RIP Cole

Cole said goodbye to the world and crossed the Rainbow Bridge yesterday as his fight with disease became futile. He was a sweet kitty. The straight-man to his brother Marmalade’s antics as they earned their stardom alongside Grumpy Cat and Lil Bub. Glad to know Cole helped make things better by raising awareness for feral kitties, homeless animals and those suffering from FIV.

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Italian #55: Mario Puzo

This request is from my cousin Dana and I will use the famous Mario to kick off a round of authors since writing has been a great domain for Italy and its descendants since Dante’s Inferno.

We all recognize his most famous novel The Godfather because his name is right there on the cover in big letters, it was a huge seller in the late Sixties through early Seventies and was quickly adapted into a hit movie by the same name. It led to a couple sequels along with a string of imitators, most by Martin Scorsese.

Let’s rewind some and then get back to when he was synonymous with that novel.

Mario was born in 1920 and grew up a native of NYC, namely Hell’s Kitchen. Sadly, his father suffered from mental illness and in the days before WWII, people were locked away, so his mother was on her own raising him alongside six other siblings. Like many of his generation, he was drafted into the military to fight the Nazis but upon returning to the States, Mario used the GI Bill to attend NYC’s City College and Columbia University.

What he did until he started working for Robbie Solomon’s “men’s magazines” (quotes because these were really semi-pornographic) by 1960 was a gap I couldn’t find an answer to.  He also chose to write under the name Mario Cieri I guess in anticipation of saving his real name for something worthier of admitting to writing. A quick aside, Robbie Solomon was Stan Lee’s uncle so Mario witnessed the birth of the Marvel universe in those neighboring offices.

Mario made his move by 1969 with The Godfather, a book based upon research and honestly, rumors and myths given how Organized Crime isn’t so colorful. Not bad though. It fueled the country’s imagination by being a best seller for 67 years and sold nine million copies. Keep in mind when this book was released, the actual truth about the Mafia had only surfaced recently with the Joe Valachi and the Kefauver hearings. FBI Director J Edgar Hoover continued to claim such a thing was fictional and big swaths of the American government agreed to spread the lie due to the Mafia’s power.

Accurate or not, it got Puzo into Hollywood’s orbit from then on. With Coppola they made two hit movies in the Seventies, won Oscars®, turn Pacino into a star, employed Coppola’s so-so talented sister Talia and created Gangster Tropes. The other big screenplay Mario got a crack at was Superman. Thankfully, the Salkinds employed additional writers to transform what he did into something immortalized and well-loved. His original take was satirical, snarky and would’ve set superhero movies back a generation. The core plot ideas (setting up the sequel with General Zod) and some visual jokes, the infamous phone booth of the Seventies, were kept. Mario was just a big enough name by 1974, you couldn’t remove it despite a major rewrite executed by four others.

Mario continue to write stories, put together more of the same. He re-united with Coppola to make a third Godfather flick which debuted in 1990. I saw it in the theater at the insistence of a girlfriend obsesses with Pacino. Boy did it suck. Goodfellas blew it away by the following year. Didn’t stop him though and it was OK. I think The Last Don by the mid Nineties on CBS as a miniseries was better suited to the storytelling he liked.

He was a writer to the end. Mario might have died of heart failed at age 78 on July 2, 1978, yet he left behind a couple more books to be completed posthumously and a pitch on some speculative history to be made into a flick or miniseries.

I’ve never read his books. My brother did, said they’re similar to Ian Fleming, just sex and violence, nothing terribly deep. Regardless of quality, those who built upon his work, especially Scorsese and James Ellroy, owe him a debt of gratitude.

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Happy Caturday with a special plea from most cats

I just cannot help myself with my two little fur babies, they’re too adorable and help me feel better in this crappy, crappy world.

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Italian #54: Chelsea Peretti

I will conclude the string of comedians with Chelsea. I saw her at the first Moontower through a showcase hosted by Dana Gould and I really liked her material. She’s probably the most recognizable I’ve covered this year through her run as a character on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, who had the same name as someone she played on New Girl, I guess it’s the same “universe.” As expected, Chelsea provides voices for video games and cartoons like her compatriots. Currently she is Missy’s mother in Big Mouth, plus appearances on American Dad! Gravity Falls and The Simpsons.

