Saturday, January 29, 2011

Fill your fist, you son of a gun!

“Why a True Grit remake?”

I just got off the phone with my kid sister. We only talked for about 30 minutes, ‘cause I had to come up here to kick off our discussion. Y’all don’t wait well. I told Jill as much. She said she’d finish griping to me later. The girl has some issues.

One thing that was majorly upsetting her was “True Grit.” The new one. Kay and I saw it a week after it came out. I told Jill that it wasn’t nearly as good as the John Wayne version, but she still oughtta see it.

I told her that the dialog was pretty much the same, but the Coen Brothers version supposedly stuck closer to the book. I’d have to read the book to know if that’s true, and that’s not gonna happen.

The John Wayne “True Grit” was one of my favorite movies. You take Glen Campbell out of the thing and it’s one of the greatest Westerns ever made. Which begs the question: Why make another?

One would think it best to remake something that came out really bad. “The Beast of Yucca Flats” or “Plan 9 From Outer Space.” Those could only get better. But True Grit?

My Dad once told me, “Mark, I warned you not to stick that to your face. Now, you’re just gonna hafta go to church like that.” But, on another occasion he actually said something almost pertinent. He said, “Mark, try not to make good bad or bad worse.”

At the time, I wish he had given an example, ‘cause it just hung there. Later, I learned to appreciate his words. Haven’t been able to do a thing with ‘em, but I appreciate ‘em.

Had Dad been able to pass his sage advice on to the Coen brothers, I’m sure they would’ve still made “True Grit.” So, I don’t know why I even brought it up.

My over all view of the new Grit movie contains no malice towards anyone. Jill’s view, on the other hand, was ripe with that malice stuff. Jeff Bridges was a terrible Rooster. Delivered a deep snarl through the entire shoot. “I can’t help ya, son.” If Jill hears that fake Southern drawl one more time, she’s gonna punch something really hard. I’d steer clear of her till all the commercials are off the air.

“Well, Baby Sister, come see a fat old man.” The line wasn’t even in the new movie. And, Rooster didn’t jump his horse over a four rail fence. In fact the entire scene at the end of the original movie was replaced with something just a whole lot less satisfying. I’m sure it went hand in hand with the book, but who cares? Jill sure doesn’t.

And, Strother Martin? Nobody will ever be able to deliver a line like that guy. – “I will pay a total of two hundred dollars to your father's estate when I have in my hand a letter absolving me of all liability from the beginning of the world to date!”

In the remake, the actor playing Martin’s role did a fair job, but he certainly did not come close to matching Martin’s delivery. In fact, Jill doesn’t think any of the actors were an improvement over the original cast. Oh, except for Matt Damon. Damon didn’t erase the image of Glen Campbell from my mind, but did blur it a bit.

Granted, Campbell’s character, Ranger LaBoeuf, had some tough dialog -- “A little earlier I gave some thought to stealin' a kiss from you, although you are very young...” – but Damon managed to pull it off. I had to close my eyes during Campbell’s scenes. Don’t care to talk further about it.

I told Jill that the dialog for “True Grit” was supposed to be very close to the way people talked and wrote back then. I read/heard that back in the “olden” days, most people learned how to read from the King James Version of the Bible. So, they were naturally influenced by old English speech, as is evidence from some of the letters written during the period of the Old West. I don’t think Jill believed that any more than I did, but it sounds feasible as all get out.

Some of the toughest dialog in “True Grit” belonged to Mattie Ross. Jill thought that Kim Darby did a far superior job than Hailee Steinfeld, the younger Mattie. I don’t agree with that, but I didn’t tell Jill.

To bluntly sum up, I’d have to say that Jill believes that the newer Grit movie had poorer acting, more horrible and bleak scenery, and a stinking ending. Oh, and some of the best parts were left out.

During a lull in Jill’s venting, I asked how the popcorn was. The big reason I go to the movie is for the popcorn. If I could pop corn like the theatres, I’d watch all movies in my living room.

Jill said she didn’t get any popcorn this time, ‘cause she’s trying to cut down. Didn’t get any popcorn? “Never trust a review from a critic who didn’t get any popcorn.” My dad was a real sayer of sooths.

