Thursday, November 18, 2010


It's not bad enough that our president must endure scurrilous allegations about his birth, nationality and religion.  It's not enough that he is constantly barraged by the spittle-flecked ranting of the lunatic Right or that he is demonized by his opponents both inside and outside of the government as if he were Lucifer's community organizer.  It's not even enough that he was called a liar during his first State of the Union address.  For more than a year, President Obama has faced a grievous insult to his person and office that has made these other affronts seem like pleasantries.  I refer, of course, to the Chia Obama.

How is it that I never saw this travesty until a late-night commercial knocked me off my chair on Sunday?  The "product" was released in April of 2009 by Joseph Enterprises, Inc., which, besides the Chia Empire, has marketed the Clapper and the "Ove" glove.  The company's founder, 77 year-old Joseph Pedott, denied any racism in creating the novelty and said he even voted for Obana in '08 despite being a life-long Republican.  The item was quickly pulled off the shelves of many Walgreen's stores, but is still readily available at CVS, Target, and multiple online venues for the upcoming holiday season.

Personally, I don't believe Mr. Pedott had any racist intentions with Chia Obama.  The concept is simply too wacky to be a deliberate slur.  What I find amazing is that an entire commercial concern, staffed, I assume, by sane and savvy businessmen could come to believe that a proper and patriotic way to honor the leader of the free world was to crown him with a sod toupee.

I also dismiss the accusations of slander because Chia has recently seen fit to endow other symbols of America's greatness with green Afros.  Presidents Washington and Lincoln now sport the emerald 'do as does the Statue of Liberty, the latter requiring a rewrite of Emma Lazarus's famous poem:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore beset by cranial pastures,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost with turf-topt noggins,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Most astonishing of all is that this enterprise has come about without a nation-wide onslaught of derision.  Where are SNL, The Daily Show, Colbert, Letterman, Leno, and Conan regarding what would seem to be the comic bonanza of the century?  I'm a sporadic viewer to be sure, but weeks and months of monologues should have been sparked by this phenomenon.  It was said after 9/11 that the US had lost its sense of irony, but this isn't some arch witticism aimed at intellectual snobs - it's the proverbial barn door whose sole purpose is to be peppered with rocks.  I'm less afraid that the president is being disparaged than that the entire country is losing its sense of humor along with its sense of perspective. 

Friday, October 29, 2010


While watching TV this week, I stumbled across a combination of shows which brought on a severe fit of geezer pique.  The first was a quick dip in the new Hawaii Five-O which struck me as nothing special.  Then again, I was never a big fan of the original, so I didn't stay with it long enough to form an honest opinion.  Still, I couldn't understand why they bothered to remake it.  I then changed channels to HBO and landed in the middle of the 2008 version of The Day the Earth Stood Still with the effervescent Keanu Reeves as Klatu, the alien judge of mankind's foibles.  Not that Michael Rennie gave a nuanced performance in the 1951 original, but if Reeves were any stiffer, they would have had to wheel him around the set on a hand truck.

This movie was so moralistic and eco-dogmatic that I was surprised Al Gore wasn't hired to play Gort, the robot arm of extraterrestrial law.  A joyless mess, it wasted the talents of everyone involved, but especially John Cleese who played a humorless scientist sympathetic to the invaders.  Just writing "John Cleese" and "humorless" in the same sentence makes my blood pressure soar.  The original was also burdened by a "mankind better watch out" message, but it was secondary to the '50s B-movie sci-fi milieu of flying saucers and Theremin riffs.  Apparently, Keanu Klatu was too virtuous to buzz around the universe in a gas-guzzling spaceship; he traveled in a biosphere, no doubt fueled by pixie dust.

However, this is not a rant about how much better all film and TV originals are compared to their later incarnations, although in this case it's beyond question.  In other cases, the remake is better than the original.  An Open Salon debate last year argued about the greatest film version of A Christmas Carol with almost everyone agreeing that the 1935 adaptation with Reginald Owen was eclipsed by later versions (although many dunderheads didn't agree with me on the supremacy of the 1951 remake with Alastair Sim.)  There is also the odd example of the two John Wayne Westerns, Rio Bravo (1959) and El Dorado (1966) which are essentially the same film with different supporting casts, but nearly equal quality.

No, my quarrel with remakes deals with a particular category of revisionism, specifically those movies and shows where the main character is so connected to the original actor that any change is disorienting and usually disastrous.  In the case of Lt. Steve McGarrett of Hawaii Five-O, I don't think it matters whether Jack Lord or Alex O'Laughlin plays the role except for reasons of nostalgia.  In other cases, the update is a travesty.

