My wife, the beautiful AP, says I have one criterion for judging people. According to her, “If they agree with you, Scobe, they are smart; if they disagree with you they are stupid. You have no in between.”
Okay, to show my beloved wife that she is wrong I took two people who have different opinions than I and we had a three-way conversation. Here it is, exactly as I recorded it:
HE: The worst table game in the whole casino is blackjack. I mean how do you know what decision to make? What are you supposed to hit? When do you stand? It is just too confusing.
SHE: Blackjack is a real pain in the neck because the people at the tables are all experts and some of them have big mouths and they tell you when you are doing something they don’t like. But I am betting my own money and how dare they try to intimidate me into playing the way they like?
ME: Blackjack is a good game if you know the right strategy. You can buy a basic strategy card in the casino gift shop and face maybe a half-percent house edge on the traditional game. If you play the correct basic strategy you can ignore what the “experts” at your table say because there is a good chance they are wrong. Just smile at them and then ignore them.
HE: I don’t want to look at a basic strategy card. People will think I am stupid. That would be embarrassing.
SHE: I really like to play those single deck games. I think you have a better chance to win at those games even with the 6 to 5 payout on the blackjacks. I heard single decks are the closest contest for the players.
ME: A lot of people use basic strategy cards. No one will make fun of you. It actually means you are smart. Now those 6 to 5 payouts on the single deck blackjack games, plus the fact that they hit soft 17s, will give the house about a 15 times greater edge on the single deck games than the casinos used to have in the good old days. You need to get that 3 to 2 payout on the blackjack to help make it a close game in terms of the house edge. So I think you must avoid all those games where the casino is taking too big a cut from you.
HE: I like craps because you have the best chance to win a lot of money at that game. You have bets that pay off like 10 to 1 and sometimes even higher. It’s a great game with a lot of excitement. I like to shake the dice up, blow on them, and then fling them down the table. I try to get them to bounce hard off the back wall and make it all the way back down to me!
SHE: Craps is too confusing. There’s too much going on.
ME: You know a lot of people think craps is confusing and it really isn’t. It’s a simple game. There are a lot of bets and almost all of them are bad. I hate to say this but all the bets that pay off large sums like 10 to 1 are bad bets with high house edges. Just use the Pass Line, take odds, place the 6 and 8 and the game is very close between the player and the house. You don’t even have to know the other bets because they aren’t worth making.
HE: I find roulette to be dull.
SHE: I love roulette. Some numbers get hot and if you are watching the scoreboard you have a really good chance to win.
ME: Roulette is fun and relaxing but the game is random so those hot numbers are not necessarily going to repeat themselves often enough for you to get an edge over the house. Because roulette at a crowded table is a slow game, the high house edge doesn’t hurt you as much as it would if you played the number of decisions you play in blackjack for instance.
HE: The other day I got a great comp from the casino. They treated us to dinner at the Steak House and I really enjoyed the meal.
SHE: My host loves to give us comps. She really likes us.
ME: Comps are rewards for play at specific levels. The host has some discretion but not a lot. If you get a gourmet comp that means you are betting enough that your losses will more than pay for that meal two or three times over. Comps are not given to people who are not going to make the casino enough money to warrant the comp.
HE: I always wanted to play baccarat but the losses at that game look like they are gigantic. All the high rollers play that game so they must lose a lot of money.
SHE: I understand it is a complicated game too. I saw the hitting and standing rules and I couldn’t even follow them.
ME: Baccarat is a good game with a relatively low house edge and the game doesn’t have a lot of decisions so your losses per hour are not so bad. In the high roller rooms the minimum bet is usually $100 but sometimes you can find games with $50 or even $25 minimums. The rules for hitting and standing have nothing to do with you. They are automatic and you don’t have to even know what they are. The dealers will tell you when to deal a card or to stand – which is one of the fun things about baccarat, you get to deal the cards at times. There is a mini-baccarat game too but this is very fast and the low house edge with a lot of decisions can still cut deeply into your bankroll.
There I did it. I didn’t tell either of these two that I was right and they were wrong. Of course, I was right and they were wrong. But I am sure you can keep that a secret from my wife.
Visit Frank’s web site at www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available at smile.amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, as e-books, on Kindle and at bookstores.
I am on every systems seller’s mailing list. I get emails, letters, flyers, and even some video promotions for “can’t miss” systems of play at whatever game I choose. Some of these systems are just for craps, some just for blackjack, some just for poker, video poker, slots, horse racing, sports betting and some, the really “incredible” ones, can be used for everything because they are – in the words of their inventors – that “powerful.”
Now there are some gambling “systems” that actually work – first because they aren’t systems by definition. Card counting at blackjack works, dice control works, optimum strategies at video poker work. I rarely get information shoveled to me about these “systems” because they all require certain levels of real work and the one thing a systems seller knows is this – most casino players do not want to work in order to get an edge. They want the edge handed to them. These types of casino gamblers are the welfare recipients of Lady Luck.
Systems buyers want a system that is so easy to use a complete fool could use it. Even the supremely easy card-counting system, which I write about in my book Beat Blackjack Now!, does require some modicum of effort. You have to add 1 plus 1 plus 1 and then occasionally subtract a small number from the total. For the system buyers this is just too much work. They don’t want to add; they don’t want to subtract; they don’t want to do anything but use a magic formula to win copious amounts of money – the kind of money the systems seller claims he has won over the past few years using this miraculous system.
The system seller knows how to get people to buy his or her stuff. He will write copious amounts of copy praising his product – liberally thrown in will be anecdotes and testimonials from people who have played the system and won hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands of dollars. These people may or may not actually exist but who cares? The idea is to bombard the reader with so many words and so much positive information that his defenses are ultimately shattered and he will open his checkbook or pull out her credit card and buy the product.
Obviously, I am not opposed to people selling or buying products about gambling. After all, I sell my own books, DVDs, and my speaking engagements. There are many magazines with contributions from many established gambling authorities, many of which are also selling books and other products. There is a gambling-writing industry after all and I am a part of it.
So how can you tell the difference between a legitimate seller of gambling information and a systems seller of bogus information? First the legitimate seller doesn’t make any outrageous promises. There might be such a thing as card counting at blackjack but there is no guarantee that you will become any good at it if you try it. Dice control is real but it is not an easy thing to master. No systems seller is going to tout his system by telling you that it is not guaranteed; that you might not learn it or that your talent could be lacking. That would be economic suicide.
The systems seller needs to sell vast quantities of his system in order to make money. He doesn’t care that his system doesn’t work because once you have bought it you are stuck – you have a worthless system and he has your money.
When I first started my foray in the world of casino gambling I did buy a lot of systems – to see what they were like and, to be honest, praying that they would work. Except for books on blackjack, every system I bought left me scratching my head and asking this question, “How can he sell this junk?”
I bought the “Magic Wand,” a device that would allow me to locate hot slot machines the way a dowser supposedly finds hidden water – or gold. I used it in Atlantic City and the only thing it found me were stares from people who thought I was crazy as I walked through the casino with such a strange looking cheap cardboard thingy.