Of course, I saw the movie, and do agree with many of Jill’s assessments. Oh, and so does Dennis. My big brother called yesterday to ask me the name of the deputy in the old TV series “The Lawman.” The thoughts that capture Dennis have no parameters.

That bit of trivia sparked a discussion of other Westerns, which eventually brought us around to the topic of “True Grit.” Dennis didn’t like the remake one bit. And, get this, he not only got the large popcorn, but he got a refill. His review should definitely hold up.

So, if you haven’t seen the new “True Grit” you need to go, just so we can meet on the roof some day and compare notes. We’ll have to settle for microwave popcorn. Orville can call it “Movie Popcorn” all he wants, but it’s not even close… and yes, I know he’s dead.

I don’t know what slight of hand the theatre corn popping people perform, but I sure wish I did. Whatever they do has cost me a small fortune. – Oh and I almost forgot. The deputy was Peter Brown. Hey, I know my Westerns.


To see Mark and Brad’s restaurant review of Russo’s in The Woodlands, click here: Russo's

You can reach Mark at

Friday, January 21, 2011

A little help?

“Okay, pick one”

HODGE PODGE LODGE – I need you all to take a seat in here… somewhere. Most of you will be sitting on the floor. I vacuumed it a couple of weeks back, so it’s more than sanitized. You could eat popcorn off that floor. Literally. There’s some over there in the corner. Well, it’s gone now. Harold is quick. Isn’t he quick?

Did you have any trouble finding this place? I’m sure you realize there are 915 Hodge Podge Lodges in the lower 48. This one just happens to be at my house. There is no listing in any directory that I’m aware of.

No, I just opened my HP Lodge about three minutes before I started the first paragraph up there. Somewhat ingenious, you ask me. Anyone asking? Anybody?

Well, here’s the deal. I’ve got several topics I’d like to discuss today. Somewhat of a hodge podge of stuff. Get it? Unfortunately, I can’t settle on any one topic. So, I decided to make use of your collective wisdom and let y’all pick the topic for me… for us.

No, I don’t care to explain it again. I’m just going to go ahead and describe the different ideas and let you choose the one you like the most… or hate the least. – Oh, and for a snack you’ll find a big bowl of peanuts over there by the—Yeah, I see you found it.

Okay, if everyone is lucid, here’s your first topic up for vote. “Supreme.” Do you know what that word means? A lot of people don’t. SUPREME refers to the best you can get. By definition it’s “the highest in degree or quality.” Unfortunately, the word has been messed with over the years.

I was at a popular Mexican Food restaurant today with my short-tempered friend Brad. I had looked over the multi-page menu for about ten minutes when the waiter came by for the third time to ask if we were ready to order.

I answered his question with a question. I hated to, but it needed done? I asked him the difference between a Supreme Tostado and an Ultra Tostado (a tostado being a flat crispy tortilla with meat and/or beans on top.) The waiter kindly pressed down hard on Brad’s shoulders to keep him from coming across the table and strangling me. The Bradford was ready to order.

Anyway, as Brad swore at me, the waiter explained that an Ultra Tostado has meat on it and a Supreme doesn’t… thus making the Ultra better than the Supreme. Better than the highest degree or quality.

That revelation made me curious as all get out as to what a “regular” tostado would be. Lettuce and cheese? SUPREME my foot! There oughtta be a menu law.

See? Now that’s a pretty good discussion topic, isn’t it? Well, don’t vote on it yet. Here’s another. “Exercise.” We all know we should, but only 18 people in Montgomery County actually do it. That said, let me ask you this. Do you think that “Boot Camp” is a good name for an exercise program? Do the two words, when placed together, entice you to pay money and drive miles, or do they scare the willies out of you? – “Somebody make me exercise? It’s genius!”

When dragged into an event kicking and screaming, you’re more likely to participate. It’s part of the Wo-Tang Principle first taught by Zhaka Zulu.

Unfortunately, there’s a big flaw in the concept. I just can’t see anybody making me show up for Boot Camp. Unless the camp is in my living room and the instructor has a key to the front door, it’s not happening.