Outside of comedy and acting, Chelsea also writes and performs music which you can find on iTunes or other sources music online, streaming or downloading.

Chelsea’s humor is the traditional observation stuff, at least what I’ve heard, but most stand-up is. Just because Jerry Seinfeld made his fortune through it doesn’t make it awful or unoriginal; people who weren’t that into comedy like us nerds knew this decades ago.

Several years ago, Chelsea and Jordan Peele eloped, then some time later they had a son together. Beaumont. Given his father’s sketch abilities and directing powers and his mother’s singing and comedy, this kid is going to be comedy royalty, possibly another Ben Stiller.


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1996: Fox News begins and never stops lying

Twenty-five years ago, Murdoch and his minions felt the other corporate-owned networks were too far to the Left and/or Liberal. Mainly in how Clinton was skating toward a second term against Dole. Obvioulsy this meant there was a “media bias,” not a failed campaign wrapped around the evergreen, turd strategy of “It’s My Turn!”

Today we all know it as Faux News and it remains the propaganda division of the mainstream GOP although the MAGAts and American Fascists have flocked to even less fact-based sources, OAN namely. Given the shitbag Aussie’s reputation of ruining newspapers across the English-speaking world, no one should be surprised he built a network staffed with mean-spirited Barbie dolls and everyone’s angry, willfully ignorant uncles. At my age, the latter is now cousins.

Despite Disney gobbling up Murdoch’s entertainment empire and its mediocre sports elements, the news branch remained untouched. There is hope though. As more and more people cut out cable/satellite TV, move to a la carte streaming, Murdoch’s fountain of lies is starved for income. Much like smoking, Faux News is heavily dependent upon an elderly, dying audience it cannot replace. Younger people may be swinging more to the Left and Liberal lately because they’re tired of being screwed via the Great Recession and Boomers, but the Right and Conservative members use other means for information, or misinformation.

I’m also curious if the network will change directions when the shitbird dies and one of his sons takes the wheel. Murdoch’s offspring are evil too, they just prefer to make money over courting controversy like all true, greedy Kapitalists.

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Italian #53: Natasha Leggero

Natasha Leggero has been quite busy these days. For several years she co-starred in a parody of all those Victorian shows everybody goes ape shit for, Downton Abbey…blech! Could the Anglophilia be any grosser? Hers was called Another Period and co-starred Riki Lindholme, the other creator. Three seasons was a good run given the constantly changing leadership at Comedy Central. She was also the voice of the put-upon ex-wife on Netflix’s Hoops, I thought it had potential. Additional voice credits include Regular Show, Brickleberry and American Dad!

Natasha’s stand-up skewers popular culture while portraying an elitist, snobby character on stage; pearls, WASP-appropriate dress/gown, gloves to the elbows and heels. Given how the world is awash in crap “reality” shows and grown men with hair-buns, there’s plenty of fodder for her to rip on. Even a typical resident of Austin isn’t safe Natasha’s wit and condemnation, I’m looking for Flapjack but a white woman covered in tats with dreads doesn’t narrow it down in my adopted city.

Speaking of Austin, Natasha and her equally funny husband Moshe Kasher were slated to appear at Moontower along with their podcast, The Endless Honeymoon but I guess they had other obligations to tackle. I was really hoping to meet her briefly and congratulate the funny lady on being the greatest thing from Rockford, IL since Cheap Trick! Natasha also attended Illinois State University yet left for better opportunities to perfect her acting and comedy. Well, my grandma’s alma mater can still brag about Gary Cole.

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Why you should always pay up…by Tuesdays

Wendy probably had the other three beat up Wimpy for her and luckily there are no recognizable thugs…uh, mascots for Whataburger, Sonic and Carl’s Jr. With that many people owed money, I think they’d curb the poor slob knowing there’s no way in hell Wimpy can get the money. Popeye, Olive Oyl and Bluto cut him off years ago. Even the Impossible Burger couldn’t curb his addiction!

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A great mural at a pizza restaurant

What a great mashup! It combines one of my favorite movies with a favorite food. It works better than the Battlestar Galactica version on my Blu-Ray boxed set. I found this via Twitter…just did some quick research, I might see it in person one day soon! It decorates a restaurant in Houston called Cane Rosso. Cute, it means “red dog” in Italian which I hope isn’t a warning…as in, pizza only fit for a dog. We already have it, in both languages, you say Sbarro’s. Should I find this place, I will not nag them about Lando’s absence, I’m confident they hear it enough from the fanboys.