I bought several systems for blackjack. One had me look for clumps of high cards and then bet heavily on the next few hands because “high cards follow high cards.” One had me upping my bet after three losses because “blackjack is an even game and once you have lost a few nature brings everything back into alignment.” Well, as most of you know, high cards don’t follow high cards and nature is darn fickle about righting things in a run short enough to be understood by me.
The craps system that most impressed me in its ad promised that I would win 83 percent of my decisions. “You Can Win All the Time!” the ad proclaimed. The system was the old “Iron Cross,” where you bet the Field and the 5, 6 and 8. You have 30 ways to win and a mere six ways to lose when the 7 showed. The 7 shows about 17 percent of the time – thus your winning percentage was about 83 percent. Wow!
The problem came in right away – that 7 blasted all your bets into losers, while your winning was always curtailed by concomitant losing. You could win on the 6, for example, but you would then lose the Field bet. You could not win enough to make a profit with this “fool-proof” system because that 7 was just too powerful on the “mere” 17 percent of the times it showed its ugly head.
The system seller knew what he was doing, of course. He was not lying in the traditional sense. His system did win 83 percent of the time. But it was not a winning system. This systems seller was the master of equivocation – he just made you think what he meant was that the system would give you long-term wins; he never actually said it. He never told you that the house edge on the “Iron Cross” was about four percent – which is a pretty hefty edge indeed.
Today the Internet is host to hundreds, maybe thousands, of systems sellers. You can read long, drawn out advertisements for their systems. Many of them claim that they are retiring from gambling life and want to share with you their miraculous system before they go to the fancy island they just bought. Personally I think the only island they should be allowed to inhabit is Alcatraz.
Visit Frank’s web site at www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available at smile.amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, as e-books, on Kindle and at bookstores.
What I wanted to do more than just about anything was beat my older bird, Augustus, and today I did it! I wanted to beat him bad, yes, real bad, for the years of his disdainful disobedience to me. Today would be the day.
Let me back up a little. I have two parrots, Augustus, a monk parrot, who is an old bird of about 22 – 24 (his life expectancy is about 25) and Mister Squeaky who is about seven or eight.
Mister Squeaky is a dynamo. More interesting is that Squeaky is a sexual maniac. I know I am about to lack decorum right after the word “but” but this parrot tries to screw everything. He screws the inside bars of his cage—top, bottom and four sides. He screws them when he is on the outside of them too, which is just about all day.
When he screws he makes all sorts of sounds. I assume they are pleasure sounds.
He screws the toys in his cage; the soft ones and the hard ones. He screws the handles of his cage which are used to transport him to wherever we need to transport him. Since Squeaky and Augustus’s cages are right next to each other, Squeaky goes into Augustus’s cage and screws everything he can find in there. Then he eats Augustus’s food, the same exact food Squeaky has in his own cage.
Oh, don’t feel sad for Augustus because he goes into Mister Squeaky’s cage and eats Squeaky’s food. Except Augustus doesn’t screw around. If a monk parrot can be a monk then Augustus is a true monk—celibate as a strict churchman.
Squeaky wants to be Augustus, who is the alpha bird in the house.
Mister Squeaky is my bird. He obeys my commands. If I tell him, even from across the room, “Go in your cage,” bingo! Squeaky goes into his cage. At 4 pm every day Augustus squawks that he wants to “go sleep.” That time is his bedtime.
So I call across my office, “Okay, guys, in your cage!” Squeaky zips in but Augustus sits atop his cage with his head tilted and his face telling me, “I don’t have to listen to you, bub.” At this point I bring Mister Squeaky’s cage into the dining room where he will stay the evening until he retires at 8 o’clock to have sex through most of his “sleep” time. Squeaky is with my wife and me as we have our usual evenings—meaning my wife, the Beautiful AP, tells me what I should do and I do it. “Lower the set! Stop watching TV and read a book instead.” That is, of course, marriage. Her demand is my command.
Squeaky does not obey my wife’s commands. He is also strong-willed, unlike Mr. Marshmallow, who is me.
Augustus, on the other hand, is my wife’s bird and he obeys her with true affection. They kiss and snuggle. Disgusting!
When I get back into my office Augustus is still on top of his cage, squawking that he wants to go to sleep. When he was young he could actually say, “Go sleep!” But words are not his thing anymore.
When he sees me, he deliberately moves to the back of the top of his cage where it is hard for me to reach him.
Since Augustus has aged he isn’t as dexterous anymore. He finds it hard to move down the bars of his cage and go inside, so I have to help him.
But every day, every damn day, I have to try to reach him across the top of his cage. He enjoys not making it easy for me to reach him.
“Augustus,” I say each and every damn day. “Don’t you want to go to sleep?”
Then I maneuver myself through the labyrinth of my wife’s desk, her chair, her music stand, and her treadmill to get to the back of the cage and that’s when Augustus scoots over to the front of his cage to force me to make the trip in reverse.
We do this several times every damn day, until Augustus relents and lets me pick him up and put him in his cage for a good night’s sleep. The last I see of him when I cover his cage with blankets is his head tilted and that superior smirk upon his face. Yes, a smirk. Parrot owners will tell you that even though a parrot’s face can’t change, you know exactly what it is thinking.
But today I had had it. I was not going to hustle through the obstacle course to get him. He would either come to me or sit outside his cage all night long.
I stood several feet from his cage and just looked at him, my face smirking as best as I could get it to smirk. “You’ll stay out here all night,” I said. “I am never going to chase around your cage again.”
From the living room I could hear Mister Squeaky screwing something. At least one of us was having fun, I thought. Or maybe two, if you count Augustus reveling in being his usual annoying self.
Augustus looked me. I looked at Augustus. Augustus tilted his head. I tilted my head. He squawked. I made some kind of sound back at him.
We looked at each other and then—yes! yes! yes! —Augustus walked to the side of the cage where I stood. I easily picked him up, placed him inside, and covered him for the night.
I won! I won! Yes, I did it! I beat my bird badly. In doing so, I once again established that man—that I! —was the master of the earth, not some recalcitrant parrot.
Flushed with triumph, I decided my next conquest would be my wife. Such a feat requires both strategic and tactical planning, as it is she who has won every encounter for the last 32 years. A man might be the master of the earth, but his wife, damn it! is the master of the universe.
Book Frank Scoblete to speak for your organization.
“The Birds” is not a novel. Rather it is a short story by Daphne du Maurier that appears in her book The Apple Tree. I’m guessing that you probably know about those birds from Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Birds.
The short story and the movie are quite different but that doesn’t matter. Both have our flighted friends, now turned enemies, attacking us with horrific designs such as —to put it mildly—wiping us out. Yes, “The Birds” and The Birds both feature fierce, feathered, beaking, clawing killers of planet Earth’s dominant creatures, meaning us, meaning you and me.
Not a nice thought is it? Those often spectacularly-beautiful creatures ripping us to shreds don’t fit into our concept that birds are peaceful, non-aggressive beings out to make the world a more beautiful and loving place. We don’t think of them as “fierce, feathered, beaking, clawing killers,” do we?
Du Maurier’s “The Birds” focuses on a farmer in England in post World War II whose native birds decide to take matters under their own wings and begin the extermination process. It appears that the birds have gone crazy throughout England but no person seems able to communicate with anyone else. The birds have cut our communication channels.
