Al Jarreau as “The Jazz Singer” (SCTV)

Among my favorite moments from Al Jarreau (who was born in Milwaukee and passed away yesterday) is this parody of Neil Diamond’s 1980 remake of The Jazz Singer.

You know it’s going to be great the moment you see Sid Dithers (Eugene Levy) playing the father as a glorious soul-singer mashup of Lawrence Olivier’s Jewish cantor father, complete with ginormous glasses and thick accent, and Stevie Wonder’s dreadlocks and wardrobe.

The film opens (it’s the “Movie of the Week” on SCTV) with Jarreau in the studio with his father, singing his big hit at the time, “We’re in This Love Together.” Dad loves his son’s work and has big plans for his career, so when Yussel (Jarreau) says he has to leave for shul (Yiddish for synagogue), an argument ensues:

Wait a minute, Pop. How many times do I have to tell you? We’ve been through this so many times. I don’t want to be a soul singer. I want to be a cantor. Why do you think I’ve had my head buried in the Torah all these years? Ah, man, it’s something that I’ve got to do. Don’t you understand?

If you’ve seen the Neil Diamond version of the movie (and by the way, wasn’t it was fun seeing him on the Grammys last night and hearing his still-strong, distinctive voice?), then you’ll get the jokes. In case you haven’t, at least here’s the trailer to give you an idea.

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Nearly Sunset

Nearly Sunset (evening sunlight reflecting office windows)Which is coming earlier and earlier every evening, thank goodness. Last week I noticed that for the first time this winter it wasn’t dark as I was leaving work. I took this picture on my way out the door this afternoon. There was just enough sunlight low in the sky from the west to reflect from the windows of one office building to another.

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Is Hollywood Over?

Really interesting article in Vanity Fair Magazine this month, “Why Hollywood as We Know It Is Already Over.

Basically it says that Hollywood is too bloated and calcified, producing unoriginal action movies that it hopes will hit big in foreign markets but often end up losing money. Additionally it cites Silicon Valley as Hollywood’s newest, greatest threat, via emphasis on animation (making actors less necessary), data-driven scripts (making screenwriters less necessary), algorithmic viewer customization (making directors and editors less necessary), and direct delivery (making distributors and movie theaters less necessary).

I’m not sure I completely buy his argument, but the writer, Nick Bilton, makes very a strong case. Definitely recommended reading for anyone working in a creative field, as well as for anyone who loves watching films/television or reading novels. Although machines may soon be capable of routinely creating films equal to Hollywood’s more mediocre offerings, I don’t think that true talent is in any real danger of being replaced.

The article’s real takeaway for me is that the film industry is about to be upended, and no one really knows what new model(s) will replace it. Lots of opportunity for outsiders to capitalize on the disruption and find a place among the ruins.

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Lines and Rings

A gloomy, rainy day in Milwaukee. But I’ll take it—way better than 10 inches of snow or below zero temperatures! Snapped this picture on my way from the CC to the Grohmann this morning (on MSOE’s campus downtown). Rain was just starting to pick up again, and I liked the contrast here between the lines of the office building reflected in this puddle and the spreading rings on the water’s surface where individual drops splashed.


Yeah, I know. This is just an iPhone pic of a puddle. But I like the ghostly apparition of the building rising up from the depths (of, like, two inches max 🙂 ). You can also see the office lights floating in the blackness of each floor’s ceiling—which you kind of have to think about, as the puddle reflects a mirror image and everything is upside down. Plus, the pebbled texture of the sidewalk—unnoticeable when dry—looks like a lake bed or riverbank.

So not a beautiful photograph, but maybe an interesting one to look at.

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Farewell, Iconic Dinosaur

I wrote a post back in 2012 about this relic from a long-closed amusement park on Milwaukee’s northwest side. The dinosaur has been a familiar fixture on North 76th Street in Milwaukee for at least 40 years, and for the past five years my post has prompted many comments from people sharing memories of Johnson’s Park. For many who grew up in Milwaukee, this guy signifies specific and meaningful times in their lives.

