I want to thank Google alerts for letting me know I died 115 years ago

Marketing books — you’ve seen them; they usually have a cover of somebody in suspenders and a spray tan, grinning through capped teeth, sitting on a pile of money and lighting a cigar with a $100 bill — suggest that you set up a Google alert with your own name. 

A Google alert asks the search engine to send you an email whenever the topic you insert pops up in the news. For example, your computer would have imploded last night if you had a Google alert with “Oklahoma” and “choking,” but I digress.

The idea of being alerted to news about you seems like a good idea. For example, at 3:31 this morning, Google let me know that I was dead.

Only I wasn’t, and not because I didn’t get surrounded by Scientologists burning in the Lake of Fire. Upon further review, my Google alert just randomly looks for things with James and Curran in it. Robert James Curran, the Napa Valley Register reports, died after contracting dysentery while trying to flee the Philippines. I knew this was baloney. I wouldn’t try so hard to leave the Philippines because Asian women are pretty hot. You might even talk me into staying in North Korea for a while.

Then I noticed the poor chap died in 1901, and even for newspapers getting beaten on a story by 115 years is pretty inexcusable.

Anyway, there are two morals to the story. 

One, don’t believe everything you read because you might wind up dead even though you’re still breathing.

Two, definitely don’t believe anything you read in the Napa Valley Register because that newspaper is owned by Lee Enterprises and I can tell you from personal experience that — thanks to the incompetent leadership of Mary Junck — Lee Enterprises suffered a most hideous death about 10 years ago. Seriously, MJ, taking out a $1.5 billion loan to buy the St. Louis Post-Dispatch right before the credit market crashed. Well played.

It might sound odd on Memorial Day but…

… Even if you didn’t pay the ultimate sacrifice on the field of battle I want to thank you for serving the country, anyway.

Here’s why:

I’ve spent part of this morning recalling friends who enlisted and while I could be wrong, I can’t remember any of my friends dying while serving. Enlisting and then passing away after leaving the military, yes, but in combat or while serving? No.

(By the way, I’m quite certain that friends of mine from high school or college will remind me of somebody, so I await eating that slice of humble pie.)

However, while I don’t recall particular individuals who gave all, you — the military veteran — do. Because of that, you probably feel loss. They were your brothers and sisters. Like you, they signed the papers that said “if my country needs me to fight to the death, I will.” It’s also one thing to commit to that. It’s another to follow through on that.

And you knew those people with an intimacy that I know my friends, family, coworkers. You knew them not as another dude with a weapon and cammies, but for their wit, intellect or just what made them nice. You lost your friends. And privately, that hurts.

If anything, it is a testament to the efficiency of our military that we don’t have as many who gave all. Maybe Memorial Day touched us all deeply after world wars or Vietnam because of the number of casualties. Civilians were more likely to know those who have fallen and it became personal.

To my friends who did or do serve, I will spend this day thankful that I don’t have to remember you as the fallen.

I also want you to know I am sorry for your private loss.

See you tomorrow when we’re all back on the clock.

Hacky announcers may leave, but ESPN will always suffer from full-blown Berman

Chris Berman is out like Huey Lewis and the News.
Chris Berman is out like Huey Lewis and the News.

For those of you who have never met me, I confess like most comedians I had a bit of a shtick. I had a large personality and strong opinions. Sadly, had I used that act on TV, I would have been an ideal ESPN host from 2000 to the present day.

Chris Berman — the “Patient Zero” who infected ESPN with an HCP (hacky catch phrase) virus that ravaged the network’s T-cell count — might be retiring. Somebody had to tell me that because I haven’t watched ESPN programming (games, yes; anything else, no) in years.

Just like somebody had to tell me that ESPN got rid of Colin Cowherd, Skip Bayless, Curt Schilling, etc.

All four with shtick. All four with strong, if ill-conceived, opinions. All gone. Only maybe not Berman, because he’s insisting he’s being forced out, not retiring.

