The Great Plotnik

Monday, February 28, 2011

Mirror Mirror on the Wall. Who, Me? Awwwww!

Oh, Susannah York.

Plot and Duck watched the end of the Oscars last night. The last scene with the kids' choir from Staten Island was a beauty, but it's hard work to watch much of this show because Plotnik has to keep getting up and leaving the room to keep from retching every time one of the Academy-nominated songs is played.

Who were the hosts? Who WERE the hosts? Billy Crystal is right, we still need Bob Hope. Plotnik never thought he would say that.

It was nice to see "Winter's Bone" recognized, though Best Actress/Best Picture would have been quite a reach. "Inception" was soooo stupid. Haven't seen "The King's Speech" or "Social Network" or "The Fighter" or the one that seems to be about somebody trapped on a mountain.

There should be a category for "Best Film When Taking One's Mother." "Julie and Julia" would win that one. "Winter's Bone" was good but too dark for Mummy P. and "Harry Brown" with Michael Caine was dark too. "The Town" was a disaster because it was too complicated, though Plot and Duck liked it.

The problem is that Plottie always wants to translate for his Mom because she can't see too well, so you have to go to a multiplex matinee and sit at a distance from other patrons. But then the extra loud sound track in the multiplex always jangles and makes Mummy P. a little crazy. To tune that out she tends to fall asleep, so when the lights come up and the film is over and you say "So Mom, how did you like the movie?" her answer is generally: "ehhhh. Not much."

But it's still worth it because she likes getting out and Plot and Duck, who never go to movies if they don't take his Mom, get to see movies they'd never go see otherwise.

Oscar Night is Hollywood's answer to its own Mirror Mirror on the Wall question. Who is the fairest of us all for Best Supporting Editing of a Non Original Documentary with Subtitles in Pashtun? Me? Awwwww!

But Plottie doesn't mind because he loves those actors and those stories too. The In Memoriam section always brings a tear to his eye. Leslie Nielsen? Robert Culp? Susannah York?

DANG! Remember Susannah York with Albert Finney in "Tom Jones?" Was there ever a more glorious looking young woman? Gone, but not forgotten.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

No Carrot Cake for Us

Chocolate coconut pecan toffee clusters. That is the final temptation for Pidge Meade in her desperate attempt to lose forty pounds over the summer so her father will pay for her to go back to college in the fall. We feel how badly she wants to eat one of those nummies but we do want her to turn them down. She does. It's an interesting one-woman show at the Marsh, but Plot and Duck could not make theselves go to the after-party last night -- how are you going to eat that carrot cake after seeing this show?

It's a comedy but it hits you in the gut. You can read the San Francisco Theater Blog review of "Pidge Meade: Forty Pounds in Twelve Weeks" here.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Grandmas Were Best Friends

What a gorgeous day. The storm that was supposed to bring snow flurries down to sea level in Saint Plotniko never materialized, and when it passed through it left the clearest most picturesque sky and a city that looks like it just got dry cleaned.

The Great Acreage is looking quite fine this Spring. But it's still cold, too cold to plant tomatoes or cukes. This morning on the plotkicycle Plottie's hands were painfully frosty and he had to brake more than he usually does going down hills because the wind in his face reminded him of the East.

Until he got to the bagel shop. The Korean guys who run the bagel shop make delicious bagels, but West Coast bagels do not remind Plotnik of East Coast bagels.

The guys at the Hmong farmer's market stand, where Plotnik always buys a few things on Saturday morning after walking across the street from the bagel shop, were not there today. These guys live in Fresno and come up here every weekend but today they had a funeral for two grandmothers. It turns out that in the old country their grandfathers had at least two wives each, and when one of the grandfathers died, not all that long ago, both his wives died soon after. So today they are burying them both in Hmong style, in Fresno, CA, USA.

Everyone at the stand says the grandmas got along great and were best friends. They even died together. What a world.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Just sayin'

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Who Is Your Tribe?

At the risk of alienating his multiplicity of readers at the office who have already exhausted every other time-wasting method at their disposal, The Great Plotnik would like to have a short discussion about the Middle East.

Oh, all right, forget it. How about Survivor? The 'Jints? No?

Think about this: in Egypt and Tunisia there are basically no ethnic differences. Most of the people are Arabs and think of themselves as Tunisians or Egyptians. In those countries, the despot preferred not to incinerate his own people just to stay in power.

In Bahrain it is a sectarian struggle between Sunni, who have all the power but are few in number, and Shia, who have no power but are the majority. The Sunni king has no problem calling in the army to defeat the 'enemy,' who he considers to be a different tribe than his own.