In Hitchcock’s The Birds the small town of Bodega Bay in California gets a visit from the beautiful Tippi Hedren and then from a massive influx of really nasty avian whose purpose is to not only slaughter Tippi, but also to make an unsanitary mess of the town.
Oh, well, this is all fiction, right? Not so fast: I was attacked by a blue jay in Chicago and by one in my backyard in New York. I’m hoping it’s not the same exact bird, because flying from Chicago to New York to dive-bomb my head seems like a very long trip for one bird to achieve basically nothing. Neither blue jay drew blood; both just scared me. I will admit I’m easily scared and blue jays are notoriously tough.
But seriously, birds don’t attack people except for the occasional blue jay protecting its nest, right? Again, not so fast: Just go to the Internet and write in “mass bird attacks” or “birds killing humans” or find out what’s going on in Houston, Texas. Our feathered friends seem to have more aspects to them than we think or wish or pray. Sometimes we are indeed their prey.
But look on the bright side; we eat more turkeys on Thanksgiving than turkeys have eaten us and we actually have chicken farms that allow millions of us such delight in eating those feathered morsels every day.
The birds have not yet evened the score. Maybe though, maybe though, they just need a little more time.
Visit Frank’s web site at www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available from smile.amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores.
My wife, the Beautiful AP, wants me to participate more in The South Shore Audubon Society so that, as she says, “You don’t become more of a hermit.” She is wrong. I am not a hermit; seriously I’m not.
“You are going to the protest of the Williams Pipeline on Wednesday in Rockville Centre,” she said in her I will not brook any dispute voice.
“I don’t want to go to the protest,” I brooked. “I have work to do; a few deadlines are coming up.”
“You are going to the protest at Kaminsky’s office,” she said. (Kaminsky is a New York State senator.)
“Oh, for God’s sake,” I brooked again.
“You need to take a stand,” she said.
“Oh, come on, I made calls and sent emails; how much more do you want me to do?”
“It’s Noon until one o’clock. One measly hour,” she said. “You can take a break from writing.”
I stopped brooking.
I have learned that marriage is a loving relationship between two people where one is always right and the other is the husband. I have on some days awakened in the morning, turned to my wife and said, “You are right. I’m sorry.” That’s before anything actually happened that day but if something did happen, then I was covered.
“And I will make you a sign,” she said generously.
“I have to carry a sign?” I was almost at the whining stage.
“Of course, it’s a protest,” she said.
I nodded. Then I said, “How do you want me to dress?”
“You can wear shorts and even your crocs,” she said.
“The shorts I’m wearing now?”
“No, those make you look like a bum,” she said.
“You told me the other day that the other pair I had made me look like a bum.” Was it possible I could win this argument by trapping her in her own words?
“Those make you look like less of a bum than you do now,” she said.
So I lost.
Okay, I have two pairs of shorts; one makes me look like a bum and the other makes me look like less of a bum. I choose (because I must) to look like less of a bum.
She made me a sign. It looked great. I was now ready to protest the possibility that this pipeline might be brought to New York to carry gas.
The Williams Company says we are going to run out of gas; the people I am protesting with say that there are alternatives. Truthfully, I haven’t studied this enough to know what’s what scientifically, but I do know that some of the people I’m going to march with seem to have a handle on the issue. One thing is certain; my wife has a handle on me.
The day of the event, I told AP to call me from her job (she is a librarian) and wake me at 11am so I can scurry out of the house to get to Rockville Centre early to find a parking space. I had been up since 3am writing and I knew I would need a nap before I tackled protesting.
“Be friendly and charming to the people there,” were her last words to me.
“Okay, okay,” I said as my last words. Friendly and charming? Am not I always friendly and charming?
On protest day, I sat in my recliner and immediately fell asleep. No worries about oversleeping, because my wife will call me at 11.
I opened my eyes for a moment, secure in the knowledge that I had plenty of time. After all, AP hadn’t called me yet. I looked at the clock and it was 11:13! She forgot to call me! Damn! (Admittedly, part of me was gleeful that my Beautiful AP had made such a glaring mistake. She couldn’t win a debate about this! I would finally win one.)
I jumped from my recliner and ran into the bedroom. Where the hell were my “not as much of a bum” shorts? Where the hell had I put them a few days ago? I ran around the bedroom like a chicken without a head (that’s South Shore Audubon birding-talk).
I looked under the bed; I looked in drawers. They were on the bed. My wife had put them on the bed, along with a t-shirt. There was a note on them: “The sign is in the car. Be friendly and charming. Wear this so you won’t look like more of a bum. Have fun!”
In the back seat there (of course!) was a beautiful handmade sign. It said: Just Say No to the Williams Pipeline. (But I still had her on that wake-up call.)
And off I went.
About a mile and a half from my home, I was to turn left onto Lakeview Avenue and go straight into Rockville Centre which was about two miles away. Lakeview Avenue does actually have a view of a pretty lake at one point.
Oh, crap! There was construction on that road. I’d have to take another street to get farther up so I could get onto Lakeview from there. I turned left onto Hempstead Avenue as I was at an intersection called the Five Corners which has five different streets converging on themselves; one of which is Lakeview.
I turned right almost immediately onto Nassau Boulevard which is the block on which my beautiful wife grew up. I got to the end of the block and, oh for God’s sake, I couldn’t turn either way onto Rolling Street as a construction truck was on the left side and another construction truck was on the right side. They were huge and there was absolutely no room to go around them, and going straight ahead would land me in someone’s living room.
Time was ticking.
As I was about to make a quick U-turn to find another route where there was no construction, a third truck had shown up, right behind me! Right behind me! I couldn’t go anywhere as this monstrosity had taken up the whole street. I was trapped like a chicken without a head is trapped by a farmer as it falls to the ground stone dead. (I’m not going to do anymore gruesome South Shore Audubon bird references.)
If I’m stuck here I will never get to the demonstration. My wife will kill me the way people kill turkeys on Thanksgiving! (More death in my analogies. I’m beginning to think like a killer since I joined the South Shore Audubon Society.)
So I made a courageous choice right then and there. I drove up onto the sidewalk, skirting the truck and headed back down Nassau Boulevard.
I did finally get to Lakeview Avenue, away from the construction. At 10 minutes to Noon I arrived in Rockville Centre where parking a car is a competitive sport. Would I find a parking space within a mile of my destination?
Yes! A car pulled out and I quickly zoomed into the space. I was just around the corner from where we were slated to meet. Glorious!
I grabbed the sign from the backseat, fed the meter every quarter I had, and headed to the corner. As I turned I looked down the block. It was empty. We were supposed to meet outside Kaminsky’s office which was about 200 feet away. No one was there except some mailwoman pushing her cart.
Did I have the wrong day?
Then I saw them; about 20 people standing outside the lobby of the train station. Many looked like left-over hippies from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Some folks were young —but most people today seem young since I’ve gotten much older than I was in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Maybe I looked like some aging hippie too.
Several members of the South Shore Audubon Society were expected to be there. Not one.