I should be overjoyed. Berman, who has been with the company since 1979, has been spouting the same pop culture references since 1979. His act grew tiresome when Bush was elected — George H.W. Bush. That’s damn near 30 years.

You can only take so much bombast and blather before you simply regurgitate it. It’s kind of like not paying attention to that little half-puke belch you get at the frat kegger. Your pals look at you, hold your shoulder and plead, “Bro, you’ve got to maintain.” But you imbibe that final swig of “Pardon the Interruption” and next thing you know, you’re sprinting to the toilet to spew all of that ESPN into the sewage system.

You might ask: So what if one guy is overbearing, James? Just avoid him and all is well. I agree. Except, back in the 1980s when the act still had shelf life, ESPN decided to overload style over substance. Some style can work. There were some hits. You might loathe Keith Olbermann’s politics, but he was rather clever at ESPN. Same for Dan Patrick and Craig Kilborn.

But then you counter that with the unintelligible Cowherd, Bayless, Stuart Scott, Kenny Mayne, Woody Paige, Stephen A. Smith, Dan LeBatard — all shtick, no information, all screaming. A good friend once observed that people who don’t have much of an argument simply add volume. Every weekday, ESPN dedicated two hours of programming to chubby sportswriters screaming at each other over the same topics. The intellect was absent. The passion was phony. And I believe people sensed it.

All of those personalities wouldn’t have had jobs at ESPN if it weren’t for Berman.

In the process, ESPN paid for persona. Something had to give. The news department was completely gutted. News was a reason millions of us watched ESPN — the games and it also had the “inside dope” on teams.

We chose to get the inside dope elsewhere. We tuned out ESPN. Behind the style, there must be substance or people leave. Watching ESPN was like dating a Hooters girl with a meth addiction. Nice bikini body, but that nasty mouth and no brains…

I had to be told Bayless was leaving. I despised Skip Bayless — his unconditional love of Tim Tebow, his spray tan, his noise. But I can’t be happy or angry about his departure from ESPN because I simply don’t watch. He doesn’t affect me.

Same for Berman. As far as I’m concerned, ESPN can force him out the door with a send off that would make Kobe Bryant’s look like a child’s birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. It’s not going to matter, because I won’t be watching.

The gut feeling: ESPN didn’t expel those personalities because their act had grown tired. It’s because ESPN knows they can replace all of them cheaply with open mikers loitering in front of The Improv.

Because much like HIV, you don’t get rid of HCP. It only becomes full-blown Berman.

Know this, Chris: As you spend your golden years talking to the walls about Bert “Be Home” Blyleven, Jeff “Brown Paper” Bagwell or Andre “Bad Moon” Rison, your bosses will usher in a guy with a rubber chicken and nobody will notice the difference.

Dear Steve Harvey


The first thing you should know is my gut feeling is you’re probably a swell guy and I shouldn’t find this cover so irritating.

But I know I speak for legions of stand-up comedians pounding the pavement in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York — only to return to sleep in their cars — who would look at this cover and ask, “You slept in your car. So what?”

I know more comics, ones who have repeatedly been on television and in motion pictures, driving from road gig to road gig, who are somewhere on Interstate 15 and thinking “The producer stiffed me. Do I have the money? Oh, screw it” and pull over.

Many comics, including me, consider sleeping in the car an ugly but necessary sacrifice on the path to becoming a success.

And you know this.

Because comedy is expensive, even when you are famous. To those who never took the mic at The Comedy Store, know that the guy who’s name is on the marquee might be netting less than you. Oh, he makes more than you if he’s lucky … But …

Only he pays for his lodging and travel. The comedy fan goes home to a wife.

Only the guy who booked the comic might short him or not pay at all.

Then you notice the expenditures close in on what non-comics make. Only the person who doesn’t tell jokes for money  doesn’t have to pay for rent and hotels. And the guy who attends the show instead of being the name on the marquee? He probably has a spouse, which reduces expenses further.