In Libya there are more than a dozen ethnic groups. Khaddafi's family owns a great deal of property and he feels his tribe is far more important than the country. So he is more than willing to bring in the air force to strafe unarmed demonstrators. It's an easy decision, when protecting your tribe's power is all that matters.

In Iran the police seem to hold off any demonstrations the people might want to make. It sounds brutal, but you have to wonder how many people are really behind these supposed insurgencies? If the government can squelch all dissent that easily, perhaps there really aren't that many people who oppose them?

So the question is: what about America? Who is our tribe? Who do we defend at all costs?

It seems to Plotnik that we are more like Iran. We would like our country to be smarter and stop defending the world's dictators, but we're not all that adamant about it. We'd like not to be fighting wars we can't win in places we don't care about, but if we're told it's important it must be so.

We'd like to provide aid to our poor and needy, but we're running out of money right now.

We'd love to put Americans back to work but if our largest corporations can make more money putting their factories in Mexico or China, hey. It must be good for America or they wouldn't do it, would they?

We are not racists. If we believe our President was born in Africa it has nothing to do with what he looks like.

Above all, we are not stupid. But we are not uncomfortable either. So we go along with the program. It's not that insurrection can't happen here, but it will all come down to who is your tribe? Who will you fight for? Who will make you get off your ass and head down to the street to protect them?

We know the answer, so far, don't we?


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Big and Bigger

It's great to get Sparky's Argentina emails, as she gets her new screenplay called Big and Bigger ready to replace Dumb and Dumber. Big and Bigger have to do with chest size and we'll leave it there.

It's almost March! Time for another adventure! As long as the money holds out this is the greatest time of the year to travel South. A month or so from now Plot and Duck should be sending dispatches from Alliance somewhere on blue water.

But they won't be in Argentina, the country of no sleeping. Sparky is heading for Uruguay next and when she gets home we''ll hear all about Big, and Bigger, and maybe, if Sparky runs into anyone else, Biggest.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Flip Side of Rain Is Plants Gone Insane

Artichokes stretch

Peas pop out

Thyme explodes

Lemons shout

And Ma in her kerchief and Pa with his beer
Can survey the mansion and offer a cheer
'cause Demon Oxalis is done for the year.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Block of Old Saint Plotniko

Plotnik discovered a beautiful block last night. He and Ducknik were taking their friend Liz to dinner in the Mission. Liz has failing eyesight and a helper dog named Federicka, so it is a lot easier to drive. Plot dropped Duck and Liz and Federicka in front of the restaurant and then tried to park.

He knows better than this.

After half an hour of endless circling he drove up to the lot near the Marsh and pulled in there. To get back to the restaurant he walked down a small street he never walks down at night, called Lexington Street. The half a block of Lexington between 20th and 21st is absolutely pristine. It looks like Cobble Hill in Brooklyn, or Federal Hill in Boston. The row houses are all original, trees have buckled the pavement and rub up against house exteriors, the tiny yards are well maintained, without the modern-day flash of everything old having being torn out and new stuff put in. Narrow sidewalks. It looks like 1910, especially in the rain. This is truly a little piece of romantic Old Saint Plotniko.

(Remember that fabulous book (Plot can never remember the title) of science fiction where there is a portal between the 1880s and present day New York City? All you have to do is find one piece of the modern city that looks exactly the same as it did in 1880 and you can go back and forth. It's hard to do. (The answer is up at the Dakota, staring out at Central Park.) What was the name of that book?)

The next block pf Lexington and all the ones after: ehhh. New square 1950s remodels, cars up on sidewalks, everything plain and beaten up. It's just this one little corner.

Plot has ridden down Lexington Street many times during the day on his Plotkicycle but never noticed it before. Walking slows you down, and rain softens up the picture. Speaking of pictures, it was raining, so Plottie didn't get any. Sorry.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Scam for Gram

Someone called Mummy P. yesterday and tried to convince her her nephew was in jail in Mexico and needed to be sent a lot of cash right away to get him out. The suggested means of cash conveyance was Western Union. Mummy P. was surprised, confused and only a little bit suspicious, especially after her "nephew" got on the phone, told her he was fine but that he needed that money to be sent immediately. She thought it was him for sure.

In the end it all got resolved and no harm was done nor funds wired. But it's not just the money. Older people get confused so easily and that confusion does not go away. They are frightened, because they don't understand what has happened. We, the younger, are familiar with an endless menu of email scams and identity theft, but older folks tend to reside in a simpler world.

