The Great Plotnik

Friday, February 29, 2008


Last night at Tiapos, Mississippi Motorhead added a new moniker to the TIAPOS letterhead. As most loyal Plotnikkies remember, TIAPOS is The Great Plotnik's Righters Groop. Traditionally, before anyone would read a story, they'd say something like "I've just finished this one and it's really rough" or "I don't know if this story is really worth reading" or "Geez I don't know why I'm even bothering." So one night someone brought in a sign: TIAPOS. It stands for "This is a Piece of Shit." So now, no one is allowed to apologize for their puny effort (which, like as not, is a masterpiece). All they have to say is TIAPOS and we all get it.

Usually, we make copies of our stories for everyone to follow along. But last night, Motorhead didn't bother with copies, adding: "This story is not even worthy of copies.

Ah ha! So now we've got TIAPOS-NWOC. Things just get worse and worse.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Window

Patsy's in Mountain View visiting her in-laws and Ducknik's at school. Plotnik has a three hour window of quiet to get some work done with a live mike. Later, Gator.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Every Spring Time and Once

Crystal Kitten still guards the daffodils. Spring is the best. The tulips are up and running.

Meanwhile, dear friend Patsy is in town. Last night, she and Plotnik and Ducknik watched "Once" on Pay-Per-View. The first part of that film, up until they play the Academy Award song about the boat, is really great. Afterwards it becomes so improbable, especially the recording session where the hero with the band of drunks from the street play every song perfectly on the first take, that it gets a little hard for a musician to watch; nonetheless, we're pulling for the two lead characters. He really ought to get that hole in his guitar fixed, I mean, one day the guy may have to go on worldwide television to sing that song.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Interview: Grampy Plotnik Joins The Klan

The header on the radio webpage says "KCRW'S Own Daniel Konecky interviews his 93-year-old grandmother Rose Halprin...", but we all know it was The Great PunkyDunky interviewing Mummy Plotnik. Click This Plotnikkie Button to listen to a very wonderful three-and-a-half minutes. When you get to the link, just click LISTEN.

There are other grandparents being interviewed by their children or grandchildren on the link too, and every one is fun to hear. It's part of a national program called Story Corps, which is trying to get a family's fine old stories recorded by the people who still remember them. They will be in Saint Plotniko soon.

Monday, February 25, 2008

One Acts and Movies

Yesterday afternoon, Plot and Duck went to the Eureka Theater to see Program One of the Bay One Act Festival (See Review Here). It was entertaining, in that pure, practically unproduced, almost giddy way of seeing a show when it's brand new.

Afterwards, one of the playwrights, who happens to be a young man The Great BZWZ's age (with whom she went to high school), told the Plotniks an interesting thing. He saw the play yesterday with one of the two leads stronger than the other, and in New York he saw the play with the other of the two leads stronger. Which is to say: the female actor of the stage couple was stronger once and the male actor of the stage couple was stronger the other time. To the playwright, these two performances were like two separate plays, with completely different points of view, even though all the actors spoke the same lines.

The Great Plotnik has seen this over and again, and not only on the stage. A great singer can make a banal song seem pretty damned wonderful. And vice-versa. Which brings us to the Oscars.

Last night's Academy Awards was interesting, and Plotnik only had to leave the room for three of the five nominated Best Songs. The one he liked best actually won, though the hole-in-the-guitar poor-poor-me effect was a bit much. The other songs only lacked Minnie Mouse break-dancing with Goofy to make them into complete circuses.

Yes, it's true. Plotnik hates Alan Mencken...and every song that has come from every Disney movie since Jiminy Cricket sang "When You Wish Upon A Star."

And as for films: CurPlotnikMudgeon usually also hates the films that win Best Picture, so he probably won't bother with There Will Be Blood. La Vie en Rose really is a fabulous movie, though, and Plot and Duck were rooting for Marion Cotillard.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Further pre-Academy Award movie viewing was interrupted last night when Plotnik and Ducknik stumbled on "Jarhead," which was just starting on HBO before Plotnik could switch to Channel One and On Demand.