And then, somewhere in North Texas, trying to make it from Albuquerque to Oklahoma City, you’re rolling through Amarillo, Texas and you have a question to ask yourself while your eyelids flutter.

Or maybe you don’t do road gigs. Yeah, stay in LA. I’ll get paid in LA.

I wrote that last line so that all the comics who read this post can burst out laughing.

Take a great guy who performs every single night at The Comedy Store. He’s been on “The Tonight Show” more than anyone else in history. Love the guy. Still funny. Always nice to everybody. He got up, does his spot and collects … $25.

And then you’re sleeping in your car anyway. Only it’s not in Amarillo, it’s somewhere safe in LA.

I typed that last line for the comics to laugh again.

Maybe I shouldn’t be as miffed at this as I am. I guess my problem is that particular pulled quote makes it sound as if you were the only comic out there who knew struggle. “The struggle is real,” is a popular catch phrase these days regarding the economy. In comedy, it is a fact of life.

And I admit, looking back on it, it’s more than a little foolhardy. If you asked people, “How much do you believe in yourself?” Not many would say, “I would give it all up and sleep in a car if I had to.” I didn’t always catch sleep in parts unknown. But yes, Mr. Harvey, I did believe in myself that much.

I don’t begrudge you your success.

I don’t begrudge any comic success, so long as they weren’t joke thieves.

But there was a reason that I shook every comic’s hand every night that I could. I won’t name names, but I know their sacrifice. I know their struggle. It was once mine. I called them my brothers. I meant it. Another comic had an even better name. He would call us “family.”

All I ask of you is you don’t disrespect your family by suggesting your struggle was unique.

Pals,

James

The week in Los Angeles sports (5/20/16-5/26/16)

Before recapping a week that was weak from my old stomping grounds, I want to address the idea of the Oakland Raiders moving to either Las Vegas or Los Angeles.

If the Raiders can’t make it work in Oakland, the Rams should tell them to move to Vegas.

The cold truth is the Rams could lose the city they fought so hard to move to, because the Raiders are a damn entertaining football team right now and on the cusp of being a playoff threat.

The Rams? I’m not sure what the hell they are right now. I know they want to run the football, but they let a lot of their defensive depth go in order to make room for a quarterback. They’re likely a couple of years away.

The return of the LA Raiders could damage the LA Rams. Why would team owner Stan Kroenke allow that?

Now…

Dodgers: A national outlet’s power rankings asked if it was time to write off the Dodgers. Depending on what you’re writing them off for, it’s a fair question. Playoff berth? I wouldn’t write them off. World title? Grab your pen and start scribbling, because this team is currently very poorly designed and poorly led.

Consider they just finished a string of 10 consecutive games against last place teams and finished a painfully mediocre 5-5.

I have plenty of time to deconstruct the team, though. Instead, I want to take the analytics-enslaved management to task over how it treated Ross Stripling. You might remember how manager Dave Roberts ruined Stripling’s push for a no-hitter in his major league debut. Roberts, beholden to the spreadsheet the alleged “smartest front office in baseball” forced him to abide by instead of common sense, pulled Stripling, and the Dodgers lost.

Had Stripling — a journeyman minor-leaguer — finished the no-hitter, he would have had a better shot at landing a job with another team because he wasn’t in the Dodgers future plans. Or at least, he would have been known as “the guy who threw the no-hitter” everywhere he went afterward.

Stripling was demoted in the last week. It’s unlikely you’ll see him in Dodger blue again.

Good going, “smart guys.”

Lakers: Brian Shaw was hired as Luke Walton’s lead assistant coach, and sportswriters from sea to shining sea got the story totally wrong.

Shaw is not there to bring the Warriors “small ball” style to the Lakers. We don’t even know if Walton is going to try to replicate that.

Shaw was an assistant under Phil Jackson. Walton played for Jackson. And Jackson ran the triangle.