I can go into depth about the Boot Camp if I have to. Might upset some drill sergeants, but I could go on. For now, though, let’s move on to another possible topic. “Meat smokers.” Last month, Big Al smoked a big ol’ pork roast for our Christmas meal. The meal was the best thing I got for Christmas. I did some serious clawing and biting for leftovers, too. I’m so glad Mom wasn’t around to witness what we’ve become.

So, ever since Christmas I’ve wanted a smoker. I don’t want one like Big Al’s, though. He’s got the giant metal monster with a wood box and chimney and all that. I don’t want anything big and heavy, unless it’s in a Hershey’s wrapper.

Big Al had to tend his smoker all day. I don’t have the wood or the discipline to do something like that. I’ve got just enough patience to apply direct flame. Burn it good. I’ve been known to char some pretty gnarly things and get away with it. But play with a rack of ribs for hours? The words “slow” and “cook,” when put together, become bad words, do they not?.

No, I want something that I can throw on a grill when I’m not even hungry, and then walk away and forget about. Eight hours later an alarm goes off and I say, “Whoa! The meat! I forgot all about it.” I go outside, fork a slab of something onto a platter and walk it into the house. That’s what I want.

They call something like that an electric smoker. A lot of people say that an electric smoker not only doesn’t give meat a smoky enough flavor, but it’s also only meant for sissies to use. Hey, I’ve read the reviews.

Anyway, I don’t want to get into all of that unless I’m forced. When you start talking about BBQ grills and smokers you can really stir the proverbial pot of nasty. So, I urge you not to vote on that topic.

The next topic is bicycles. Yesterday, Kay and I were in Academy. I’m over there looking at smokers and she grabs me by the belt loop and drags me over to the-- Yes? Oh my goodness. You’re right. Time. We have no more.

So, we… what? We vote? No, that’d be stupid, wouldn’t it. We’re out of space and time and peanuts. Speaking of which, I just wish you’d look at this floor. Kay is gonna raise a fit. And, do you think my vacuum will pick all of that up? Pathetic.

No, it’s my fault. I shouldn’t have tried such a bizarre experiment in topic selection. I’m not saying I’ll never do it again, but the next Hodge Podge Lodge activity will be held outdoors. This in-the-study thing is over as of now. Some of you guys can’t be trusted. – Harold, don’t you give me that look! I know a boot camp with your name on it, Li’l Mister.


To view Brad and Mark’s review of Schilleci’s New Orleans Kitchen click here: Pizza! You can reach Mark at

Friday, January 14, 2011

Gettin' swimmy headed here

“Last Step”

ROOFTOP -- On your way up here did any of you notice what was stamped on the top of the stepladder? I’ve owned the ladder since it’s infancy, and I never noticed. The message reads “Not a step.”

I had no idea. The top of a stepladder is not for stepping. It’s just a place for ending the ladder. The manufacturer adds the warning to cover its posterior. They know that everybody steps on the last step. It’s in the human genome. It’s right across from the section of DNA that tells you to lie when someone calls and asks if they woke you.

The thing about the ladder, though, is that when one of you steps on the top step, and you fall and shatter your fourth metatarsal, you won’t be able to sue because they warned you not to step there. And, you can’t sue me, ‘cause I made you all sign that waver. Remember? It’s on file somewhere.

But, forget that. Let’s get around to enjoying our beautiful, clear and breezy perch. The rooftop is the best, isn’t it? Do you think you’d be able to see that woodpecker over yonder if you were at ground level? No way! You’d hear it banging its head on the oak, but you couldn’t see it.

It really hurts me to watch a woodpecker at work. No way could I move my head back and forth like that without getting a migraine. I think it’s because of all the twirling around I did as a kid. You know, when we twirled around till we got so dizzy that we fell over? I used to do that a lot. Mom would say, “Mark, you’re 19 for goodness sakes! When are you gonna stop that?”

Speaking of which, you wanna know what’s odd? I’ll tell you what’s odd… coincidental, even. I’m getting just a little dizzy right now. It’s this cigar. And, yes that’s the reason I’m sitting downwind of you.