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Italian #52: Joe DeRosa

Joe DeRosa is a hilarious comedian who you may recognize as the veterinarian Dr. Caldera from Better Call Saul; he sells Mike Ehrmantraut animal medications which work on people. Given how Mike is a scary ex-cop who does criminal things (aka Gus Fring’s fixer), he knows that the medical treatment he’d need from his activities will draw unwarranted attention.

Joe also provided the voice of Rufus Bellows in Grand Theft Auto V and appeared in a couple episodes of Amy Schumer’s hit show on Comedy Central. Outside of acting and doing stand-up, he was a writer on The Pete Holmes Show, a very underrated program.

His material is very, very funny. I’m mostly focused on his latest album You Will Die, he mocks popular culture, technology, NYC and how something goes wrong on the flight from Rome to Newark which transforms Italians into those horrors on Jersey Shore. The humor is mainly from the angry school (Bill Hicks, Lewis Black) but it’s funny, not everyone can pull it off; being pissed off on stage isn’t amusing unless there’s something worthy of being mocked or ridiculed.

I also had the opportunity to meet Joe at Moontower before CV-19. He was a part of Eddie Pepitone’s podcast. If you haven’t heard the long version of the story, he called me Aquaman for knowing what a water knife is. I know he meant it in jest, I don’t take myself seriously plus I did raise my hand to answer, I’m not one of those assholes who shouts out unwarranted answers. When I had some FaceTime with him, Joe apologized which was funny as I told him, I’m good, I found it fun and whenever I’ve done something inappropriate at a show, I know I have it coming.

Should Joe come to Moontower, Altercation or Austin’s local clubs, I plan to see him for a complete set. For now I have to settle for You Will Die on my car’s iPod Touch.

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Rosati’s Pizza!

Just got back from this place. I should’ve taken a picture with my own darned iPhone but it was a rather exhausting afternoon recording Gifts of the Maggi #3 with Kathy and my guest Holly (she found the place). We had a couple pizzas, one deep-dish which was the objective and one regular, to try out. I’m mostly tired from the booze. Not only did I have a beer to get started, a lady representing Heineken threw a couple at us!

I think the recording went well despite the background noise of Cedar Park traffic, the Bears defeating Detroit and then some AFC game no one cares about. Editing should be under way in a while, need to let Kathy rest up.

But the point of this post is to report that the pizza is spot on! Excellent and a more genuine taste of what I miss back up north! No offense to Conan’s or Mangia, your offerings are a good try and to me, pretty close yet they still have this odd…Austin vibe. Rosati’s scratches the itch of homesickness better for us Midwestern Ex-Pats. Plus they carry the good Italian beer Perroni! On the beer, I have a sinking feeling as I learn more about the language and the culture, Perroni may be the Italian Foster’s parading as authentic. The odds are favorable Perroni is the authentic thing since the stereotype is wine being the preferred alcohol.

I may try to go back when the Packers play the Bears. I have a feeling I can count on this Rosati’s to show a game of real football, not the Cowboys playing the rather weak NFC East for ratings.

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Italian #51: Blair Socci

Mucca sacra! I have really let my Italian-Heritage column/tradition go to shit. I haven’t really written about anyone worth a damn in four years. Damn. The divorce and all set me back in 2019, the pandemic for 2020 to some extent yet I can’t explain why I sat on my ass in 2018, maybe I was sick.

No matter now, I’m back and back with a vengeance for 2021! Since I’m still giddy and fired up over having a great time at Moontower, the first “week” will be all the comedians who have contributed to making the world a better place through their humor.

Blair Socci is a hilarious up-and-coming writer/comic who I recently saw this Summer with Ron Funches and Carmen Morales. In Italian, her surname is pronounced “SO-chee” in the same way everyone knows how to say Gucci correctly but Blair goes by “SOCK-ee” and that’s her right. We of Italian ancestry don’t always have the time to teach the mostly Anglo-Irish Americans how the language works. Meanwhile, you may have seen Blair on The Trevor Moore Show via Comedy Central, her various shorts or through the cable network’s stand-up showcases (a YouTube clip is below). I’m most excited for her in getting to be a voice on the upcoming Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie. After more than a decade, Master Shake, Meatwad and Frylocke return to the big screen!