People's exhibit A and B are the film remakes of two 1950's TV staples, The Phil Silvers Show, also known as Sgt. Bilko, and The Honeymooners.  These were both shows created and written for their stars (Phil Silvers and Jackie Gleason respectively), and reflected the unique gifts of the actor involved.  Unlike a theatrical role such as Hamlet which was meant to be played and reinterpreted by generations of performers, Silvers' hustling peacetime army sergeant and Gleason's bombastic Brooklyn bus driver were perfect admixtures of actor and role.  Over the course of episodes and seasons, it became impossible to separate one from the other.

So what was the incentive to revise and recast Bilko in a full-length movie in 1996?  Simply that the character already existed?  Was Hollywood so lame that it couldn't come up with a similar character and parallel plot without ripping off a classic?  Did they think that the name would draw older viewers of the show?  I have nothing against Steve Martin, but he worked mightily at channeling Silvers without coming close.  For one thing, he didn't have the gifted and driven Nat Hiken, the TV show's creator and principle writer, literally killing himself to make the show shine.  This film was a dud that probably destroyed any chance a young viewer might hunt down the original.

The 2005 Honeymooners attempt at reprising Ralph Kramden as a black man is even more incomprehensible.  I confess that I didn't see this film, so it's possible that Cedric the Entertainer was brilliant.  If so, wouldn't he have been just as brilliant in a comparable situation without the touchstones so laboriously created and inhabited by Gleason and company?  Given the time differential, it's even more unlikely that old viewers of the show would run to see the movie, so there seems even less incentive to invoke the source.

It is in film, however, that the most egregious rip-off has been perpetrated.  Anyone who ever saw The Pink Panther or A Shot in the Dark knows that Peter Sellers is Inspector Jacques Clouseau.  Even in the weaker sequels, Sellers takes threadbare plots and elevates them with comic genius.  Why then have several other actors, including Alan Arkin and Steve Martin, donned mustaches and trench coats in order to make pale imitations?  Well, for the money, obviously, but is a bumbling police detective such a hard character to create that studios felt the need to cannibalize and degrade the master franchise?  Jim Abrahams and the Zucker brothers did pretty well with Leslie Nielsen as Frank Drebbin in the Naked Gun series.

I hope that my dyspepsia is based on more that my age and general crankiness.  I had the good fortune to grow up with TV in the 1950's when stations and networks, desperate for programming, would throw nearly anything on the air to fill time.  Movies and cartoons from the 30's and 40's and industrial and military PR films such as Industry on Parade, and The Big Picture were mixed with live theater and variety shows as well as the low-budget 50's horror movie oeuvre.  It probably warped me in ways I can't imagine, but by its sheer volume and diversity, it also made me a discerning viewer and critic.  The majority of programming was terrible, but it pains me to see the best of it hacked up for lack of imagination and inspiration.

To those of you too young to remember those days, I suggest that you hunt down the DVD's and watch the originals.  I know that they're in black and white, the plots are dated and the pacing laborious by current standards, but watch them anyway.  You won't regret it.

Monday, June 21, 2010


With the nationwide release of Toy Story 3 last weekend, a whole new generation of kids will be emptying their parent's wallets for Woody and Buzz Lightyear action figures, lunch boxes, underwear, can openers, and whatever other junk Disney-Pixar can plaster their pictures on.  And the producers are only too happy to add this windfall to a strong opening box office for a synergistic marketing-palooza.

What few people realize is that this is hardly a new phenomenon, nor is it restricted to mainstream films.   Our company, Jules et Jim et Ronco Novelties, Inc., is proud to offer you these selected items from our extensive catalog of classic foreign film merchandise.


Whether you're playing chess with Death or worse, your mother-in-law, you'll love this finely crafted set with hand-carved pieces based on characters from Dante's Inferno and a board made from the shards of a discarded tombstone.  Carrying shroud is optional.


So you think you're an anti-war protester just because you've waved a sign at a few rallies?  Show your true feelings by sporting these snazzy accessories worn by Captain von Rauffenstein (Erich von Stroheim) in Jean Renoir's powerful WW I fable.  They're sure to catch the eye and win the heart of like-minded pacifists of the opposite sex.