So I stood in the midst of the 20. I was smiling charmingly and trying to look friendly. Some people smiled back at me. At least I think they were smiling back at me. A lot of them looked as if they were bums, just like me! Take that, you Beautiful AP, some of us do not have to look corporate as…damn it, some guy in a three-piece suit just showed up.
Everyone had signs; mostly homemade and almost all of them were not so hot. Mine was the best—I mean, my wife’s was the best. I mean mine (my wife’s) even had holders in the back to make it easy to put your arms through it. That’s craftsmanship.
Then there were some professionally made flags on poles that had seen much better days long, long ago. These were addressed to Andrew Cuomo, New York’s governor. Wait. I thought Cuomo was against the pipeline. That was confusing. Why yell at him if he already stated he is against the thing we are all against?
Audubon members arrived: Franklin was carrying a huge bag of pistachio nuts— unsalted” he announced. Richard, who could have been a movie star in the 1920s, with his classic good looks, arrived. That guy never looks like a bum.
Our VP, Brien who is a terrific writer and hard-hitting activist, stood next to me. A lovely lady, and like my wife, a librarian.
Across from me arrived Jim Brown, another former librarian (there’s something about those librarians) and his wife Gail, another director. Jim is a past president of the South Shore Audubon Society and he is also a big wheel in the Green Party of Long Island.
Yes, you could say this was a progressive demonstration. Some of these people look at me weirdly when they find out that I have friends that range from super-conservative all the way to socialist. Hey, I take ‘em as I like ‘em.
Now Franklin is an interesting guy. On our bird walks, he collects garbage to throw out once he gets home. He also knows a lot about plants some of which he rubs on his skin to keep the mosquitoes away.
“Hey, Frank, I bought one of your books – the confession one,” said Franklin.
“Ah, Confessions of a Wayward Catholic,” I said. I love it when people buy my books. I just love it. From 5th grade on my life was basically dedicated to having people read my stuff or, at the very least, notice me.
“I gave it to my mother,” said Franklin. “She’s a hundred years old.”
“Wow!” I said. “I hope she liked it.”
“She hated it. She said she didn’t like your Irish humor.”
What the hell? My Irish humor? What does that mean? Oh, come on, she’s a hundred years old—an old battle ax right? What does she know about humor, Irish or otherwise?
I looked at Franklin and swallowed hard. I tried to stay charming and friendly to him as I turned away from him. I was elated when a whole ton of pistachios fell out of his bag. “You might have to clean that up,” I said to him (charmingly and friendly) pointing to the mess on the sidewalk. Then I walked over to Jim and Gail.
Did Franklin have to tell me my book sucked? Really? Couldn’t he have lied and told me his mother loved it and I had made her last days a fun experience?
More people had arrived while I was having my heart broken by Franklin. I noticed Marilyn, another very active board member of the Audubon Society. She took some flyers to hand out to passersby.
“You know,” I said to Jim and Gail. “This might look like a walk for affordable senior-citizen housing.” They laughed. See? I am funny.
The three community organizers leading the protest, two young women and one young man, herded us cattle to Senator Kaminksy’s doorstep.
I was checking out the new arrivals when suddenly a loud, deep, female voice started singing the Star-Spangled Banner—through a hospital mask! She had trouble hitting all the notes, which may or may not have been due to the mask. But people clapped amiably when she finished and then toddled off into oncoming traffic. I was relieved she wasn’t a part of our demonstration. There is a hospital nearby.
Now the male community activist went over what chants we would be using that day.
Chanting is a brilliant way to stop people from thinking. Warriors of all types chant before battle; religious people chant in churches and temples; picketers and protesters chant too. Monks chant their mantras to get them to go where no man or woman has gone before. I’m not a public chanter.
Then Guy, another member of our board of directors, came up alongside me. Guy is an activist’s activist. He knows every politician on our section of earth, and he belongs to several societies and civic clubs. Guy also has a huge pond in his yard – right there that endears him to me as I am a fish lover.
“So I see we’re making an activist of you,” he said.
“I did this long ago,” I said. That’s true. My past had some interesting demonstrative moment. I led two demonstrations when I was in college against the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, too many of the demonstrators seemed to hate our soldiers who were just guys who had been drafted. I had friends in the army, guys who didn’t go to college and were not deferred as I was.
In my first year of teaching three of us decided we didn’t like the superintendent of schools’ policies so we dressed like priests, went in front of the huge picture window of his office, and hung him in effigy. The superintendent wasn’t happy about that and was probably relieved when the principal later fired me for a different, but equally outstanding offense.
I’ve led union marches; I even once emptied an auditorium when the PTA allowed skits that maliciously made fun of teachers. I simply stood up and told those who were disgusted with this crap to follow me. A thousand students and teachers walked out, leaving the PTA parents stunned.
We planted ourselves outside Kaminsky’s office and the chants began. I didn’t chant; I just looked over the approximately 50 people who were now there. I was holding my (wife’s) beautiful sign but I was looking at each and every demonstrator to see which ones were crazy. Political action can be much like religious action. Some people wrap themselves in their beliefs to the point where they are—let’s be frank here—totally and completely nuts. Unthinking, chanting nuts.
There were some hollow-eyed idealists and others amped up way beyond the level of this event. After all, we weren’t confronting hordes of soldiers of the Chinese regime out to club us into submission. Our group was chanting against politicians such as Kaminsky and Cuomo who probably would vote as we wanted them to vote.
But most of the people present? Just regular folks.
For the first 15 minutes we stood in a horseshoe formation outside the office building. The prongs of the horseshoe touched the front façade; the curve was at the street. Between the prongs was a big flag.
The three community organizers walked about inside the horseshoe conducting the chants. People were into this big time. Individual protesters would shout out as if they were in some evangelical church meeting. “You tell ‘em! You tell ‘em!”
Then one of the young women organizers stepped into the center between the prongs and called everyone to order. Silence. She then thanked all the groups that showed up to demonstrate today, and the list was interminable. There seemed to be more groups represented than there were actual people there.
The speeches began. The first was Jim Brown who represented the Green Party and the South Shore Audubon Society. He had a prepared speech which he read and it was a good one; comprehensive, intelligent, and devoid of cheap chanting tricks.
As the next speaker was introduced, everyone noticed a newcomer. The newcomer would steal the show. No subsequent speaker could hold the crowd’s attention once the newcomer showed up—not that the subsequent speakers had much to say anyway. Nope, Fido had arrived at the protest and all eyes were on him.
Around the fourth speaker some woman with dyed blonde hair on a 60-year-old head grabbed Fido’s leash and brought the dog to the center of the horseshoe, so all of us could see her romping with him. She pet, cuddled, coddled, and commanded the dog to perform tricks. She completely upstaged the speaker!
While I was happy that the speeches were over, one of the organizers announced with great fanfare that there was to be one final speaker. Everyone applauded, although no person had yet been announced.
Then the person was announced—doggie-girl! The very one who had stolen the attention of most of the crowd with her antics with the dog, got up and called for the crowd to…chant. Oh, boy, would my wife hear about this!
Finally we took a group picture and my civic duty was done.
Will I attend other demonstrations? I don’t know. Ask my wife.
Want Frank to speak to your club or organization? Just click here to see the talks that Frank gives. His books are available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books and at bookstores.