This phone version is a new wrinkle. And it's not right. The Great Plotnik hereby puts a curse on the head of whoever tried to pull this one off: May you be older, confused and frightened some day. May your jail cell be drafty and cold.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Out of the Blue, a Very Nice Wedding

Plot and Duck got a phone call on Sunday from Athena and Carlo, their friends and next-door neighbors. Carlo asked "So what are you doing Tuesday morning?"

Turns out Athena and Carlo were getting married at City Hall at 10:30am, so Plot and Duck went along as their witnesses.

It's a pretty place for a wedding, if you stay upstairs under the dome. Downstairs, in the Hall of Records, where you have to sign the papers and witness forms and receive your marriage license, not so romantic...unless you like being called "Wedding 24859.574J. Next!"

The kids, Avanna and Monty were fine, except that Monty got sick the day before and was throwing up all day on Monday.

Yesterday he refrained from upchucking but didn't feel too good. He only perked up at lunch when dessert came with a cherry on top.

Avanna mostly hid between the columns at City Hall and ran up and down the huge stairs.

Then, last night Plot and Duck saw a show by comedian Chris Titus. They laughed a lot, but Plot can't figure out why anyone would want to pay $42 to see what felt like a cable TV special. Is humor truly generational?

Great comics make you realize this is not so, that when impossible situation meets impossible situation it's just funny, period. Comics that are not at that level make you think it's all about current events. Do we really need to keep laughing about George Bush and Dick Cheney? Was it ever funny?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Help in the Garden

The rains are back today and forecast to last all week, but (with apologies to Finch and Dance-Nik) there was enough time to get flowers in the ground, bulbs planted, trees and roses pruned, seeds started, sugar snaps stuck in pots, lemons picked and put into a three week brine to make Moroccan preserved lemons, and the herb pot rejuvenated.

Ducknik had Avanna and Monty from next door to help her yesterday, until they got bored and insisted on rolling the exercise ball up and down the stairs, which after that was prohibited, led to "let's have an adventure, Monty!" which meant taking the white rocks (that Plotnik keeps in a bag at the side of the house to use as drainage in flower pots) and throwing them through the fence into the neighbor's yard. Then it was "I think it's time to go home" time for Avanna and Monty.

Plot managed to knock Demon Oxalis back for the year. The Demon starts out with a tiny pseudobulb (that you can't see at the hairy tip of that root below), which grows into the large bulb in Plotnik's hand.

The bulb sprouts a thick root, which turns into...

...which turns into...

If they breed a cockroach that eats oxalis that is it for human kind. Plottie filled up at least half a dozen large green compost carts with oxalis this Spring. (OK, he left some because you can't get it all, and anyway it makes a very pretty yellow flower if you leave it alone.)

The insidious part is his garden is a lot worse this year with oxalis. What was the difference? He spread compost all over the yard, that he got from the recycling center. He saw and ran his hands through the compost as he spread it -- wonderful, loamy black dirt, not a bulb in sight. But was it filled with invisible pseudobulbs? Could it be that even the fifty million degree heat produced to make that compost doesn't harm oxalis?

Or equally likely -- the compost enriched the garden so much that everything has taken on new life, including the tiny oxalis bulbs that are now Supernova Oxalis Bulbs. What the hell. Here comes the rain.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Nguyen Tyrone Goldberg Elefantoplis Is Back

She worked with elephants in the north of Thailand and hung out for weeks in Luang Prabang in Laos, and who knows what else the girl got into. Last night she showed a bunch of us her slides.

She's been home a short time and tomorrow leaves for Sydney. That's 'way too much long airline travel for Plotnik, but all the rest of it sounds great.

Friday, February 11, 2011

It Might as Well Be Spring

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Portrait of the Leader of a Small Western Religion as A Young Man

Who could this be, riding his first Plotkicycle?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Two Views From GPWH

Yesterday afternoon The Great Ducknik took this shot of the what appears to be an everyday scene from the Luxury View Boxes at Great Plotnik World Headquarters. A closer examination, however...

...shows that where there have always been four towers on the Smokeland Bay Bridge to stare at, now a fifth is rising on the other side of Pleasure Island. The newcomer is the tower that will support the new bridge replacement, begun when The Great BZWZ was in first grade and scheduled to be completed when she finishes graduate school. Imagine what this view will look like then -- the tower is now only half as tall as it will be when finished, and there will be cables attached.