Abandoned dinosaur

Well, sadly, our dino friend is finally gone. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a story on his fate in Sunday’s paper (link here to the article).

Purchased for $11 at auction in December, the dinosaur will soon take up residence in the backyard of a home in Saukville, a town about an hour north of Milwaukee. The buyer has a personal connection to the dinosaur. As a child he played mini-golf and raced go-karts at Johnson’s Park, and as an adult he has worked at the various car dealerships that populate the neighborhood.

I like that.

Although I’ll miss glancing over at his hulking presence and weathered orange scales on the drive north to Mequon or Cedarburg, it helps to know our old buddy wound up in a place where he’ll be much loved 🙂


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Meal Inspiration

I love the creativity this blogger brings to her meal planning! She not only draws inspiration from the usual sources (like Pinterest and cookbooks) but she also takes ingredients and flavors she likes and uses them in new “formats.” Very creative and fun!

What's for Dinner Moms?


Someone asked where I get meal ideas. They come from many different places. Cookbooks, Pinterest, and menus are some of my favorite places to find inspiration. I have been known to snap pictures or descriptions of menus and my family’s food in restaurants.

Once a week my daughter and I go out to lunch/dinner. We are away from home all day so it is just easier to eat out one meal a week. This has proved to be a great source of inspiration.

Last week we went to Red Robin for burgers. I ordered the Southern Charm burger (above). It was pretty good. Bacon candied with brown sugar, honey BBQ sauce, sharp cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce on a ciabatta bun.  My daughter ordered the Sautéed ‘Shroom Burger. This is her absolute favorite burger. Tons of sautéed mushrooms and Swiss cheese on a burger is her idea of the perfect…

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Remembering CCCP 1

Last week’s 10-minute interruption by a state-run Russian television network of the CSPAN 1 television feed of Rep. Maxine Waters speaking from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives reminded me of SCTV’s prescient programming back in 1981.

First, here is what happened a week ago (Thursday, January 12).

And now some background: SCTV was about a low-budget local television station that, thanks to satellite distribution to cable systems, underwent an unlikely transformation to first a “superstation” and later a network (inspired, I sure, by Ted Turner’s WCTG Channel 17 superstation). Located in the fictitious Canadian town of Melonville, SCTV spoofs everything from Canadian Broadcasting rules requiring a certain percentage of Canadian-originated content (hence Bob and Doug McKenzie’s “Great White North,” a comically rambling show about beer and sibling resentments) to cheesy local TV programming, current events, and popular culture in general.

It’s hard to pick a favorite SCTV storyline or episode. This was one of my favorite television series ever, a show that gave us great actors like John Candy, Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, Martin Short, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, and Joe Flaherty. But if I had to choose just one, it would be CCCP 1 (or as they say it on the show: Three C P One).

The CCCP 1 station is SCTV’s Soviet counterpart, a decidedly low-budget Russian television station featuring 1950s-era technology like huge microphones hanging from cords around people’s necks and giant cameras requiring operators with brute strength to dolly forward and back. Somehow CCCP 1  knocks out SCTV’s satellite (portrayed by a vintage lunch counter broiler with those rotating rows of hot dogs)

and takes over the SCTV feed, treating us to an incomprehensible Scrabble-like game show and a series called “Hey Giorgi!” about a happy guy who walks around his rural Russian town and solves everyone’s problems. (Again, the show demonstrates its smarts by incorporating local prejudices into the “Giorgi!” narrative: Car won’t start? Giorgi raises the hood to discover a cluster of straws in one corner. Hmm, looks like Uzbeks have been drinking your battery fluid again.)

So here is the CCCP 1 episode in its entirety. It opens with an ad for Perry Como’s concert (in which the singer’s famously “relaxed” style is taken to an extreme) and features most of my favorite characters.

The first CCCP 1 interception appears shortly after the 15-minute mark. With today’s uncertainty over Russia and possible election hacking and now this unexplained interruption of the CSPAN 1 feed, it seems an ideal time to look back—both to laugh at and reflect upon the clunky reality of everyday Soviet life versus the frightening spectre of our Cold War enemy.

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