Un Chien Andalou eyeball razor trick

C'mon, nobody really believes that Luis Buñuel slashed an eyeball in the opening sequence, but the illusion is highly disturbing.  This gag is the perfect icebreaker for your next party and is guaranteed to make your friends spill their drinks and toss their lunches.  It comes with three prosthetic contact lenses and a 6 oz. bottle of vitreous humor.  Razor not included.


Taking your kids to a Fellini movie is like taking them to the dentist - it's wise to bring along a distraction.  This beautiful scale model will provide hours of fun for your children while you ponder the cinematic mix of religious cynicism and cultivated decadence.  The statue is detachable and has a magnetic base for dashboard mounting.


The Odessa steps are no match for this sturdy conveyance designed for our company by Inglesina™ and based on its popular Classica Pram Carriage w/ Diaper Bag Marina ($1,100).  Add armor plating for an extra $500 to put your mind at ease about those Tsarist troops.


If you've ever spent any time on an archery range, you know how boring it is to shoot at a circular bullseye target.  Our set includes a 30 pound fiberglass bow, 2 dozen arrows, and a life-size straw figure of Toshiro Mifune as Lord Washizu in full samurai armor.  Macbeth was never this much fun!


While the rich live in luxury and ease, your set of 200 identical drones perform slave labor deep underground.   You lead the rebellion that brings them to the surface to destroy the existing order.  Hopefully, this will work out better for you than it did for Germany.


Just pop this DVD into your deck and hit play for hours of restful sleep.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Felix and Shirley Brawer circa 1942

There is an old saying that no child understands his parents until he has children of his own.  This is complete bunk - no child ever understands his parents.  You may have a brood that puts Old Mother Hubbard to shame and possess the combined wisdom of Freud, Dr. Spock and Oprah; your parents will still remain a mystery.  It's best to forget comprehension and settle for appreciation mixed with gratitude for those who brought you into the world, no matter how screwy you turned out.  It's in this spirit that I salute my father in advance of his and my phony Hallmark holiday a week from Sunday.

Felix Edward Brawer was born in Paterson, New Jersey on St. Patrick's Day of 1912. Every March 17, waggish cronies would refer to him as "Felix O'Brawer," yet another irony for this man of Latvian-Jewish descent whose mother named him "Felix" in honor of Mendelssohn.  Da was profoundly tone-deaf.

My brother and I started calling him Da after hearing the expression in a South African Western.  The title of the film is long forgotten, but the name stuck to my father for the rest of his life.  My children would refer to him as Papa Da to differentiate him from their other grandfather.

He was the second of five children born to Abe and Lily Oberman Brawer and grew up surrounded by a huge extended family on both sides.  Da claimed he had thirty first cousins, but even he had trouble remembering them all.  This was an age when parents didn't hover over their children like social directors, but more or less shoved them out the door to fend for themselves.  My father and his cousins learned to take care of themselves amid the harsh ethnic rivalries of Paterson, and they developed into a tough, if not criminal bunch.  My father-in-law, who knew Da as a kid, claimed his own father wouldn't let him hang out with "those wild Brawer boys."

Idiot that I am, I never documented the stories he told about his early years.  I'm sure some were apocryphal and most were enhanced in the telling, but all were the stuff of legend.  Mark Twain himself might have written these tales if he'd been Jewish and had grown up in urban New Jersey instead of rural Missouri.

My father, like most Jewish boys then and since, attended Hebrew School for a couple of afternoons each week.  Once, one of his gang was caught misbehaving, and the teacher made the mistake of striking the culprit in front of the class.  The mistake wasn't the corporal punishment - that was an accepted practice of the day - but doing it with the victim's pals in attendance.  Posterity doesn't reveal whether Da was the first to charge the teacher, but a full-scale brawl broke out, the only recorded riot of pre-Bar Mitzvah boys in the school's history.

Da had an ambivalent attitude towards the faith of his fathers.  He was not a particularly religious man but always maintained a fierce pride in being a Jew.  Years later when local kids scrawled Jewish stars and graffiti on our front walk, he refused my mother's pleas to erase them and defiantly left them there for days until embarrassed and chastened neighbors washed them off.

He was a gifted athlete, excelling at sand lot baseball and swimming in his youth and later, skiing, bowling, and golf.  He maintained a life-long passion for the links that try as he might, he could not pass on to his sons.  He played his last round three weeks before he died.