The Book: Mrs. Moreau’s Warbler: How Birds Get Their Names by Stephen Moss
My 13-year-old grandson has a book review due in two weeks based on a book he read this summer – or, rather, was supposed to read. I asked him how the book was coming along. He told me that he didn’t actually read it; he’d write the review based on the cover.
Based on the cover? “Yeah, Grandpa Scobe, I’ve been getting A’s writing about the covers for all my book reviews.” Such are kids; such is American public education; such is genius – my grandson!
Why read the book? Just pen some stuff based on what you read on the cover—I never thought of such a thing. Here I am—for decades—writing book reviews on books I’ve read thoroughly. I’m writing between 500 and 1,000 words about entire books, trying to figure out what to say to capture in such short word length what often these books are about. How silly of me.
I am now letting a little child lead me in my review of Mrs. Moreau’s Warbler: How Birds Get Their Names by Stephen Moss.
The cover asks us, “What’s in a name?” Basically everything. Birds have some of the most lyrical, most ridiculous, most awe-inspiring names. Take the “wheatear” which has nothing to do with ears of wheat in any of wheat’s incarnations. The name means—if you are easily offended then skip to the next paragraph—white-arse (white-ass). Yep! Such a distinctive name in our age of racial consciousness.
How’s this? The Dartford warbler; once named, was never seen in Dartford again. So what’s in that name? Evidently no loyalty.
On bird walks with the South Shore Audubon Society I’ve asked some of our astute bird observers how did thus and such a bird get its name? Sometimes they know; sometimes they don’t. What’s in a name many people will ask; well, I think a lot. Sometimes everything. You are, perhaps, what we call you.
Birds have been named after positive things (sunbird), or negative things (go-away-birds). Some have very long names (Ruwenzori double-collard sunbird); some have very short names (ou).
States in the United States have birds named after them (Mississippi kite and Hawaiian akepa), while some are named after man-made objects (ovenbird and riflebirds).
Natural elements, metals, gems and precious stones have their share of birds named after them; as do mythological figures such as Lucifer. Indeed, birds have even been named after other animals and insects (frogmouths and antbirds). Royalty has its share of bird names too (emperor penguin). For all I know, you have a bird named after you.
Final disclosure: I am not my grandson. I didn’t review just the cover; I read the whole book. It is fascinating and takes us on a journey into the past and into the world where you saw a bird and could assign it a name. Fun reading!
Visit Frank’s web site at www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books and at bookstores.
I like the idea of celebrating our country on July 4th but I do not enjoy the local residents exploding monstrous fireworks near our house. These bombs go off late into the night and some houses have even had small fires on their rooftops when roman candles land on them. Happened to my house one July 4th.
If people want to see fireworks they can go to the parks or to the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn and have themselves a ball watching real professionals light up the night skies.
At 6:30 AM on this July 4th I went to my local supermarket to get some cold cuts for the day. Usually at 6:30 there aren’t many people – or any people – in the store, but today at the deli counter there were three people, a elderly woman in the process of ordering, a gray-haired old guy, and a short guy of maybe 40 years old waiting patiently.
I stood next to the short guy. We nodded at each other.
Behind the counter was Fred Laconic, who was the opposite of the meaning of his last name, and something of a pain in the ass if you were in a hurry. He would regale you with his ideas from the many “important” books he had read.
“Do you know people are idiots?” he once asked me as I was waiting to get my cheese. “Complete and utter idiots?”
“Ah,” I said. I have mentioned the sound “ah” before. It is an utterance that can be used to stop a conversation or at least one’s participation in a conversation. When it is used properly it merely means you heard the person talking but you had no real response. It usually works well. But with Fred? Not so much.
“I am going to kill my older brother!”
The elderly woman who was ordering walked down the counter. “Could I have a taste of that ham please?”
Fred cut her a small slice of ham and gave it to her dangling on a plastic fork.
“Not so good,” she said wolfing down the meat. I can’t stand the supermarket nibblers who think they are entitled to samples of everything. You even see them in the fruit and vegetable aisles grabbing loads of produce and shoveling them into their gaping mouths.
“Good morning,” said the short-guy to me after he had nodded his hello. “A great day, the 4th of July isn’t it? The celebration of the greatest country of all time.”
I nodded. Please, please, don’t get Fred involved in….
“Don’t give me that crap!” said Fred Laconic. “This country isn’t the greatest country of all time. We’re a face with a lot of pimples; religious nuts and conservatives of all types. You want a great democracy go to ancient Greece!”
“Let me taste some of your Swiss cheese,” said the elderly woman.
He slowly sliced her a small piece of Swiss cheese, handed it to her on another plastic fork. She smelled it as if it were an expensive wine and then gobbled it down. “I’ll take an eighth of a pound of that,” she said. He started slicing it for her when she waved her hand. “No, no, I changed my mind. I’ll have an eighth of a pound of white American cheese.”
“To celebrate the 4th!” said the old guy in front of the short guy.
“You think we have a free country?” said Fred. “We don’t. Just about everyone is brain washed and has been for centuries. We had slavery for crying out loud. Our so-called founding fathers had slaves. That’s some free country, ha!”
Well, his ancient Greece had slavery too – probably the majority of the population of those Greek city-states did not allow women or the salves to vote. Some of those states had more slaves than citizens. But I wasn’t getting involved in that conversation. Picking out the faults of the United States is easy. But I always think of such talk to be the equivalent of looking at some pimples on an otherwise good-looking face.
Allowing slavery was the worst decision our founders made. I sometimes flirt with the idea that those geniuses who formed our nation should have just told the South and anyone else in our land practicing slavery that such would not be allowed in our new union.
Maybe we shouldn’t have broken away from England? Maybe. After all England outlawed slavery in 1833 without a Civil War. I wonder if that thought is sinful for an American to ponder, that maybe our country started on the wrong foot – a shackled foot for some of the population?
I don’t know the answers to almost every question I’ve ever asked myself. That’s how it is with me.
“We are ruled by the ad agencies!” Fred said forcefully. “We have no free will!”
Fred looked right at me. “You’ve read all the great modern day atheists. I know that.” He then started naming the authors, “Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, Carl Sagan,,,”
I held up my hand to stop him. You see I had once made the mistake of having a conversation with him one morning about the group known as the “new atheists” and that conversation made him always regale me with his new atheist ideas. I really don’t want to be harangued so early in the morning even though I have read all the “new atheists.”
The elderly woman pointed to the baloney, “You are ignoring me,” she said to Fred, who looked at her as if she were a worm.
“Let me have a piece of that baloney over there,” she pointed. Fred sliced a piece of baloney for her and then he continued with his baloney. “There is no God; anyone who is intelligent knows that. But the society has been trained to believe in fairy tales. It keeps them quiet and controlled. We are all just subatomic particles working ourselves out. We are not conscious. We just think we are.” Isn’t the saying, “I think therefore I am.” (Or was it, “I doubt therefore I am.”)
“A small slice of cheddar please,” said the elderly woman.
The short guy turned to me and said, “Isn’t she full by now? She’s had her breakfast right here.”
The other guy left. It was now just the elderly woman, the short guy and me. And of course Fred, demonstrably waving his arm in the air, “I find myself disgusted with people. They are fools!”
