Touché, Monsieur Pussycat ... Grrr!

Fleet Week here in New York City always reminds me of "Tom and Jerry" cartoons.

Yes, they were a violent dynamic duo, but the classical music soundtrack that accompanied the 'toons was always a hit in my mind. My favorite episodes featured Jerry's tough cousin. He was a mouse that wore a sailor cap (which is why Fleet Week jogs the memory) and always carried his clothes in a briefcase. He would strut with his fists clenched and his chest out, and Tom was such a scaredy-cat whenever he was in town that Jerry was all of a sudden carefree. Free to carouse without fear of death by Tom.

The metaphor isn't lost on me today.

With imposing ships lining the harbor and smart sailors in crisp uniforms roaming the Big Apple, I can't help but feel safe. And proud to be an American. To all the sailors, troops, Marines and airmen out there, thanks for your service.

And as the drunk French mouse who helped Jerry fend off Tom in the "Three Musketeers" episode said: "Touché, Monsieur Pussycat."

Vast "Idol" Conspiracy ... Grrr!

It's a done deal. Fantasia Barrino (search) is the new "American Idol," and she deserves it. A real talent. And oh, by the way, she also happens to be African-American. That means two out of three "Idol" winners are, in fact, black. Can we stop with the racism talk now? Once again, some group, somewhere, causing controversy where there really is none.

On a somewhat related matter, I'm proud of Seacrest Out for sparing us his signature sign-off in the finale. Let's hope it doesn't carry over to next year though.

ESPN ... Sports or Politics? ... Grrr! columnist Hunter S. Thompson (search) is upset. Poor Hunter. Of the Abu Ghraib pictures taken of Iraqi prisoners being mistreated under U.S. captors he wrote: "Not even the foulest atrocities of Adolf Hitler ever shocked me so badly as these photographs did." He went on to say he is "ashamed to carry an American passport."

Huh? What, is he on drugs? Oops, dumb question. Bad analogy, Hunt. Besides, you were about seven years old when Hitler ate a bullet. I'm impressed that after all those acid trips you can recall your reaction from that far back.

'Blivions of Summer ... Grrr!

Seems now that summer is around the corner, the Oblivions are really coming out of the woodwork. Makes me dread the beaches, pools, waterslides and neighborhood barbeques that are about to be overpopulated with the 'Blivions of Summer.

• They'll kick sand on your just-oiled body as they haul the hoagie-filled cooler to their plot on the beach.

• You'll be hit unawares in the head with a football just as you're about to finish John Galt's manifesto in "Atlas Shrugged," and you'll just nod and throw the ball back to the Oblivions.

• They wear bathing suits they shouldn't be wearing, like bikinis or Speedos — enough on that point.

• They'll take a bite out of an undercooked burger, and then throw it back on the grill.

• They'll pee in the pool.

• In that great big ocean they'll swim right next to you, or on that vast stretch of sand, will set up camp right next to you.

• They'll also run out on the baseball field and then cry foul when they get arrested and face jail time.

Doesn't Anybody "Due" Diligence Anymore? ... Grrr!

So NBC was sort of caught with its pants down (pardon the pun) after the New York Post revealed "Law and Order: S.V.U." star Ice-T (search) stars in the porn movie "Ice-T's Pimpin'  101," in which he waxes poetic on "hos." Oops. It's happened before, especially in reality TV. Remember when CBS yanked a cast member from "Big Brother" after discovering he had a criminal record? Or how about Frenchie Davis (search) of "American Idol," whose appearance on a porn Web site that advertised "underage girls" on its homepage was her undoing? And what about clown Rob Campos, who starred in "For Love Or Money?" NBC thought it would have a hit with the handsome lawyer, only to discover he was booted from the Navy JAG Corps after groping a female officer.

Just goes to show you the disconnect between entertainment and the business world. With the background checks most corporations perform, Ice-T and the rest of them probably couldn't get a job as NBC pages making 10 bucks an hour, but appear on the big show for the big bucks ... sure, no problem. Who's pimpin' who now?

Now For Your Grrrs

Ron Mackie in Riverside, R.I.: Mike, I enjoy your take on things and the Grrrs that go with it.  Perhaps my complaint is misplaced, but it has to do with parking at malls where there are now assigned spots for people with children and pregnant mothers. I don't park in the emergency zone or handicapped spots, but adding people-with-children spots is ridiculous. What happened to common sense?

A woman in her third trimester deserves a handicapped spot. Who can question that? But creating a specific spot for people with children is too much. I want a spot [designated] especially for white middle-agers who are tired of pointless regulation. Bring back common sense!