This is the first cigar I’ve smoked in about six months. Big Al gave it to me during the holidays. Practically forced it on me. Told me to smoke it New Years Eve. I might’ve done that, but I went to bed at 10:30. Al phoned at 12:10 to wish me a Happy New Year. I suppose. I don’t remember a great deal about the conversation. I do remember telling him I wasn’t asleep, though.

This certainly is an expensive cigar. That’s the only kind Al gets. If this thing is not a Cuban it’s pretty close to being one. Al knows his smokes. He’s even got a humidor. I’m not kidding. Not only am I not kidding, but I’m not feeling all that well, either. I think I’ll save the rest of this cigar for next year. Maybe stick it in the freezer.

Don’t tell Big Al about this. He already thinks I’m a sissy. I don’t take a punch well, I get headaches when my head bobs around, and I can’t smoke a cigar without getting sick. Not only that, but I don’t like action movies all that much anymore. I’m beginning to scare myself.

Yesterday, I took Kay to see “The King’s Speech.” I’m probably the third nicest husband in the world. The movie is about a British King trying to overcome stuttering so he can talk to “his people” without coming across as a rube. I went for the popcorn.

Turns out I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. I didn’t cry or anything, but I sure got anxious a time or two. The movie was so much better than Stalone’s “The Expendables.” That’s another thing not to tell Big Al.

Uh, Lucy, what are you staring at in the front yard? Are you going to make me turn to see it? Okay. – Oh, that’s the spot where we had our tomato garden. It’s now just a mowed over weed patch. I had hoped it would be our last garden. Not so.

This morning Kay went to town to get some seeds and some tiny growing pots. She told me that instead of buying plants this spring, she’s going to start growing her own. We’re having bell peppers and straight-necked squash.

I asked her what the difference was between crook-necked squash and straight-necked. If I had been just a little slower, her pinch would’ve caught me in a really bad place.

Kay did tell me that straight-necked squash is easier to pollinate than crook-necked, because the crook can hinder the pollen from getting where it needs to be. Sometimes I don’t know if she’s making stuff up or really knows what she’s talking about. After the near miss on the pinch, I acted like she was a gardening genius.

So, if any of you spot a good place for me to stick our next garden, speak up. The last site needs to lay fallow for a couple of years until the saint augustine reclaims it. Then Kay will have me dig it up again, so she can plant radishes and chickpeas.

All of this is making me think I need to have a long talk with Big Al. He’s nowhere near the nicest husband in the world, yet he’s happy as a woodpecker on hard bark.

Speaking of which, just look at that bird. It’s still beating the daylights out of that tree. My head hurts just watching it. Whop, whop, whop! Okay, now I’m getting swimmy headed.

Right, maybe we should climb down. I’ll be last. Maybe I’ll start to feeling better. Oh, and be sure not to step on the top step of the ladder. And, yes I’m just saying that for the couple of you who didn’t sign the waver. Hey, I’ll get you to sign… next time.


To watch Mark and Brad’s latest restaurant review go to YouTube click on: BBQ Cafe

Monday, January 10, 2011

Neck shrinking process

Too much neck

I don’t know about you, but I ate way too much during the holidays… and I was lying about not knowing about you. I know what you ate. We should be ashamed.

You more than me, ‘cause I’m getting ready to do something revolutionary. Don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. Perhaps because I wasn’t shocked enough. Some of our more brilliant ideas come from a drastic jolt. Did you know that?

Take the steel-toed boot. People were getting their toes smashed right and left. Abstinence from dropping stuff didn’t seem to help. Sometimes you just have to drop something. Nobody could figure it out what to do. Profanity was getting way out of hand. Fortunately, a real smart person (Marvin Chafeton 1932) dropped something on his toe. A five-gallon bucket of paint. Mojave Grey.

After a brief screaming and cursing spell, Chafeton dissected a section of three and half-inch steel pipe and inserted it into the toe of his boot. His name is now synonymous with things that rub. (I think I read that on Wikipedia.)

The jolt that shocked me into my eating revolution had nothing to do with my toes. It was my neck. For decades I’ve been able to sit-down and watch TV without ever thinking about my neck. Nor my earlobes for that matter.

