lovely restaurant that has now become Mayu's favorite, and easily her favorite restaurant on the trip. She adored that almond cross. you see above. That potato soup there was the bee's knees as well. Luckily on the way back we found another one in Houston, so Mayu found heaven twice. We're thinking about driving to New Orleans once this summer too, so she'll get to visit the Original one of these days.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

back to the trip - more Texas pics!

Okay, gang, who wants to go to Texas? Come on!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Happening & Hulk

We saw The Happening last night, and let me warn you all. THERE IS NO TWIST in this film. I could feel the whole audience waiting for something. It doesn't show. It's a drama with a fantasy element. Not worth going to, in my opinion. Too bad. I feel sorry for the writer/director who is good and is going to have a lot of trouble pulling big stars and putting out his movies as theatrical releases in the near future because of this and Lady in the Water.

Just got back from seeing Hulk by myself, because the trailer didn't look too interesting to Mayumi. I thought Pete's Dragon 3 was just as good as Pete's Dragon 2 (previous Hulk), which means just okay. Lots of talk in this movie. Didn't look too expensive or impressive. I say go see Iron Man a 2nd time if you wanna sit in a cool theater again.

Friday, June 13, 2008

greatest wife in the world

A short word about my lovely wife, Mayu. She's the best traveling companion a person could hope for. No complaints. Even from all the driving and sitting and getting an aching back sometimes, she didn't complain. Her attitude is 99% positive, and that's really the first thing I fell in love with. Her attitude. Sometime I'll tell the story of how we got together, but let's just say that her combination of beauty and sense of fun keeps us going like a Thin Man couple. :)

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Yep, the state next door to LA is TX, and wow. What a lot of land. Now, keep in mind, we drove on I-20 to I-10. That's not the way you wanna drive thru Texas. You want to drive ALL the way on 10, if you want something to look at, or places to stop at. We didn't know that. We drove. And drove. And drove. The occasional oil rig, dust devil (mini-mini tornadoes made out of dirt) and sickly cactus was the only thing to please the eye in a state that has but one speed limit: 70 in the day, and 65 at night.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

moving westward

Except for the mighty muddy Miss. River, I don't recall much about that state. Louisiana of course is fun, but I can't remember what we did there either, except taking a picture of the rest stop! Some travel journal, huh?

Well, we did get to something called the Louisiana Boardwalk, which was - somewhere. Enjoy the pictures of this rainy day. Nice trendy area. We had ourselves a so-so pizza here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

the California trip!

Okay, on May 1st we started driving West. To California! Well, it was a late start to the trip, as we got out of the house late, then discovered 20 miles away that we'd forgotten our money! So, back to the house, then to Krystal (a southern chain we love specializing in Little hamburgers and Little chicken sandwiches), because by then we were hungry. We were going to stop off at our usual Atlanta Bread Co. nosh in Columbus, GA which was on the way, but since we had a Krystal lunch, we decided not to get off the highway, but just keep going into Alabama. We went thru Montgomery - and not for the first time. Last year sometime we visited Harry Ritz's (the Ritz Bros.) son, Michael, there, and spent a lovely afternoon with him, before going to dinner at his recommended spot - Bone Fish Grill. One of the best meals we've had in the south.

But - back to This trip. We got deep into Mississippi by night. On May 2nd we stopped at a Miss. Welcome Center to view the mighty dirty Mississippi River! It looked like Willie Wonka's chocolate river, but I doubt it tasted as sweet.

Somewhere along the way, we came across a cactus farm. Perhaps I'm going out of order here, but this is the order of all the pictures, so maybe it Was on our 2nd day. Anyway, we were in the midst of a bus full of kids, but going into the side greenhouses, it wasn't too busy. Interesting stuff too. When I was growing up, I don't recall veering off to side attractions like this. Perhaps we did. But my tiny mind only remembers the Big things like Disneyworld and the Grand Canyon. I appreciate little things more now. And it's nice to share a life with a wife who thinks ditto. Trouble is, unless it's on the interstate, it's hard to know where to go. Plus, when you're headed to Calif., you don't want to blow all your energy too quickly. And we almost did!

By the end of the 2nd day, we were 20 minutes from Dallas, and had no idea how much more driving there was to go. You haven't driven until you've driven thru all of Texas!