“Let me have an eighth of a pound of salami, the cheapest one,” said the elderly woman. “Let me have a little nibble of that too.”
“Jesus Christ,” said the short guy.
“Jesus Christ,” said Fred. “He’s a joke.”
Fred obligingly did as requested for the elderly woman. He then slid over the small amount she had bought.
“Thank God it is over,” said the short guy as the woman started to move away from the deli counter.
“Oh, crap,” said Fred, “I forgot to put on the number sheets for customers to take.” He flipped a switch and the light went over the machine that gave out tickets to tell you what place you were in line. The short guy has just ordered something so he didn’t have to get a ticket.
I strolled over to the machine to take a ticket but this skinny guy of about 70-years-old practically sprinted to it and grabbed a ticket before I could reach the machine to get mine. I took the ticket after his.
“What numbers do you guys have?” asked Fred.
“My number is seventy-four,” said the skinny guy.
“I’m seventy-five,” I smiled. “But I should go next since I have been waiting while that woman tasted everything in the case,” I smiled again. I figured the skinny guy would let me go ahead of him because I had been there long before him. I was also being very friendly.
“No,” he said. “My number is lower than your number so I go ahead of you.” Then he took out a sheet of paper with eight-trillion things on it that he was ordering. Remember this was, of course, July 4th and he was stocking up for whatever the hell he was doing to celebrate the day.
“But I have been waiting here for over fifteen minutes,” I said.
“That’s right,” said the short guy. “We had a long wait.”
“So I really am next,” I said.
“The rule is,” said the skinny guy pontifically. “The lower number goes before the higher number. That, sir, is the rule in case you didn’t know.”
“Look,” I said, almost beggingly, “I have to get one thing, one thing. That’s all. Some Swiss Cheese.”
“I have the ticket that’s ahead of yours, sir,” said the skinny man, now looking up and down his monstrous list of items.
“Excuse me! Excuse me!” It was that elderly woman again. “Egg salad. Can I have a taste of egg salad to see if I want to buy it?”
“Lady,” said the skinny guy, “I am next after this guy,” he pointed to the short guy. “You have to wait your turn just like everyone else.”
“Fred, hey Fred,” I said. “Aren’t I before this guy?”
“I never interfere with customers,” said Fred. “Work it out among yourselves.”
“Lady,” said the skinny guy. “You aren’t getting ahead of me.” And he gave her the thumb to get away from the counter.
“Well, I never!” she remonstrated and walked off in a huff.
The short guy got his order and turned to the skinny guy and said, “He’s next (meaning me), and you should let him go next.”
“I have the lower number,” he said.
I haven’t had a fight in fifty years. But now I was ready to re-enter the arena.
Could I take this skinny guy? Maybe. You never know. He could be in great shape as opposed to the whale-like condition I’m in. He could be some MMA kind of guy but he didn’t look anything like that. He looked as if he smoked. The fight wouldn’t last long if I did the usual routine. Left jab! Right cross! And a powerful left hook! One swiftly after the other. I might be able to knock this piece of dung on his ass, get my Swiss Cheese and leave the store.
So I looked at him and I was truly ready to fight him in the deli section of my local supermarket.
We stared at each. I said in my scary voice, “I’m going next.” Just then, the elderly woman came back with the store manager. “I was ahead of these gentlemen,” she said. “But they wouldn’t let me order my two pounds of egg salad. They were totally disrespectful. You are going to lose a lot of business if you allow people such as these men with no manners to get ahead of an old woman.”
The store manager looked at us and made his pronouncement. “The woman is next.”
I looked at the elderly woman. I looked at Fred who was ignoring all of this. I looked at the skinny guy. Then I turned and walked out of the store.
The last I heard was the elderly woman saying, “I’d like a taste of the potato salad.”
I’ll save my return to the ring for some other time.
Frank’s books are available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books and at bookstores.
Hi, I’m Willow D’Vain, an actor who made a few forgettable movies that can’t even be gotten on Netflix, and I want to talk to you about silver and gold. There are two things that I believe in and that is my beloved country America and also precious metals.
Do you know that throughout the world economies are crashing and money is becoming worthless? Especially that paper stuff! That’s right! I want to keep us in the U.S. strong and that’s why I want you to send me your money, which will be worthless quite soon as I said, so I can send you silver and gold which have been used by civilizations throughout history such as ancient Greece, ancient Rome and Norway.
There was a time when America was respected throughout history, especially during the Middle Ages, and that’s why I am standing in front of a green screen that is showing you one of America’s greatest battleships. I want to keep America great again and make it strong again and we can all do that if you send me your money so I can send you some of the tonnage of silver and gold the company has in warehouses all over the world.
Why not be safe with a safe filled with silver and gold? You’ll be the envy of everyone starving on your block that put their faith in the crumbling currency of the world.
Make America good again!
Frank’s books are available at Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores
My hair is curly and thick. It used to be really blonde, then turned brown in my twenties and now it is completely gray. I don’t mind that because it has stayed curly and thick.
There have actually been people who thought I wear a wig because very few men my age have such a great head of hair. I was once doing a talk in Las Vegas and some idiot came up behind me after I was done and pulled my hair.
“Hey, hey, it’s real!” he shouted to a friend. “You win the bet!” Some people have no manners. I told the guy that I should share in the win since my head hurt from the pulling of my hair. They laughed and left.
But the biggest problem I have is when I go for a haircut. Most of the barbers in my area do not speak English well. Those who do, especially the young ones, don’t really know how to cut my kind of hair. An electric clipper just doesn’t work that well on it and the older guys, what few are left in the profession, just cut from rote and do a crummy job as my hair is all different lengths when they are finished.
So the barbershop I am reduced to patronizing is owned by people who have trouble with our language. It is the closest to my home.
So this morning I entered the shop.
“Hullo!” said the owner who was trimming some bald guy’s tuft of hair. The barber next to him held open the apron he’d put over me.
“Hi,” I said to both of them.
I sat down in the chair.
“I’ll have a regular haircut and a beard trim. Leave the lines I already have on the beard; I don’t want it cut near to my chin. I keep it this way so the flab on my neck doesn’t show too much,” I said, waiting for a laugh on my last line. Nothing.
I continued: “Make sure you cut the hair sprouting out my ears and nose, and do my eyebrows,” I said. “Those are recommendations from my wife.”
My barber looked at the owner. The owner said to him, “Kaže da mu se sviđa sve kratko.” My barber nodded and turned to me nodding.
“Shurt,” he said. He rolled the “r” a little.
“Not short,” I said. “A regular haircut.”
“Shurt,” he said.
“No, regular,” I said.
He put the apron over me and took out an electric clipper. “Shurt,” he said.
I looked over at the owner. “Give me some help here.”
The owner said, “Kaže da mu se sviđa sve kratko.” My barber nodded and turned to me smiling and said, “Shurt.”
“Regular, normal, regular,” I said.
“Shurt,” he smiled.
I looked at him. He was nodding and smiling up a storm. I gave up. Let him cut it shurt. And he did. I looked as if I had just joined the Marines.
When he had finished and started with my beard I repeated to him not to cut it too short and to keep the lines on it the same. He looked over at the owner who said, “Kaže da mu se sviđa sve kratko.”