Holy macaroni, what a scary, involving film. A screenplay adaptation of a searingly honest and beautifully written memoir by Marine Lance Corporal Anthony Swofford, it tells the story of a troop of Marines, first in training, then in the endless waiting of Desert Shield and finally their extremely brief action in Desert Storm. While the grunts long to get a chance to use all their training, most never even fire their rifles, as the jets roar overhead and extinguish every target as well as every other piece of life for a hundred miles in every direction.

This film is in your face, but that's the whole point -- that men who go through this kind of training are never really alive in the same way again after the war is over. The narration about what his rifle means to a Marine is startling but makes perfect sense.

This may be a guy's film. But that'll be a shame -- there's a lot here.

Jake Gyllenhall is a fantastic actor, and you get Peter Saarsgard, Jamie Foxx and Chris Cooper too. Plotnik is still thinking about this one this morning.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Michael Clayton: Yes Indeed.

Here is a photo of The Great Plotnik when he was younger and Irish.

It's Oscar season, so Plot and Duck, who never go to the movies to see movies unless they are obscure foreign language films in art houses where no one comes but the Plotniks and a guy with a large raincoat, have decided to try and see a few Best Picture nominees before the awards are given out. Several are On Demand. Last night's choice was 'Michael Clayton.'

Oooooooooh, good! What a great movie, perfect in every way. Plot doesn't know if Clooney has been nominated for Best Actor, but he should have been. It could easily be Best Picture of the Year...probably better than Ratatouille, which is the only other nominee the Plotniks have seen.

This is not to denigrate Rene, the rat. He was terrific too. He should easily bring home the Best Actor by a Rodent prize.

Like restaurant food at half price, On Demand movies at home for $4 or $5 are a lot better than schlepping to the theater and paying all that scratch. Plus, there is a Pause button. And if you have to watch a scene again, you can. Yes, we're old.

Yesterday, the Morning Bag TV Writer put out his favorite films of the year list, plus he wrote an insightful column about the difference between tv and film. What it came down to, in his opinion, was that in a TV series you have more time to develop character and viewers can identify more easily with their favorites. But he also loved Michael Clayton. Clooney does know how to use his face.

Tonight it's probably 'Knocked Up.'

PS: Plotnik just read that they are doing a film of 'Fantastic Mister Fox,' one of his favorite kids' stories ever. Guess who plays Mr. Fox? George Clooney.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Restaurant Food

The Great Plotnik is getting tired of being disappointed with restaurants. Not that the food is ever bad, just that it often isn't all that great. In the past week, Plot and Duck went to Pescheria and Fattoush, both in Snowy Valley, and both were, you know.

Pescheria was chosen (by Plotnik) because prices on Sunday and Monday have now been marked way down. Mush liked her sole and Silent B enjoyed his quail. Plotnik's pasta and beans was only $9 and it wasn't, like, you know, bad. But, really... tasted like it looks. And even for $9, what's there? A few strands of papardelle and four tablespoons of beans? Now, it's fair to ask What Do You Expect When You Order Pasta and Beans? Plotnik's answer is: maybe a little more taste. But an average meal does taste twice as good at half the price.

(Plotnik does not want to think about what he would be writing now if those pasta and beans had come in at $14 or $17.)

The next night, Dave and his daughter Katherine wanted to take the Plotniks out to dinner. Fattoush sounded like a good idea, and it was within walking distance which made it sound even better.

But, geez. Nobody ate their food. The lentil soup was 'way too salty. The meatballs look good, don't they? But they were gamy, with that mutton-y taste that made them impossible to swallow. The rice was good, when you dipped it in the sauce, as long as you didn't touch the meatball.

That's the thing. These are not expensive restaurants, by Saint Plotniko restaurant standards, but even at $13-$17 for entrees a diner deserves excellence. Sure, you can always send the food back and order something else, but who wants to do that, if the only reason you're sending it back is that you don't like it?

(Ooooh...Milano on Russian Hill. Now THAT was exceptional. The Plotniks need to go back there right away.)

Perhaps it's more than price that draws so many people to fast food. It may not be great, but it's cheap and you know what you're going to get. When you go out to dinner at many Saint Plotniko restaurants, you don't know. At the prices they charge, if you don't have a transcendent experience you ought to at least eat something delicious.