But it was fishing that gave him the most pleasure.  As a young man, he and his friends would fly fish for salmon in Canada or go after tarpon in the Everglades.  When my brother and I were old enough, he would take us striper fishing on a charter boat out of Provincetown.  My most vivid memories have him standing triumphantly in the stern of the Flora K while Captain Gray unloaded our catch at the end of the day.  Unfortunately, his victory was our hardship as it fell to my brother and me to gut the dozen or so fish we caught and could never give away.  Since my mother hated the taste, they remained in our freezer for six months and were then thrown out.

Unlike his children who were beset with enough fears and neuroses to make Hamlet seem sunny and bold in comparison, Da was an outgoing and charismatic man who was always up for an adventure.  At one time, he had a private pilot's license and would fly himself to business appointments up and down the East Coast.  He claimed that he gave it up at my mother's request, but eventually confessed that surviving a flight through a thunderstorm in a Piper Cub convinced him to stop.  He always respected the odds.

It was in his later years that I came to appreciate the true caliber of the man.  During most of his life, my father 's domestic needs were taken care of by others.  When he was in his early seventies, my mother, nine years younger, started to show signs of Alzheimer’s disease.  Beset with heart and lung problems of his own, Da did everything within his power to grant her the care she needed and the dignity she deserved at home.  On their fiftieth anniversary, he made a large party for her and their friends, celebrating their life together even as she was failing.  It was only when his own health was in jeopardy that he agreed to move my mother into a facility nearby where he visited her every day until her death.

Da was diagnosed with lung cancer in the fall of 1997, which came as no surprise.  He started smoking cigarettes in his teens and didn't stop until his sixties.  It also didn't help that he was a textile manufacturer who worked in an environment filled with all kinds of floating fibers.  Gambler that he was, he thought he had a shot to survive with surgery, but the disease had spread too extensively by then.  When I gave him the bad news, he swore once, let out a deep breath, and accepted his fate with equanimity.  On the morning of July 1, 1998, he called all his grandchildren to say goodbye and left this world in the late afternoon.  He was eighty-six.

I often say that the world is a poorer place without men like Da, and I mean it in a sense beyond my own personal loss.  Men of his time who went through the depression and World War II had a much different outlook on life than the self-absorbed generation that followed.  Beyond the self-sacrifice expressed in Brokaw's Greatest Generation, there was an exuberant vitality in these men, a willingness to live life on its own terms, to overcome obstacles where they could, to laugh when they couldn't, and to accept the inevitable with grace.

Towards the end of his life, I would speak to Da every day, and each conversation would end with one of us saying, "my dime tomorrow."  I would give every cent I own for one more call.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


The Drake Passage around Cape Horn, the direct North Face route up Everest, El Camino del Muerte (the Death Road) in Bolivia - all of these legendary paths are fraught with peril and require consummate skills and iron nerves to navigate.  But none has ever aroused the level of sheer dread or demanded the degree of reckless bravado as this crosswalk in Brookline, Mass.

Don't let the benign residential surroundings fool you.  Hardened explorers and fortune hunters alike would rather circumnavigate the globe eastward than risk their lives in a foolhardy attempt to reach the west side of St. Paul Street directly.  Even the riches of Coolidge Corner with its multiple cell phone dealers and chain drugstores would not be worth the danger involved.

It wasn't always this way.  There was a time when young children were not afraid to approach this intersection, when the elderly and infirm made their way to the opposite sidewalk without a care.  What insidious transformation turned an innocuous crosswalk into a horrifying gauntlet of doom?

It was, my friends, the well-intentioned addition of this sign.

Prior to its installation, there was a tacit understanding between drivers and pedestrians"  "I won't stop, so don't cross if you're within range."  Even if a vehicle could only intercept you by travelling at Mach one, stay put.  "All clear" meant all clear a mile or so in either direction.  I'm told that in Canada, cars are required to stop for anyone in a crosswalk regardless of circumstances or signage.  Such a person wouldn't last a half-hour in Massachusetts.

Boston drivers are reputed to be the worst in the world and I'm inclined to agree.  New York City drivers are more cutthroat, but at least they're predictable in their ferocity.  Italian drivers are lunatic daredevils with no regard for traffic legality, but are skilled enough to get away with it.  Boston drivers are both feral and capricious; there is no method, only madness.  From the time a child in these parts can tie his own shoe, he understands this instinctively, and acts accordingly.

The addition of these signs in local crosswalks has ruptured this delicate equilibrium.  No longer is crossing the street a strictly Darwinian skirmish, but an odd experiment in Newton's laws of mass and acceleration as modified by local legislative and judicial fiat and open to interpretation by every jerk in a Subaru Outback who's yakking on his Blackberry.