My barber smiled, nodded, placed the clipper on my beard and took a huge chunk of hair off. You could see more skin than beard. What the hell? I was stuck because a big section of my beard was so short that every section of my beard now had to be mowed the same length.
My hair was now short and my beard had almost disappeared.
He then did my eyebrows (he left them too long) and my ear hair (he left too many bristles) and my nose hair (he left a few sticking out). Gray hair sticking out of your nose looks as if something else is coming out of your nose; if you get my drift.
I gave the guy a good tip; I always tip well as that was my training in Brooklyn, New York where tipping is the true sign of a man—even a man with short hair and a beard that looks exactly like a five o’clock shadow, and with something gray sprouting out of his nose. I tip, therefore I am. It’s an old Brooklyn expression.
When I got home my wife, the Beautiful AP, looked at me and said, “My god, your hair is way too short!”
“Shurt,” I said. “It’s pronounced shurt.”
Frank’s books are available at Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores.
They are big, some gigantic, and most have bad personalities because they kill people and destroy cities and other sites. Yes, these creatures can be experienced in full glory (gory) in our big monster movies.
Which are the best of those movies? Which are the worst? Which have great ideas for monsters but the movies these monsters are in just don’t cut the mustard. Here goes:
The Best Big Monster Movies
King Kong (1933): This movie is magical for me. Modern movie goers might sniff at the special effects but to me the seediness and fog create a truly other world. I’m sure you know the story; it’s about a giant gorilla that falls in love with a beautiful woman named Ann Darrow played by the truly beautiful Fay Wray. Robert Armstrong is the fast talking movie director who takes her on a journey to an unknown but forbidden world of Skull Island where they meet Kong, the gorilla god. Kong enjoys killing and eating the natives…until he meets her and falls in love. Kong is no match for the chloroform that renders him paralyzed. He is taken to the big city, New York, to be exhibited on Broadway and he ultimately meets his fate – to die from airplane shots as he stands atop the Empire State Building. His fall crushes him. A cop says, “The airplanes got him.” But Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) replies, “It wasn’t the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast.” Wow! Magic!
King Kong (2005): Now this is arrogance. Producer/Director Peter Jackson had the gall to think he could remake King Kong. Can you believe that? Did he really think his special effects of dinosaurs and his rendering of a 25-foot tall gorilla along with stars such as Naomi Watts, Jack Black and Adrien Brody could bring the real King Kong back from the dead? Other King Kongs had been tried before this and what happened? I can’t even remember the names of those movies without looking them up. Jackson, Jackson, Mr. Peter Jackson – what did you do? Here’s what. You in fact created a brilliant movie that takes us back in time to the 1930’s and lays out the Kong story wonderfully. Not a false step in this movie from cinematography, direction, special effects and acting, each perfectly in its place. Jackson’s King Kong brings back King Kong!
Jurassic Park (1993): I certainly do have a thing for dinosaurs and Stephen Spielberg’s Jurassic Park brings us dinosaurs aplenty. How scary can dinosaurs be? Very scary! The movie equals Michael Crichton’s book in excitement and terror. I usually hate movies with children having leads (I rooted for the shark in Jaws II) but this movie puts the young ones in real trouble and we root for them to be saved. Oh there is a great fat villain (all villains are better if they are fat, right Mr. Potter?) and he screws up everything because of his greed. Terrific movie with good sequels as well.
Jurassic World (2015): There are two separate iterations of the Jurassic Park story. We have the first trilogy ending in 2001. Then we have a second one starting in 2015 that picks up where the first trilogy let us off. This is the beginning of what will be the second trilogy and it is excellent as it introduces a manmade dinosaur called the Indominus Rex which is slightly bigger and slightly meaner than even the T-Rex. It kills for fun, not just to eat. We have somewhat tamed raptors and a great cast trying to save everything as everything falls apart again. Yes, we do have some teenagers in lead rolls but once again they do a fine job. Join the fun and excitement but don’t get eaten.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018): This is the second movie in the current trilogy (the third movie will be coming soon) and the writers do us an unusual favor: they start with a “big bang” opening which is usually the “big bang” closing of a big-budget movie. The island where the dinosaurs live is about to be destroyed by a volcano. There is no stopping it. Our main heroes (played by Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard) try to help out in capturing and saving as many of those dinosaurs as they can but they are betrayed by another bunch of greedy bastards. Ba-boom! The volcano blows and all hell breaks loose on the island. Some dinosaurs are saved and brought back to civilization where we see the machinations of the greedy ones in all their ill-splendor. Now, the intricate story reveals itself. Can a house – even a very large house – house so many dinosaurs? Oh, yes, and they ultimately get their chance to run rampant. And we get another new dinosaur as well. And cloning too! Join the fun as dinosaurs are let loose on the modern world in the closing scene.
Lost World: Jurassic Park II (1997): This movie is the sequel to Jurassic Park and it ends with a T-Rex running wildly in, of all places, San Diego. Lesson to be learned is do not leave your dog tied up in the backyard. That T-Rex is looking for its offspring. Lost World: Jurassic Park II has shades of the movie Gorgo in its theme but this movie is handled well in stark contrast to Gorgo, a rotten movie. Jeff Goldblum reiterates his character Ian Malcolm, ably abetted by Julianne Moore and Vince Vaughn and a great team of villains. Doesn’t have the full kick of Jurassic Park but it is still a super movie. What do you think happens to the lead villain?
Jurassic Park III (2001): An annoying boy falls from the sky as his mother’s annoying boyfriend takes him on a parasailing trip above the dinosaur island. Shouldn’t this annoying adult know better? The annoying kid’s parents, played by William H. Macy (prior to his real-life wife allegedly bribing a college to let their daughter in) and Tea Leoni, convince Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neal) to go back to the island. He soon discovers what’s really happening. They are hunting for their annoying son. A new dinosaur is introduced, the Spinosaurus Aegypticus which kills a T-Rex in a one-on-one battle and ultimately comes after them. Also a bunch of raptors wants them because one of their company, an annoying 20-something, stole some raptor eggs. There is drama and also running galore. Fun movie which would have ended the franchise except the franchise rediscovered itself and thankfully continues.
Mighty Joe Young (1998): Look, I like movies with giant gorillas. Maybe in some alternative earth we humans evolved into such creatures. Jill Young (played by Charlize Theron) raises a giant mountain gorilla – maybe about half the size of Kong – and she brings it to civilization because she is convinced by a zoologist played by Bill Paxton that her monstrous pet is in danger in that part of the mountain. Nothing goes right once they make it to Los Angeles as the bad guys (there are almost always bad guys when you love a gorilla) try to capture Mighty Joe Young who now escapes the zoo and goes somewhat nuts in the streets of Los Angeles. Unlike King Kong, the story ends happily so the kids can watch this, although the opening scene is somewhat scary as poachers (the bad guys) kill some peaceful gorillas.