Blair’s material tends to push toward the absurd which I love (mocking oat milk is a great bit), dating, how dumb men can be around a woman who’s also a professional comic and her life growing up in Orange County (aka The Orange Curtain). I look forward to Blair landing newer things and hoping to meet her the next time she comes to Austin. I didn’t have any luck this Summer due to my girlfriend’s “nurse hours,” as Jennifer has trouble staying awake after 10 PM, even on weekends. Given the expansion of Moontower in 2022 with some assistance from Montreal’s Just For Laughs, maybe’s there a good chance Blair will visit again.

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Jennifer has a new job!

Jennifer’s offer came through after a few weeks of campaigning and searching. It’s a traveling gig. Why the change? I’m not going to elaborate because I don’t want to be a part of any bridge burning, you’ll have to ask her directly. I’m quite excited for Jennifer since I’m behind her 100 percent on this and I will readily admit to any personal perks this presents…I can take a mini-vacation visiting the locations she is assigned!

Where is Jennifer going? Albuquerque (mucca sacra! I spelled it correctly on the first try!). Yes, the land of Breaking Bad and where Bugs Bunny keeps making a wrong left turn on his way to Pismo Beach. The job will last until mid December and it pays a lucrative amount despite the lack of benefits; health insurance, 401k, etc. Her old gig allows her to participate in COBRA, which I think is a rip off and the ACA remains to be bullshit; still involves for-profit insurance and therefore Obama’s legislative legacy is a sad joke.

Although, ABQ isn’t our first choice; DC and Vermont were floated earlier; I have never really been there. If I had, it was just driving through to eat lunch during the horrendous Xmas Break drive of 1988.

The assignment gets Jennifer’s foot in the door for future jobs which we hope will be in more interesting places. Preferably where I have friends to visit and introduce her to!

Am I going to miss her? Well…duh! But this is something she needs to do for herself and as a good partner, I’m stand by her and she has nothing to sweat. I was faithful to Somara when she went to Phoenix for a few months as the majority of spouses are. It’s only the dumb, horn-dog minority who cause the world to panic. The bigger factors I know Jennifer can trust me on since fidelity is a given: taking care of the six cats, keeping an eye on her son Mason for there’s a chance he may need some surgery soon (it isn’t fatal or serious). Ensuring her that all the Austin matters will be under control until her return will be tricky. The “kids” as they’re called (or the “village” with me), are in for a crash course on becoming adults as the lease ends soon. I will be spending many evenings there to inspect how clean the common areas remain and I have a feeling, I will be doing it, especially the cat boxes.

While Jennifer’s away, I will have more time to seriously plug away on Chez Maggi in preparation for her moving in come January. I can work on losing weight too. She is a bad influence in this department! Too much in the carb department, I also finish what she doesn’t eat (Jennifer has a small appetite I will let her explain), too much lying around watching TV or reading and her recent “nurse hours,” weren’t helping. The weight loss will be influencing me regaining my cooking skills. I might even make a meal a week for Mason as I need a guinea pig on the dishes I’m learning.

Next year, please let it be NYC, DC or Vegas! Broadway, the Spy Museum or more gambling respectively!

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Hooray! October 2021 and its three key celebrations

At last, in Central Texas, the Summer weather is slowly ending and in the next decade thanks to Climate change, we can push it back to Thanksgiving!

But let’s rejoice over the good things October brings! As this month’s banner is showing, we celebrate National Pizza Month. I had some time to research it this year and sadly discovered it was only decreed through America’s Congress in 1987.

You’d think such a blatant, commercial, bullshit idea were older. Nope. I’m so glad that back in the mythical, good ol’ days when members of Congress used to get along and screw over the American people unilaterally from their cocktail parties, they put aside the important business of investigating St. Reagan illegally selling the Iranians weapons…to agree on making October, National Pizza Month. Given how some of those old mummies from 1987 are still present 34 years later: Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell; we shouldn’t be shocked over the shit sausage we got through the ACA and while infrastructure withers on the vine.

OK, OK, OK. Pizza is awesome! Let’s stick with it.