Where once there was certainty, there is now paralyzing indecision and not only on the part of the pedestrian.  This sign is less a traffic directive than a reject puzzle from the old quiz show, Concentration.  The last thing a person piloting a quarter-ton of metal should have to worry about is solving a rebus.

The first challenge facing the approaching vehicle is to actually see the word "YIELD" embedded in the inverse red triangle of its corresponding highway sign.  The Traffic department has apparently gone to great lengths to make the word as small and indistinct as possible.  And as hard as it is to read, it is equally hard to define.  Technically, "yield" means giving the right of way to other traffic.  If you can avoid the crosser by cutting harmlessly behind him by a few microns, you've technically "yielded."  Wouldn't "STOP" be more appropriate?

And the walker icon is even more ambiguous.  It's either a plump elderly man with osteoporosis and his pants pulled too high or a mime in a beret doing that "walking against the wind" routine they're so fond of.  He (or she) does seem to be in motion which means anyone just standing tentatively off the curb is not covered by the "YIELD" order, so feel free to hit the gas and continue on your way.

As for the "within crosswalk" addendum, does that imply that if you step beyond the actual dotted lines, you're toast?

My anecdotal experience is that the majority of drivers pay no attention to the sign unless annihilation is a certainty.  If you can bob and weave your way around a crosser, the onus is on him to get out of your way.  In other words, there's little difference between traffic behavior before or after the sign's deployment.

The crosser, however, is now always in doubt as to whether a driver will respect or even understand the sign.  Occasionally, a car will slow down to read it, giving the pedestrian the false impression that it's safe to cross.  Having disdained the sign as another unwarranted governmental intrusion into the life of its citizens, the driver speeds up, forcing the crosser to fly across the street in blind panic.  In response, the driver slams on the brakes to avoid a potential collision and spills his four-dollar Venti Caramel Macchiato all over his pants.  What usually follow is a vehicular Alphonse and Gaston routine with upraised fingers and horns taking the place of exaggerated courtesy.

Please, Brookline Traffic Department, get rid of these signs before someone gets hurt.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


WASHINGTON - GOP senators emerged today in nearly unanimous opposition to the larceny reform bill passed in the House earlier this week by a margin of three votes.  The thirteen-hundred-page piece of legislation would place severe restrictions and oversight on the unlawful or fraudulent removal of another's property without the owner's consent.

"This is just another grandstanding effort on the part of Democrats to make us seem out of touch with Main Street," said Sen. Ron Furcover (R) of Texas.  "The truth is that our colleagues across the aisle are trying to stifle free enterprise under the self-serving premise that theft is somehow 'wrong.'"

"It's independent operators and small businesses who will suffer the most under the provisions of this bill.  If you impose too many restrictions on car thieves, they'll quit the business and swell already bloated welfare rolls.  This would cause additional hardship on chop shops which would be forced to purchase their 'raw materials' at higher prices on foreign markets.  And hasn't the Slim Jim industry suffered enough from those new OSHA regulations?"

Other senators objected to the speed with which the measure was being brought to a vote.  “This bill needs further debate,” stated one opponent.  "There has simply not been ample opportunity to dither and dither until the whole matter collapses in a heap of bipartisan ennui."

The most controversial provision calls for an HGOB, or Hot Goods Oversight Bureau to monitor the fencing of stolen property.  Democrats claim that this will allow for greater transparency of these transactions, although in deference to Republican criticism, they stopped short of insisting on a regulated exchange.

According to Sen. William T. Overture (D) of Wisconsin, "This will insure more equitable taxation and relieve the burden on the average citizen...well, I mean unless it was his stuff that was 'relieved' in the first place."

But even this compromise is unacceptable to critics.  "The liberal establishment and the Washington insiders are hell-bent on increasing the size of government," said Harry "The Shiv" Barlow of the Canarsie Institute and Social Club, a conservative think tank.  "Why do we need a costly bureaucracy when Big Louis and Tommy Four Fingers can cut their own deal much more cheaply?"

There is much speculation about the influence of well-funded lobbying groups on the debate.  Supporters of the bill point to large campaign contributions and gifts made to opposition senators by QAPAC, the Questionable Acquisition Political Action Committee, including late model Cadillacs and junkets to Sicily.

"There was absolutely no quid pro quo involved.  These are scurrilous charges meant to distract the public from the real issue which is governmental interference in the unlawful practices of its citizens," said Sen. Phil McCoffers (R) of Nebraska, who was awarded QAPAC's coveted Charles Luciano Medal at their convention in Jersey City last Month.