Last night the crescent moon hung low over John The King's house across the street. Too bad the King is currently on a tour of the South Bay.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Two Early Phone Calls

The phone rang early this morning twice. The first was from Plottie's cousin John's son to inform us that John had passed away during the night. It's a little daunting -- how can people exactly our age have failing health of this magnitude?

The second caller said "Hello my dear father" except it wasn't either of Plotnik's children. He was looking for The Great PD -- someone PD had met in the wilderness of Rishikesh in India many years ago. Plot took his phone number and informed his son that it is nice to be called "my dear father."

To be perfectly truthful, the caller first said "Is this Daniel's mother?" So maybe the connection was not so good.

Plot had had little connection with his cousin John -- probably only saw him two or three times ever. But in recent years they had developed a nice email relationship from time to time, mostly during baseball season when a disappointed Plotzer fan could seek solace with a disappointed-for-far-longer Cub fan.

Why the distance? Family feuds, probably. Plot's family tree is overflowing with 'em. Somebody fights with somebody else, and that's it for everybody for a generation or two. Probably didn't help for Plot's father to die so young and take with him whatever connections there might have been between cousins.

Plot and John planned to get together, to go to a ballgame. Plot should have known better. You've really got to do it, not just talk about it.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Three Nice Days

On Thursday Silent Bill and Mz Mush enjoyed SB's belated birthday lunch at the Buckeye Roadhouse, while Plot and the Duck were busy eating. On Saturday it was a day before Schmeckl Plotnik's birthday at Mummy P.'s house.

And on Sunday Plot ran into an old friend of his from Japanese class. Mike works weekends at the Farmer's Market now -- Saturdays in San Mateo and Sundays in SF City Hall Plaza. Plottie hung out with him for awhile, seeing the huge amount of produce (at fairly high prices) they move in and out of those stalls. Mike's not smiling here but he should be. Plot is thinking he'll bring his Flip Cam next week and see what pops up in front of the lens.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Stupor Bowl Sunday and The Choke to End All Chokes

Duck is making her stupendous nachos, Plottie made salsa to go with them and they both wish The Great BZWZ were here to make her guacamole.

Riding to the airport from Mummy P's house last night Plotnik took the funniest cab ride ever. All the cabbies at Shmurbank Airport are Armenians, from all over the Armenian diaspora and from every country in the world, and some of their accents are really difficult to decipher.

But last night's took the cake. The driver was late getting to the house, so to make things square for his customer, he offered to tell Plottie a joke. If Plotnik didn't laugh at the joke, his ride would be free.

"I am tellink yu choke yu laugheeng ha ha ha so hard ha ha ha you make happy but you don't laugh ha ha no no yu no paying me notheeng no red cent."

He started the joke out. But Plotnik could only understand every fourth word. "Dese two deelerz de dog bad men dey caught by pleez dey for dem lookeeng long long time five year ten year zzzamblitxx."

This means two drug dealers were caught by the police after looking for them five or ten years. The zzamblitxx stands for all the extra words Plotnik never did decipher.

"One name Yon one name Yoe dey before yudge dey standeeng yudge he lookeeng de bad bad look."

You can figure this out. Anyway, the choke ("joke") lasted all the way to the airport and by the end the driver had to slow down so he would be able to finish it and by the time the cab turned into the airport itself both the driver and Plotnik were laughing so hard they were both rolling around the cab. "I laugheeng so hard my noze she speet de seeds." He paid up and the guy got a nice tip.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Cuttin' it Too Close

Plot and Duck always allow two hours from the time they leave World Headquarters until their plane is scheduled to leave. But on the infrequent occasions when they actually drive to the airport, they can get away with a little less.

Today was crazy though. Plottie is heading to Stiletto for a quick two day recording and Mom-visit, but he was thinking his plane left at 12:30 instead of 11:35. At 10:30 something told him he should think about getting ready. After realizing he was an hour late, and slapping himself up side of the head for a solid minute, he got cracking. He was out of the house by 10:35, which gave him one hour 'til the plane left, and he had to get to Oakland.

By 10:45 he was on the bridge, by 11:05 he had hit his first slowdown on the Nimitz SnailWay, by 11:10 he was in the airport but missed the parking lot cutoff. So he had to cut in front of a limo and speed around the airport again. Did he see that cop in back of the limo? Not until the red light went on behind him while he was frantically searching for a parking place.

"You cut off that limo, you roared through the airport, with all these people walking, you sped through the parking lot and I've been in back of you the whole time. You didn't notice me until right now," said the policeman, whose name was St. Egbert the Kind.