One thing is for sure: Plottie would like to finish his dinner at a restaurant feeling as good about it as Mischief did after his 99 cent burger at Carl's Junior.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Let's be honest: there are three candidates remaining, one Republican and two Democrats, and many of us reading this blog would have been ecstatic to have any of the three to vote for in the last two elections. Obama is the most exciting, Hillary is the smartest and McCain is the biggest national hero. If McCain were Obama's age, and wasn't a Republican, he'd be favored right now.

Yet each of these candidates is flawed. Clinton has so many enemies that we can already taste that acrid stink of gridlock that would doom her presidency: four more years of people like Kenneth Starr and Rush Limbaugh dominating the national dialogue.

McCain is in his seventies and looks it. There is something wrong with this man's synapses. Neither of these two candidates may be able to govern.

Obama's flaws are his age and inexperience, but it's possible these are not flaws in 2008. We've seen where experience can lead us in the hands of people with little vision and no desire to understand a changing world.

But Obama has a problem right now: it's time for the backlash. News outlets, who lined up behind him when Hillary was running away with the nomination, are going to worry that the race is getting out of hand. From now on, instead of hearing about Hillary's flaws, we will hear about her basic humanity and how hard she has worked for the poor.

It's not a conspiracy. It's just the way things work when politics are viewed as entertainment. Watch for it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

BZ's Home, David, Katherine and Peter

The Great BZWZ is back in the Shmapple and that's great. She may be planning a trip West in a few weeks, which is even greater.

Meanwhile, Katherine Pritchett and her dad were in town to get Katherine set up in her new school, which is called JFK School of Holistic Health and is in Pleasant Hill in the East Bay. They drove the Prius across the country from Washington DC and Dave is flying home today while Katherine drives out to her new home in Walnut Creek. Plot and Duck have known Dave since 'way before his three kids were born. The pins in Dave's travel map put the Plotniks' map to deep shame -- he just got back from Sudan and Zanzibar.

Last night was the retirement party for one of Ducknik's oldest and dearest business associates. The three folks in this picture logged a lot of hours working together and managed to do it in some pretty exotic places. Plotnik was lucky enough to tag along whenever he could.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Old Friends, Sit on a Park Bench like Book Ends

For every writer, performer, dancer or actor, there comes a time when you must arrive at the inevitable Big Bend in the Road, where you have to decide whether to keep plugging away at the dream you can't really see very well anymore, or just wise up and find a new career. Plot has been there and so has everyone in the business that he knows.

For a long time, when an artist friend would ask Plotnik's opinion, he would offer the example of his and Ducknik's old friends Hughie and Ruth. They lived across the street from the Plotniks in Shmecko Park, Stiletto City. Hughie and Ruth are actors, gifted and funny people, but, like most, they were finding it difficult to survive. At that time they had one daughter, Mollie, who was (is) The Great BZWZ's age.

When they finally had no more options, they decided to sell their home, take the equity, move to a smaller house, and probably get out of the biz for good. So they sold their house and moved away, and the Plotniks lost wonderful friends across the street.

The day AFTER they moved away, the very next day, Hughie got his first national McDonald's commercial. That was followed up by many, many, many more. When we say 'many' we mean MANY. Hughie's face became the comic face, the one that every sponsor wanted to use, convinced that mug would sell product. Hugh parlayed those commercials into an ongoing role on 'Cheers.' In the old episodes, you can see him sitting down the bar on the same side as Norm.

But maybe it wasn't inflow as much as outgo. Before too long, Hughie and Ruth had sold their new house and moved into a smaller one, and then they did it again and again. Meanwhile they had a second daughter, Margie. A few years ago they decided they'd had enough of Shmalifornia, sold their house in South Pas and moved the family to Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Plotniks have missed their old friends. It has never been a relationship of letters and emails.

But yesterday, Hugh and Ruth just showed up at World Headquarters! DANG! What a surprise and pleasure that was. They're doing fine, acting in local theater in Michigan, living less frenetic lives and every bit as funny as ever. Nothing has changed. That's the true beauty of old friends -- a few more pounds, a little more gray, but everything else stays the same. Nice.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Clairdee and Mike Fever

Plotnik and Ducknik went to church this afternoon. They didn't mean to go to church this afternoon, they THOUGHT they were going TO a church to hear Clairedee sing with her piano player husband Ken French, but no. It was something called Jazz Vespers, and that meant in addition to a piano and a microphone there were also collection baskets and a lady reverend and raspberry tea.