You’re jumping to a conclusion that the facts don’t support. Idiots. You don’t know what Walton will do yet.

By the way, if “small ball” is so great, why are the Warriors down 3-1 to Oklahoma City and its three seven-footers?

Galaxy: Rivarly Week for Major League Soccer ended with a thud when San Jose picked up a 1-1 tie with less than 10 minutes to go in the game. That sucked. It really did, especially since LA got its goal when a San Jose player accidentally kicked the ball into his own net.

Kings: The NHL draft is in late June. The Kings don’t have a first-round pick and even if they did, I couldn’t tell you if the dude could play.

Clippers: Just a gut feeling. Despite all the talk about blowing up the team, I think they simply focus on finding J.J, Reddick’s replacement at shooting guard. Dude is 31.

When was the last time an NBA franchise blew up, by the way? The last I can think of … the Chicago Bulls when Pippen and Jordan left?

Looking for “the stars homes” takes on a different meaning here

If you’ve known me for a while, you knew that I lived on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood for a spell. Yes, there were tour buses to the homes of celebrities and people who asked me if I knew where the cast of “Saved by the Bell” lived. Truth be told, I know Mr. Belding. Great guy. Not tellin’ you where he lives.

Now that I live in Florida, something I didn’t expect happened. People in LA ask me if I know Florida’s “celebrities.”

“Dude, have you met George Zimmerman?”

No, but I have been to Sanford. I just don’t wear a hoodie when I’m there.

Now people want to know if I’ve met Casey Anthony. I haven’t, and if I had, I probably be stupid enough to ask for the digits.

Here’s why:

True, the girl was on trial for killing her daughter. And she apparently beat the rap because she was able to get the best legal defense her body could buy.

Considering it costs at least $25,000 to retain a lawyer in a serious felony case, such as murder — and no, I do not know from first-hand experience — Casey Anthony must have some serious game in the Motel 6 to pay that off.

I know it’s repugnant, but it’s not exactly easy finding Miss Right out in these here swamps.

The way I figure it, you might think after having a fight with your girlfriend, that make-up sex is good. Well, make-up sex may be good … But “thank you for keeping me out of jail sex” has to be freaking incredible.

And yes, I’m thinking horrible thoughts because I had a horrible day. Could you tell?

Quick howdy to my political buddies

Those who know me, feel free to advise those who don’t on my behalf: I’m not about to tell you who to vote for. You think I’m going to tell Democrats that they’re about to nominate a son of a bitch? Or the daughter of one? Who am I to talk? I’m fully aware my party already did nominate a son of a bitch.

You ain’t seeing me getting all defensive about your posts about you-know-who.

But I would like you to think twice about your memes, your links to a hot “news” item on conservativesuberalles.com or ifyouaintliberalyoureaworthlesspieceofshit.com. You know the posts. The ones that claim, for example, that Hillary Clinton is off to jail or the hand of God graced Bernie Sanders, and his supporters glowed the holiest of glows despite the fact that they were avowed atheists.

Because every election year — and this is a defined portion of the political calendar, I might add — pundits, pollsters and the permanently aggrieved shriek the shrillest of shrillness to keep you engaged in the electoral process. Put another way, to keep the fat cats’ checks coming and to keep you posting outright falsehoods that your candidate’s opponent is a cockroach in a tie or a pantsuit.

The political “silly season” is defined as such (italics from me): In US politics and lifestyle, the silly season is a period from early summer until the first week of October of election years. Primary elections are over at this time, but formal debates have not started and the general election is still many weeks away. Issues raised during this period are likely to be forgotten by the election, so candidates may rely on frivolous political posturing and hyperbole to get media attention and raise money.

In other words, your patriotism is being cynically used by politicians during a gorgeous time of year.

So why raise your blood pressure or mine? You can’t tell me something about any of the candidates right now that I don’t already know.