More tomorrow.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Zohan & Panda

We saw both new movies this weekend. Zohan first, which was very good. Forget what the critics say (I always do; sorry, but people who claim No Country for Old Men and Juno are great and entertaining do NOT speak for me), it's a Fun film which is near perfect for the first half. Then it gets a bit too political and convoluted. The Mariah Carey cameo was fun, but seemed more like an advertisement for her than anything else re: humor. Lots of good stuff in it though. Sure was more fun (and Better effects) than Hancock promises to be!

Kung Fu Panda was great. Not in the class of the Wallace and Gromit film of course, but Very entertaining and funny. Jack Black is the Perfect choice for the "big kid" panda, and the great thing is that there are NO annoying characters, and finally a kid's film with no poop jokes! I couldn't believe it. Good script. Jackie Chan as the monkey had maybe 4 lines in the whole movie, so it was a vast mistake to use someone of his import in a less than cameo role. Ah, I remember when cartoons were full of voice actors, not Names. Oh well. Panda is well worth seeing, despite the Casting Director.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Ted Key

While we were on the road (in Texas somewhere - and I'll be talking about the trip soon), I got an email from Ted Key's son Peter that Ted was gone. Actually, the day before we left for our 3 week car journey to Calif., Peter called to prepare me, saying that Ted was near the end and that he would be going soon. I was shocked. For some reason, when Ted and I started exchanging almost weekly letters about 4 years ago, I thought this was a man who would live forever. He came close to it.

Ted was a wonderful person. I never spoke with him on the phone nor visited him, though we were in the same state for a while (PA). The letters were enough for Ted, and just having him in my life was enough for me. He had a brilliant and sharp mind even in his 90s. He was a warm, positive person who never failed to answer my questions about Gus (my favorite Disney live action film) for which he wrote the story, or Hazel, since I had it in mind to do a book on Shirley Booth, but time commitments finally forced me to hand it over to someone else - the ever-resourceful Jim Manago, who made it into a better book than I could've done.

I asked Ted for all the comments he could muster on the show, and he obliged big time. He even lent me the Hazel "Bible" which was an eye opener because of the depth of character and detail that went into the show without actually Using that detail in discussing the characters' backgrounds. And then I asked Ted to do the foreword to the book, and he did, long before the book was out. (It only came out last month - so Ted didn't get to see it.)

For a few years I was after Ted to let me publish his unpublished autobiography. It took him quite a while to relent, since he was content to let the copy he had pass into a university library's collection. I kept telling him that it deserved to be shared with People, not the few who had access to Special Collections. Finally he agreed, and rewrote. I was still typing it up myself when he left us...

The thing I'll miss most about Ted was the love in his letters. He honestly cared about Mayumi and I and was positive about whatever we wanted, yet in a fatherly way that made me so sad when the letters stopped last Sept. He had a stroke which disabled his mind and body. I miss those letters so much.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

back to Boston!

Okay, kids, where were we? Well, I remember the last full day in Boston vividly because thanks to Mayu we found one of our 2 favorite areas. Quincy Market. It's where Cheers, the bar the tv series was based on, is. It's an area almost of warehouses - but each one is full of individual shops - not chains! - and a food court to die for. Homemade: cookies, ice cream, fish on a stick, pizza, ANYthing, all made by hand, with real butter, etc. And of course more seafood. We were a bit put off going to the area because one of the guide books said this was a fast food area. WRONG. Well, yes, the food could be had quickly, but to my mind, McDonald's and Wendy's is fast food, not these original items.

There was a guy juggling, places to get your face painted and balloon animals - yes, a real family theme park, out in the open, with more shops for mom than she'll ever thoroughly get thru in an afternoon, so bring a book, fellas! (I did. But I love reading, so it doesn't seem like waiting to me, as long as I have a place to sit!)

Oh, and I forgot to mention, we did take a trip to Harvard and MIT. Easy to get to via subway. Got myself an MIT hat. Nice gift shop/bookstore there. A few nice cafes too, but we didn't spend much time there.

We were only in Boston less than a week, but we did a Lot. Wore ourselves out too, as usual.

Next entry - going to Calif. by car!