Ducknik says it didn't remind her of any church she had ever been to, but it was exactly like EVERY service Plotnik has ever been to, except for the Clairedee part, which was really, really, sweet. She is such a great singer with a voice that cuts to the heart. Every song she sang, Plotnik felt lifted. He wanted to keep feeling lifted, but then Clairedee would sit down and the lady reverend would stand up. Blather blather blather.

What IS it about people of the cloth and Mike Fever? Ministers, priests, rabbis, imams, shamans, they all catch it. Put 'em in front of a crowd and they can't stop talking. Isn't there a shot they can take in Divinity School?

Look. Plotnik has no problem with being reminded to be a good person. He likes doing random acts of kindness from time to time, and if the lady rev thinks giving her meal to a homeless person, the example she used, would make her feel closer to God, then by all means she should do it. The act doesn't bother Plotnik, it's being TOLD he should do it, it's being WHINED AT with such SURETY, and in that Holier Than Plotnik voice, that God will express great happiness if the reverend gives her chicken to a hobo.

That may very well be true, But in Plotnik's mind, the reverend doesn't know for sure. Perhaps she is interrupting some other plan God has in mind for the hobo. Doesn't it make at least some sense that if God wanted that hobo to eat chicken HE could have given that hobo chicken?

No, it doesn't. We have to be part of the loop too. Plotnik knows about the old-time Hasidic exortation of tzedaka, which means giving to those less fortunate than you. He thinks it's a great idea to give chicken to the homeless. He likes making salami sandwiches on sourdough (with dijon) for local guys down on their luck who show up at the door. He has helped prep and serve 80 gallon vats of lentil soup at the local homeless shelter. He doesn't do it nearly often enough, but every time he does it makes him feel better about his ridiculously random good fortune in a world of such visible want. But as far as he's concerned, when he gives chicken to a hobo it's between Plotnik and the hobo and the chicken. It's not the lady rev's business at all.

But it is Clairdee's business. That voice -- she understands. When she sang the words of the fine old Debarge song "All This Love" -- yes. She gets it. When Plotnik hears Clairdee he gets it too.

So The Great Plotnik would like to thank the church for the Jazz Vespers. It was lovely and an act of kindness on your part to let us all in. Next time, though, just let the girl sing. You'll find all the kindness and hopefulness and fellowship anyone needs. That's what music does. May we have an amen?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Toys, Hughie and Ruth

The sun came out, so the guys are returning to the Sunday morning b-ball game, and they're bringing their kids and their kids are bringing their toys.

There is something so perfectly in-sync about guys and ball and kids and toys. Plotnik doesn't recognize any of these toys either. Talk about feeling ancient.

And now the phone just rang and it turns out that two dear old friends who lived across the street from Plot and Duck in Stiletto City, but who moved back to Michigan some years ago and no one had heard from since: they're here! Hugh and Ruth will be at World Headquarters in a few minutes. This is such fine news. There will be pictures. Wow!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Spring is Here, Like Almost

Last night, the San Francisco Theater Blog took its rear end down to the Marsh to see Jovelyn Richards in "Come Home." We got the review right here, it's name is Paul Revere. OK, only JJ-aka-PP will get that but she's in Acapulco.

The Marsh is the closest theater to World Headquarters, which means leaving at 7:35 for an 8:00 curtain. Oooh, so much easier than going downtown or to Fort Shmason or that town where the Marine Recruiters are or down to Palo Shmalto.

Meanwhile, Plot and Duck are slowly working their way through the magnificent citrus they picked up at Jayne Street in Avenal last Tuesday on their way home from Stiletto City. If Vitamin C will prolong life, the Plotniks are set to party like it's 2099. Red grapefruit, blood oranges, navel oranges, white grapefruit, pomelos, cocktail grapefruit (crosses with tangerines)...MAN! And all for $4. If anyone wants delicious citrus, PLEASE show up at World Headquarters with a bag.