If OccupyDemocrats or Right Wing News sends you an alert that — for the good of the country — is an absolute must for your Facebook feed, know this: It isn’t. It’s childish name calling.

You know what would be more mature? To be a child again. Go outside and play. It’s summer, for Pete’s sake.

Laugh at my pain? It’s a pain trying to laugh, at Kevin Hart

For openers, I want to thank Hollywood for waiting two entire months before releasing another steaming pile of dreck starring Kevin Hart. We don’t know why there was a delay for the movie. TMZ has not been able to verify the rumor that “Central Intelligence” was originally titled “Ride Along 3,” only Ice Cube had a prior commitment with his sneer coaches.

Still, I think the better decision would have been to give us all a break from this one-note wundermunchkin and let another black comic have a chance. A friend has asked me why I hate the guy so much. It’s not that I hate him so much as it is that I hate the idea that Hollywood only sees one type of black man — the loud, over-acting facemaker — as “funny.” And then, because studios are loathe to take risks, they will rechurn that same spew until the public finally has enough and revolts like a Bernie Sanders rally.

But it also goes beyond race. Hollywood has deemed one type of white guy as funny. How many times do we need to see Seth Rogan or Will Ferrell in their tighty whiteys?

I have no idea why the powers-that-be selected Kevin Hart to fill the role as Hollywood’s pre-eminent black comedic actor. My best guess is that they had a few dozen spare scripts for Chris Tucker lying around and thought, why let them go to waste?

Because a quick check of the filmography of Hacky McNeckroll and it becomes obvious there’s no attempt at being creative. He shot five movies in 2014, a few more last year and as many as six could come out this year, depending on how fast Universal Studios needs to recover from the losses incurred by “R.I.P.D.” and “47 Ronin.”

How can a quality comedic actor create six uniquely funny characters in the span of a year?

The answer is, you can’t. It’s all the same character. It’s the same joke. It’s a director looking at Will Farrell saying, “The writers can’t think of anything. Drop your pants and start running.”

Again?

Yeah, again.

It was only a matter of time before some sleazeball in a European suit saw the screenplay for “Get Hard” and asked the obvious, “Why not have Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell in the same movie? It’ll be the ‘Batman V Superman’ of awful comedy!”

What galls me about Kevin Hart, aside from overexposure, is the vast number of incredibly talented black comics that will never get a chance because Hollywood is so focused on force-feeding you one guy. Black comedy is not just volume plus facemaking. Comedy can speak of social ills, be absurd, use clever wordplay, speak in metaphor.

Comedy can be a confessional. Richard Pryor didn’t create dozens of movies around one joke. He lived a life, found what was funny about that life, and became a legend. Nobody will ever forget Richard Pryor.

But we have to be told the obvious: Kevin Hart is loud and short. Pay $12. Point and laugh. Repeat.

Naw, I heard that joke years ago. Give another man a chance. There has to be the next Richard Pryor out there somewhere.

Monty Python ain’t got nothin’ on me when it comes to spam

This isn’t my first blog. I had one I enjoyed which clowned athletes who got arrested. The problem with that blog was athletes get arrested at such an alarming clip I was posting up to 11 times per day. After three years and more than 3,500 posts, I was running out of cheap shots.

There were two things I remember most about that blog. One was the threats from athletes who were out on bail. The other was the spam. My tablet “dings” whenever I got an email, such as a message to this site. One night, thanks to citizens of Ghana wanting to sell us all boner pills for cheaper than the Canadians, being near my tablet was like sleeping next to a ringing phone.

The lesson being: If you run a blog, you’ll eventually need to invest in a spam blocker or you’ll hear from the entire royal family of Skidmarkistan asking for a loan to reclaim their rightful place, leading a nation of turd farmers.

I’ve had this blog for less than a week. I don’t have an internet presence yet that would lead to a flurry of spam.

img_1369-1.jpg

Or do I?

Welp, maybe I need some erection pills.