"I guess I'll miss my plane," said Plotnik, bowing his head, and St. Egbert asked him when it was leaving and Plottie said "15 minutes." "Be more careful next time," said the wonderful officer of the law as he let Plotnik slide. "Don't miss your plane, now."

Plotnik will buy tickets to the Airport Cop Policeman's Ball for sure. But he couldn't find an empty parking space except at the very FAR END of the lot, from which the terminal looks like this tiny row of buildings way off there in the distance, past the Stadium but before the water.

So he took off running with his roller bag and computer case. He asked a few people if he could go in front of them in the short security line, and they all said yes. By the time he got upstairs and could check the board for his gate it was 11:29. That's when he noticed his plane had been delayed twenty minutes.

Plot kept running anyway, just to be able to say he would have made the flight even if it hadn't been delayed, all the while thanking St. Egbert the Good and the OverLooker of Travelers Going to See Their Elderly Mothers.

Now it's noon and he's in high in the air, at 30,000 feet, staring down at gorgeous Pacifica and Half Moon Bay, a row to himself, seat belt fastened. The pilot (you won't believe this: HE HAS A SOUTHERN ACCENT!) says it's a beautiful day and he's right.

Nothin' to it. Obviously, you only need an hour to get to Oakland and onto the plane. We'll see what the Duck says about this.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Who WERE These Women?

Who were these women? The one on the upper right looks Russian. The lady next to her, in the middle, looks French. The one below and between them looks Jewish. The one on the bottom, far right seems Irish.

Plotnik's cousin sent these and several other mystery photos to him yesterday. Plottie is guessing the above photo to be taken in Europe, most likely the Ukraine, somewhere around 1910. And yet -- they look so modern, don't they? Their facial expressions, their hair, the way they sit? Plotnik imagines if they were wearing togas they could be Romans or Gauls and they would still be sitting the same way, wearing their hair the same way, smiling the same way.

This photo sure looks a lot like Plotnik's Aunt Shirley. Look at her hair!

Plot's cousin suspects they are from her father's family, but Plot doesn't know where he was from. His name suggests he was of German origin but the embossed writing on some of these photos looks like they came out of photo shops in the Ukraine or Byelorussa, the area where so many of the greater Plotnik clans came from.

Two of the photos are from Pitkin Ave and Lafayette Avenue. Both are in Brooklyn, one in East New York, then predominantly Jewish, and one around the corner from where PD and 5H live now, which then was probably upper crusty Waspy.

But how do you know? You see these photos and you ask yourself a million questions.

This was all brought about by Plotnik getting a phone call from the son of another cousin, in Florida, to tell him Plot's cousin John is on death's door. John is Plottie's age, exactly, went into the doctor for a bad back and discovered all his organs were failing and they can't do a thing about it.

Obviously, there is more to this story than Plotnik has been told.

This guy looks a bit like Plot's Uncle Len.

Or, given a camera in minus three hundred BC, Plottie's Uncle Socrates. We haven't changed all that much, that's the point here. The song is gone but the melody lingers on.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


Shaq-o-meter: Does season's snowfall measure up to Shaq? -

Hit the above link and you'll see it's been snowing a lot in Boston. It's already up over Nate Robinson's head, but he's probably the only person in the NBA shorter than The Great Plotnik. It will take awhile to catch The Big Diesel, Mr. O'Neal.

He still doesn't look right in a Celtics uniform. Sorry, Shaq. I used to like you a lot but now you'll look better covered up to your shoulders, unless you've got a new BOSTON tattoo somewhere above that.

Thanks to The Great BZWZ for this.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

A Modern Day Upgrade

Yesterday, Plotnik rented an old Tascam DAT player (Digital Audio Tape), which was state of the art in the 1990s, and therefore had been used to store Plottie's master mixes and instrumental mixes from his 1994 CD "Everybody's Armed."

He has decided to collect many of his older projects and make them available for sale to the excited throngs arriving hourly at World Headquarters on tourist buses. To do that he needs to review the material, and to review it he has to be able to play it, and to play it he needed to rent that DAT player and transfer everything into modern computer format.

And in doing so he discovered two fine old tracks that didn't make the cut onto the final CD. That's always nice.

The transfering was simple, and Plottie got lucky -- he hadn't waited too long. Analog tape degrades and becomes unplayable after time, but all these DATs were in fine shape.

So, students, yesterday's action illustrates Modern Day Upgrade #1: You transfer your content from old fashioned analog tape, which will degrade over time, into digital wave forms that now live on your computer hard drive, which will eventually fail, as well as the hard drives on every backup computer you use. See how much better off we are?