Cloverfield (2008): A giant monster or two from space lands on earth. How? Why? What the hell is going on here? We are not exactly sure of the answers to these questions but the monsters and their offspring wreck New York City big time. I mean these monsters knock over whole skyscrapers, It is shot with a hand-held camera by one of the characters in the movie; a filming technique that can often make the viewer sick to his or her stomach but this movie, thankfully, is done with the idea that the creators don’t want members of the audience vomiting on other members of the audience as that would hurt popcorn sales. The movie starts off somewhat slowly until wham! all hell breaks loose.
The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953): Forget Godzilla because without this movie Godzilla and all those insects, worms, rodents, turtles, moths and other radiated creatures that grew to massive sizes wouldn’t exist. This is the first and clearly the best of those radiated beasts that is brought forth from atomic-bomb testing in the arctic to invade one of our cities and destroy parts of it and, yes, to also to creep us out. The special effects are quite good for its time period and when that monster eats the cop, oh, my god! Kenneth Tobey is the second lead and many of you who love those old movies think of him as a friend who is, sadly, almost always in danger from those things on the attack.
Them (1954): Many of you have had ants in your house (my oldest son once had red ants in his pants – no lie). Perhaps you had carpenter ants trying to redesign your cabinets. That’s nothing compared to these rascals; radiated ants that become almost as big as houses. Future Gunsmoke star James Arness battles them in the desert and then in the sewer system of Los Angeles. Special effects are okay but the story about those miserable ants holds up well. You will need a lot of Raid to get rid of these buggers if they ever do attack.
Mighty Joe Young (1949): The original with Terry Moore as the young Jill Young who is convinced to bring her ape to the big city by, come on, guess who? That’s right Robert Armstrong of King Kong fame. Seems this guy is always angling to make money off these immense simians. Things go wrong (yes, the always do) and Joe Young goes ape in a lavish nightclub. Just before that, the heavyweight champion, the huge Primo Carnera, punches Joe Young a few times with no effect and then the poor fighter is hurled across the nightclub. But don’t worry; this movie has a happy ending.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): Truly stupid premise for the movie but the producers had to get these monsters all together in one epic monster-fighting-monster film. And the pacing and fights are great. The special effects are superb as Godzilla battles Rodan and the supremely powerful alien monster King Ghidorah. Yes, Godzilla does get some help from his friend Mothra. The fact that we accept the fact that such gigantic monsters are wrecking Boston (and Fenway Park no less!) how can a stupid moth be so strong and clever? Makes no sense. As I said, this is a stupid theme that nature needs to right itself because humans are destroying Earth and by sending us monsters that destroy whole cities everything will come out okay. Seriously? The villains are a man and a woman and soldiers constantly willing to die to push forward whatever they think they are getting paid to push. A minimum wage job would be better than this.
Godzilla (2014): Godzilla fights two ancient monsters dubbed MUTOs for Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms and he has a hell of a time defeating them. Great scenes of them fighting although we should have seen how these beasts destroyed Las Vegas as we only see what they did as opposed to watching them do it. This is the first iteration of the dumb theme of Godzilla being the beast that rights the wrongs humans have done to planet Earth. If he keeps this up humans will be back living in caves.
Godzilla (1998): This movie has some good points as the monster, with a totally different look from the traditional Godzilla, is frightening and fast. He doesn’t breathe fire and he is pregnant. Yes, he is pregnant as this new spawn of the radioactive age is born pregnant. He is called “he” in the movie for some reason as opposed to her but that’s not my fault now is it? Matthew Broderick is excellent as the lead and Jean Reno is also excellent as the French secret-service agent who knows exactly where and how this Godzilla arose. However, Broderick’s cutesy-poo girlfriend is an awful character in the movie and detracts from every scene in which she appears. That one character almost made me put this movie into the eat-some-popcorn and you can kind-off kind-of enjoy this movie. But the flow of this Godzilla and the special effects did it for me.
What About All Those Japanese Monsters?
I did some homework for this article and I watched the original Godzilla with subtitles; it stunk. Then I watched the dubbed American version with Raymond Burr added as narrator to give an American flavor to the picture. It stunk too. I didn’t mind that the special effects were toy cars, toy tanks, toy armored vehicles and toy planes and crappy destruction of buildings but the total impact got me sneering. Sorry if I offend Godzilla fans. You may have liked these Godzilla films when you were a kid but now? Come on; grow up already.
You want a radiated monster? Go with the The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms upon which all the radiated monster films are based.
And what about Rodan and Mothra and King Kong and the rest of the Japanese monsters? All those movies stunk too. Japan made good cars but lousy radiated-monster films.
Movies You Might Enjoy with Buttered Popcorn
Your popcorn must be buttered with real, slightly salted butter. Then you can probably sit through these movies without screaming at the set: “Why can’t they make good monster movies?” The “they” in the previous sentence is anyone who makes these monster movies. I don’t have them in any order of non-greatness
20 Million Miles to Earth (1957): Alien creature keeps growing and finally fights a gigantic elephant.
It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955): Kenneth Tobey in this one. A big octopus or squid attacks San Francisco. I thought this was a terrible thing to happen to this city until I recently visited San Francisco and saw the hordes of the homeless.
Kong: Skull Island (2017): They (see above for who “they” are) have made King Kong really, really big; in fact, big enough to fight Godzilla in 2020. I have a theory about that fight and how the two of them become allies to fight against King Ghidorah one of who’s head remained at the end of the Godzilla: King of the Monsters movie.
Pacific Rim (2013): Loud and idiotic but big monsters fighting big robots. This will pass the time and might make you deaf.
Rampage (2018): Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson has a big old time of it with his own version of a white King Kong who must fight two other giant monsters, a wolf and an alligator or crocodile because I can’t figure which is which when it comes to these animals lizards.
Shin Godzilla (2018): Yes, an actual Japanese Godzilla film that is somewhat watchable. Get past the opening baby Godzilla which looks like a toy and instead enjoy how the bureaucracy in Japan is just as idiotic as the one in the United States.
Super 8 (2011): An alien monster screws up a movie being made by a bunch of kids. Watchable.
Awful Movie with a Great Monster
There is one awful big monster movie that has a monster that is terrific. Isn’t it sad to see a great monster in a rotten movie? The blob in the movie titled, well, The Blob (1958) is wonderful.
This jelly/jello monster sucks up humans by the crateful and grows to enormous proportions. Except for seeing the future superstar Steve McQueen in an early roll – all you can think when this movie ends is “ah, blob, you could’ve been a contender instead of a tomato can.” (The remake of The Blob in 1988 is a passable picture but some of the comic sequels are so bad I don’t think you can find them to view them anymore.) The blob’s grave is somewhere in the arctic. If you see it why not place some flowers on what might have been.
The Following Movies Stink to the Seventh Heaven
In mythology the seventh heaven is where god resides. The following movies are so bad their stench wafts its way to god’s nostrils. No order to their stench in this list:
Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958)
The Beast from Hollow Mountain (1956)
The Deadly Mantis (1957)
Tremors (1990) and all its sequels
Q: The Winged Serpent (1982)
The Amazing Colossal Man (1957)
War of the Colossal Beast (1958)
The Giant Claw (1957)
I’ve seen many more bad big-monster movies but these I’ve dug out of my memory. Tread carefully with bad monster movies as they can rot your brain. I have firsthand experience with that.
(All Frank’s book are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores.)