And the season has changed. The flowering pink (pears? crababpples?) trees line Sanchez Street and in the Rear Forty the purple iris are rising up to say hello along with daffodils and the first yellow day lilies. Of course, everything is green, green, it's green they say, on the far side of the hill.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Just Read it Off the Menu

It's never easy to grasp how huge Stiletto City is. Here we see downtown from a hill in Debs Park which is maybe ten miles away. The lighter-colored blur in the middle: a traffic jam on the Pasadena Freeway as it approaches and leaves downtown. In the background we see another hill -- that's where Dodger Stadium is -- and if we looked over that hill we'd see pretty much what we see here: lines and lines of houses, each with a tree. Stiletto City is miles of houses separated by the occasional hill, which is also built up with houses, except for at the very top where you can walk your dog, take a picture and look at the view.

Not that Debs Park isn't an oasis, because it is. The pond is beautiful and Mischief loves to splash in it.

When The Great PunkyDunky and The Great BZWZ were growing up, they had a hill and a park just like this one to play on, only larger, that one off in the distance in the first photo. Elysian Park is the second largest park in Stiletto City, and, much like McClaren Park in Saint Plotniko, 95% of it is wild and unused. Plot and Duck roamed those hills with their kids, and PD and 5H can do it now with Belly.

When Plotnik was growing up, the dry hilltops and wooded canyons were thick with undergrowth, rattlesnakes and poison oak. They probably still are.

Stiletto City can seem hugendously out-of-scale, off the charts for sheer enormity, but that size is also intoxicating. With a little effort you can find nature, and emptiness, and owls and hawks and coyotes, plus black pork ramen, empanadas or shishlik. Just read it off the menu.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

It's Saint Ducky's Day

The Great Plotnik picked out these flowers yesterday afternoon on 24th Street and brought them home to The Great Plotnik World Headquarters and Tropical Nursery. Their purpose is to ask, no, beg, The Great Ducknik to be The Great Plotnik's Valentine. Plotnik is not usually a flowers-and-candy kind of guy, but Valentine's Day is more than symbolic. None of us wait by the mailbox any more, but we all love to be remembered.

Apparently, lots of guys in Saint Plotniko feel the same way. Florists are jammed the day before Valentine's Day with big, beefy guys saying things like: "I like those. What are those?"

"Those are flowers."


It's the same with chocolate. There is a line out the door at Joseph Schmidt's in The Castro. Inside, guys vie for the biggest chocolate hearts filled with the tastiest truffles. Though Valentine's Day is supposedly a multi-platform holiday, meaning each sweetheart buys a gift for his or her partner, in reality it's men who do the buying, especially in Saint Plotniko, or at least in the flower and candy shops patronized by The Great Plotnik.

It's only fair. 363 days out of each year, women do all the shopping. Valentine's Day and Mother's Day belong to the guys.

Plotnik is a lucky man -- he has four women in his immediate Sphere of Valentine. Thank goodness for The Great Ducknik, and for Mummy Plotnik, The Great BeezieWeezie and The Great FiveHead. This man would have little purpose to his life without you, my dear ladies.

Incidentally, BZWZ has been texting from her town in Northern Ethiopia. The text received Monday said: "I just went to a local wedding. Please pray for my intestines." She is scheduled back in The Shmapple this coming Monday.

In case you're wondering, the red ones are gingers, the pointy ones are birds-of-Paradise and the yellow ones are Kangaroo paw.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Who Does She Look Like?

In only six weeks since Plot and Duck saw Isabella at Christmas time, she's starting to look like her own sweet self. Those chubby cheeks of her Dad's, that deep, happy smile from her Mom, we can all see those. But Belly is becoming Belly, pure and simple.

She's growing, growing, growing. She goes to sleep and when she wakes up her shoes don't fit any more.

Sometimes, she looks like she's five or six or ten...

...and sometimes she falls asleep on her Daddy's shoulder and she's a baby again.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Plotnik family revolves around this pretty light.

There are so many blessings in this world to be thankful for. The Great Plotnik and The Great Ducknik had a great time down South. And The Great Hound-nik is very happy to be home. Yes, it is true that his Grand Humans bought him a burger from Carl's Jr. Does anyone wonder if the boy enjoyed it?