Then comes Italian-American Heritage. Yes, more research was done. I have erroneously promoted it as an international matter, as it should be. Again, I was wrong. A flaw we Leftists and good Liberals have, admitting to our mistakes and explaining why we’ve changed our positions unlike bull-headed, dipshit Right Wingers. I have no idea who established this. I’m guessing it was pieced together through the same people who made Columbus Day a holiday; in order to gain acceptance with WASP Amerika, you need to demonstrate how your ethnicity also likes to brag about their genocidal past deeds! As to why October is exclusive to Americans whose ancestors came from Italy and not other countries, we can blame this on Canada. I stumbled upon the fact that June is when Italian-Canadian Heritage is celebrated. Oy. As always, the Canucknuckleheads must do it earlier as they do with their Canada Day (July 1) and Thanksgiving (second Monday in October). I guess it must be how they express their grief for not winning the Stanley Cup since 1993 and losing Second City Toronto cast members to SNL. Even Canadians know I’m kidding, I love their country and much about them. As Robin Williams once said (paraphrasing), they’re a lovely apartment overlooking a neighborhood plagued with mass shootings and horrible poverty.

Lastly, now comes the most obvious holiday. Halloween! Jennifer’s favorite. I would guess to say Goths (all kinds), the candy industry, the cheap-ass costume industry and abandoned strip malls hosting those Spirit Halloween Stores until they become H&R Block Tax Services in January. I’m OK with it. I’m stoked this year since Jennifer and I have a bitchin’ plan which will lead into another surprise I won’t tell you. It’s extra special to me since it’s also the first time I’ll be attended the majority of Altercation Fest! Moontower may have been my main course for stand-up comedy but Altercation is the dessert. Habersaat’s “little” gathering will be attracting more A-listers for 2021. Brian Posehn! Tom Rhodes! and Eddie Pepitone! A surprise show got added for us pass holders and I can’t wait to see who it will be. Personally, against all odds, I hope Patton Oswalt yet I’m confident I will be wrong while I will be stoked given the credits this guest has.

Back to the costume hints. Jennifer and I have been working on our joint outfit for weeks. The remaining pieces to hers finally arrived. We had a brief dress rehearsal minus makeup to make sure it fit. I’ve gained back all the New Year’s Eve ’20-21 weight so it’s smaller meals in a hurry to get this right.

To keep the spirit going, I want to refer you to my comedy friend Kaitlin’s Twitter Feed. Every October, Kaitlin does 31 costumes in 31 days. Check her out every day. She’s awesome!

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I scored the new iPhone 13 Pro

Well, I really bought last Friday (9/24/21) but I wait several days to execute the migration over from my really good Xs due to last weekend being pretty busy. It was also my first time doing the iPhone-to-iPhone migration since I stopped tethering my iPhone to my portable; not by choice, an update to make iTunes work with the iPhone crippled the legacy version of Garage Band, a deal breaker. Anyway, the migration didn’t take as long as I projected given all the crap I had. I was also pleased in what little I had to re-enter on the new 13 to be back to the functional state I had been: re-entering my credit and debit cards was a given, the facial recognition on a few apps and I did move the SIM card immediately.

So why did I get caught up in the blitz for the first time? Well, my employer offered it on the release day at the discount I get, I did the math for how much I’d get back for my old iPhone to offset cost. Plus I thought the blue would be groovy and having the storage space quadrupled to 256 GB would be sweet. The primary reason for going Pro was the camera. I’m not a great picture-taker (photographer is for people who seriously into it, I’m not) but I attend numerous concerts, book signings and conventions so I want to keep making the memories for my Brushes with Greatness section closer to immaculate. The additional space will come in handy should Kathy and I ever return to making new puppet movies. We had a new skit for them and then the morons know as Red Amerika and MAGAts just had to keep this mess rolling.

Meanwhile, enjoy the first two photos I took. My very photogenic cats. Isis demonstrating her recent trend of having Resting Grumpy-Cat Face as she ages and Agamemnon being in my lap saying, “I’m ready for my close up Hoo-Man!”

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Kathy sporting my “thank you” gift for being my engineer

The whole shirt says, “Engineers are magical like unicorns only better.” Kathy is big on anything with a unicorn on it. So it’s a winner to give her. Plus, she runs the board for my show Gifts of the Maggi and was the brains for when we got the bitchin’ gear from Guitar Center…yes, they’re still in business, they’re undergoing a re-org bankruptcy, not a liquidation. After four years of Girth Vader in the White House, I think Americans should be more well versed on the different types of bankruptcy offered.

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