Despite the best efforts of opponents, a vote is expected in early June or as soon as Senate officials can locate the missing rostrum and several green "Aye" voting buttons.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Nostalgia, like arthritis and constipation, is a curse of the elderly. Some get teary about the house they grew up in or the joys of their high school years.  Others yearn for their first car or the songs that accompanied their courtship.  Personally, I pine for the days when vampires didn't look like J Crew models.

It's hardly news that the undead have returned as a major force in popular entertainment.  The Twilight series of books and movies and the HBO series True Blood have captivated a new generation of gore-addled youth.  But compared to their predecessors, this crop of vampires is a pretty anemic lot.  I've only seen a few episodes of the TV series and a couple of trailers for the movies, but what I have seen is about as scary as a Clearasil ad.  The "children of the night" have devolved from Dracula to Dawson's Creek of the Damned.

My love of the bloodsucking genre dates back to my childhood when Chiller Theater on Channel 40 in Springfield would show horror double features on Saturday nights.  The movies were the classic 1930's films about the unholy trinity - Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman - along with their sequels, "Return of...", "House of...", and "Bride of..."  My first vampire role model was the great Bela Lugosi, who played Bram Stoker's Count with a debonair malevolence yet to be matched.

But for sheer terror, you cannot beat F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu (1922.)  I first saw it in a college course on German Expressionism and nearly ripped the writing board off my lecture hall seat from fright.  While the film is technically primitive, the brilliant Max Schreck endowed his vampire with a repulsive exterior that perfectly matched his soulless interior and evil inclination.

Which brings me to problem number one with contemporary vampires; the notion that they can be good as well as evil.  A good vampire is as ridiculous a concept as a helpful tornado or beneficial dose of the clap.  Once you allow them moral ambiguity, you effectively neuter the species and turn their gruesome behavior into nothing more than an alternative lifestyle.  Where's the conflict?  A vampire saga used to be a battle where heroic but fragile mortals fought against more powerful and thoroughly depraved creatures bent on enslavement and exsanguination.  Today, it's just a cross-cultural teen romance with some supernatural arm wrestling thrown in.

Not only are today's hemoholics well intentioned, they are sometimes cast as the sympathetic victims of anti-vampire prejudice.  Aren't there enough real issues of bigotry and hatred to be dealt with in the world?  Can't we have one fictional realm apart from Santa's list where there's a general consensus on who's good and who's bad?

Once you allow a vampire to be just like you and me except for an unusual eating disorder, you drain the genre of its primal terror and diminish its ability to be cathartic.  I also think you lose the fun, but that's likely a factor of my age as are my other preferences for how the undead should be portrayed.

• Vampires don't have gooey romances with mortals.  Even during the censorship-heavy thirties, it was all about sex and blood, not dinner and dancing.  Vampires don't have "relationships" and never discuss their feelings.  They don't have any.

• Vampires don't shop at Urban Outfitters.  Draining blood requires a more formal look than a trip to Starbucks.  A frock coat with black pants a la Schreck is acceptable, but the full Lugosi monkey suit and cape is preferable.

• Vampires come from Eastern Europe.  I know it's the era of globalization, but what else has Romania to boast about? The rec room of a split-level in Dayton is no place to stow a coffin.  Home should be a castle in the Carpathians with a weekend retreat in Berlin or London to stock up on fresh provisions.

• Similarly, Vampires speak with an accent.  Lugosi's Budapest-flavored speech and drawn-out cadence were the result of never learning English properly, but the effect is unsettling.  No one is afraid of a vampire who sounds like a GAP clerk or Delta Airlines pilot.

• Vampires don't drink artificial blood.  You might as well have them swig Red Bull.  I'm not a natural food fanatic, but the organic stuff right from the source is the only way to go.  Which would you prefer, biting a beautiful woman's neck or dropping by 7-Eleven for a six-pack?  "Try new Plasma Lite® - more taste, less clotting."

Immortal though they may be, I don't expect the vampires of yore to make a comeback soon.  Kids today won't even watch a black-and-white movie much less a seventy-five minute parlor drama starring a tuxedoed Hungarian with halting English.  But back when visual effects were in their infancy, there was a greater reliance on mood and character to make the audience shriek, and I doubt any of today's blood-sucking millenials have that power.  You don't need garlic or wolfbane to scare them off; just threaten to block their Facebook pages.