Then over the holidays, I was sitting in the ol’ recliner watching the history of spackle when I felt something right below my chin. What on earth? I raised my head just a bit and it was gone. Had me goin’ there for a minute.

Next thing I know it was back. Whoa! I put the program on pause and went to find Kay. She said she didn’t see anything weird below my chin. She was right, because it was gone again. So, I went straight to the restroom. The second thing I did was look in the mirror. What I saw shocked me.

My neck! What on earth had happened to my neck? It looked layered. It looked like so many other necks that I had made fun of. Somewhere in the distance of my cranials I could hear the faint singing of the “Ninny ninny noo noo” song. And, like me, the singers only knew the first verse.

I had become one of them. You know… them? Maybe one or two of you. Nothing personal, mind you. It’s just that… well, it’s not how I wanted my neck to look. If you care to see my neck, don’t look at my picture up there. All you can see there is my nose. The Newspaper photo boss is into accenting one’s most unpleasant feature. If I had a newer picture taken, they’d hone in on my neck. Look at that bubba. Just makes me sick.

The good news is, in a month or two neither of us will notice my neck. That’s ‘cause it’s gonna shrink big time. It’ll have a single layer. Like a Lorna Doone. I like Lorna Doones.

The awareness of my inflated neck inspired me to try a revolutionary approach to neck-thinning. I mentioned that way up there. In fact, I am currently involved in the process at this very moment. I waited till after the Holidays to immerse myself in this foolproof method of weight loss.

Here it is. Are you ready? I’m not going to eat again until I get down to my perfect weight. I don’t know what weight the perfect weight is, but I’ll know it when I can’t feel my neck while watching TV.

A lot of you probably think this method a bit drastic. Well, d’uh! You’ve gotta break some eggs, people. The good thing about this diet is that it only lasts a month, maybe two. I went without a nap once for a month and a half.

Obviously, I don’t thing you should jump into the two-month fast without some preparation. And, I know mean consult with your doctor. Doctors pooh pooh everything. No, what you need to do first is eat up all the snacks in the house.

I started with the cashews. Santa brought me some. I don’t know how he keeps up with stuff. For most of my life I thought it impossible to improve on the cashew. So, what does Santa do? He sends me some honey-roasted cashews. They’re… well, they’re gone. They had a sugary, salty mixture that coated the flavorful wonder that is cashew.

After that, I downed a can of popcorn that Jill got me. One of those big tin buckets. I finished off all except the caramel part of it. Caramel-bucket popcorn is not to be confused with Cracker Jacks. If it could be confused, I would’ve finished off the entire bucket.
Then I killed off the leftover Marie Callender’s Razzleberry Pie. Next to the chocolate peanut butter pie at Pie in the Sky, Razzleberry is the best pie in the world. I’ve got another Raz in the freezer to celebrate when I lose my neck.

What else? I can’t remember. I just ate every snack thing there was in the house, so I wouldn’t be tempted during my massive fast. I’m on Hour Four. Did I mention that? Four hours and six minutes.

I’m beginning to get a little swimmy-headed. Swimmy-headed is good. Each swimmy-headed experience is a sign that you’ve lost another pound. I found that fact on the Internet same place I found the history of the steel-toed boot.

I figure at this rate, I’ll be back to eating in about six weeks. Ten tops. You may not recognize the change ‘cause I doubt it will in any way affect my nose. That’s about all you can see in the photo.

Which reminds me of Tombstone. (Whoa! Where’s he goin’?) I’ve had about a dozen people -- maybe a billion -- ask to see the Hayter Brothers’ Tombstone picture that Brad did for me. It was mentioned in the last article? Anyway, I’m going to go ahead and stick it on the Rooftop webpage, ‘cause my boss is probably mad at me for griping about extremely tight photos. To see the Hayter brothers at the OK Corral go to and click on “Mark’s column.” It should be there by the time you read this. – Next time… I’ll be the one that’s really swimmy-headed.


To see Brad and Mark’s video restaurant review of BJ’s. Click here: BJ's