Friday, May 20, 2011

Your "End of the World" Orientation

Dateline: May 22, 2011. Welcome, one and all.

Well, it looks like Christian broadcaster and Biblical calculator Harold Camping was right after all. Humanity has been wiped out and divided into the saved and the unsavory. You are understandably anxious to learn into which group you have been assigned.

More on that later.

First, to clarify: Mr. Camping's prediction was pure dumb luck. We should point out that the life span of your life form has simply expired, and is not the result of any particular atrocious behavior on the part of you or your kind.

You are now undergoing processing and orientation. Please feel free to ask questions. We are here to make your afterlife experience as seamless as possible.

To answer the most-asked question, your pets are fine. Dogs, cats and hamsters have been given souls and intelligence. Custody of the Earth now belongs to them. All remaining creatures have been bumped up one level to compensate for your absence.

Sloths and sea monkeys have been discontinued.

Your predeceased ancestors are anxious to greet you. There would normally have been a light for you to follow and a whole This Is Your Life-style production filled with friends and family to herd you into the staging area. We apologize for depriving you of that bit of theater, but the sheer volume of Armageddon has made that impractical.

Suddenly appearing in your left hand as if by magic you will find a questionnaire. Please answer each question as honestly as you can. Rest assured that your answers will not determine your fate for eternity, but will help us serve future annihilated species more efficiently.

Note that under “Things You Meant to Do But Didn't (and Why),” there will be a sort of door prize given to the most amusing ten percent of responses. Again, your eternal paradise or damnation has already been determined, so go for it!

As you wait to discover your eternal reward/punishment, we offer one of our most popular features, known informally as “What Might Have Been”:

- Chicago Cubs fans can take solace in the fact that their team would have won the 2011 World Series in a thrilling seven-game series had human life continued.

- Medical research was on the brink of a breakthrough marketed as “Brain Viagra” that would have increased human intelligence dramatically.

- Diet pizza would have become a reality in 2016.

And now, for your fate.

Most of you will be overjoyed to learn that you have been assigned what you would refer to as salvation, eternal bliss or deliverance. There are just a few exceptions. To those people who saw fit to protest the funerals of deceased men and women of the military because they presumed to know that the United States had angered god by promoting homosexuality, we can only offer an eternity of watching gay pornography and endless hours to wonder what you were thinking.

Those people will join Misters Hitler, Stalin, Caligula and just a very few others in their own personalized unspeakable damnation.

Finally, I will need to see a suspected alien called Donald Trump in my office regarding verification of the details of his birth.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Great Characters: Allen Jenkins

If you have seen at least 20 movies from the 30s and 40s you have seen Allen Jenkins.

You probably just didn't know it.

Born in Staten Island, he became the world's idea of what a regular mug from New York City should look like, sound like and act like. On screen he was the perfect not-so-smart street thug, but like most things in Hollywood, Allen Jenkins was not necessarily what he appeared to be -- he developed that rough-edged character at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Jenkins' parents were musical comedy performers, and he entered the theater as a stage mechanic after World War I. In his first on-stage appearance, he danced next to James Cagney in a chorus line for an off-Broadway musical. Soon the two chorus boys would epitomize the tough, big city gangster that movie audiences could not get enough of.

As a lover of movies from his heyday, I have always been drawn to Jenkins' characters. There's something so natural and entertaining about him in every role, small or large. And apparently I'm not alone, because the New York Times once called him the “greatest scene-stealer of the 1930s.”

And he worked a lot.

He was the icing on the cake that Warner Brothers could count on to add depth to Hollywood classics like 42nd Street, Dead End and Destry Rides Again, or to play more prominent roles in studio assembly-line productions like Jimmy the Gent and The Case of the Howling Dog.

And to Baby Boomers who may not be as partial as I am to the old, black-and-white movies that made Jenkins semi-famous – you probably know him, too.

He showed up all over TV in the 60s … The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Batman, Bewitched, Ben Casey, Marcus Welby, Adam-12 and more!

(I told you he worked a lot.)

And I only recently discovered where I first ran into one of my favorite character actors ever, without ever realizing it.

He was the voice of authority in a cartoon classic as “Officer Dibble” on Top Cat!

I'm imagining everyone around my age thinking “Oh, yeah” to themselves just about now.