Brian George in Houston, Texas: Wanted to submit a few fishing-etiquette Grrrs. Not sure how much you have experienced fishing, but for those who are fishermen, I’m sure you’ll echo my Grrrs. Out fishing with my father last week on Toledo Bend Reservoir, I realized that Oblivions are alive and well in the bass fishing realm as well.  My first Grrr is to the guy who pulled up to a fishing spot after us and put his trolling motor in high gear so he could get in front of us and fish. The second Grrr goes to the guy who drove right across the spot where we were fishing at full speed on plane, nowhere near a boat lane. Thanks bud, I really needed that.

Eric Stafford in Topeka, Kan.: This week you wrote “isn't poly-sci one of those degrees for scholarship athletes who never show up to class? Oh, sorry, that's communications.” Now wait a second. I am a proud graduate of my communications degree. As you can see, I am currently an editor of a publication, right out of college. Communications isn’t for athletes, social services is. Communications is for guys to meet all of the attractive PR women and visa versa. My wife was a communications major, point proven. How dare you dilute the value of my “hard-earned” communications degree! GRRR!!!!!!

Eric, thanks for not taking yourself so seriously. You should have seen all the poly-sci and communications majors (Self-Righteons) who sent me e-mails because they were soooo offended. Poor babies. Can't anyone take a joke anymore?

Jen in Thurmont, Md.: Hey Mike, LOVE LOVE LOVE your column. I'd like to add a HUGE GRRR to all the oblivions who walk by my desk and think that my lunch, or bag of chips or plate of fries in front of me is an open invitation to stick their dirty nasty hands in and help themselves. The reason it is on my desk is because IT IS MINE! Do I come and stick my hands in your lunch? If you need something to eat that badly, just ask and I will hand you some. Once you've pawed all over my food, it is very unappetizing. GRRR!!!!

Patrick in CyberSpace: Yes, I find some of the celebrity types hard to tolerate lately. Madonna being a writer of children's books is enough to make one run for the hills ... She can appear on Oprah a million more times and it will not change a thing. I for one will not be buying McDonna's books nor do I know anyone else [who will]. We loathe her.

Jason K. in Milwaukee: My Grrr! is to the woman at the supermarket who yelled at her two- or three-year-old daughter because, as the woman was trying to buy two handles of vodka, the little girl, obviously upset at what her mom was buying,  was telling her mommy “no” and trying to put the vodka back. The mom snapped at the girl and embarrassed her in public. Little does she know who should really be embarrassed. GRRR!

Air Force Mike: A special heartfelt Grrr for all those senseless individuals out
there who think I enjoy listening to them chanking, cracking and popping their chewing gum. In the gym, library or movie theater, legions of these morons think it is perfectly acceptable to elicit noises akin to a cow with its foot stuck in the mud. Please, end the madness ... keep your mouth shut so I may keep my sanity. All the hummers and whistlers out there take heed as well.

A Mom in Florida: You asked where the parents are of all those half-dressed girls. I’ll tell you. They are too busy working to provide excessive amounts of things to actually do the hard job of parenting. These teens and pre-teens are a major force in the economy and they get their money from parents. Parents who are either too stupid or too guilty to stand up and say NO! My husband and I have five daughters (ages 4-13) and they know that stylish, modest clothing can be achieved with firm ground rules, planning, and creativity. Also, you never see words printed across a boy’s backside. Things like Studly, Hot, and Sexy would make a guy feel ridiculous. We are training young men to think of girls as only sexual objects, not someone to respect and treat with dignity.

Lissa S. in Iowa: I have my own Grrr about the whole "Juicy" butt saga. I'm the mother of four small children. My oldest is an 8-year-old girl, and it is almost impossible to find decent clothes for her. I admit I can't afford to shop in the high-end stores, so I don't even look there. But even Wal-Mart should have a better selection than this!  As a parent who doesn't want her 8-year-old walking around with "Juicy" on her butt, I Grrr at the clothing manufacturers who think that it's appropriate to make clothes like that for elementary school-aged children!  And Wal-Mart's role in this whole thing ... well, that's another Grrr entirely.

Janis G. in Miami, Fla.: I agree with the GRRR on young girls dressing like women in the red light district. But what some people don't understand is they might not leave their house dressed like that. They might go over to a friend's and change or change in the bathrooms. I had friends who did this. So the parents are oblivious to how their daughter actually dresses.

Lee Jones in Derry, N.H.: Thank you for your Grrr! on scantily clad pre-teens! It drives me absolutely insane when grown adults say how cute those half-dressed girls look, while at the same time castigating my 14-year-old daughter, who dresses in "goth," which consists of all black clothing, with very little flesh showing at all! Grrr! and thanks!

Tammy L. in Kitzingen, Germany: I'd like to add to the inappropriate clothes for kids Grrr with one of my own. I was recently at the store and actually saw thong underwear in children's sizes, aimed at the 8-year-old and up set! The company making these things, and especially the parents who buy them, are totally irresponsible. What happened to cotton briefs with pink flowers? Kids do not need sexy panties! Grrr.

Phil Donahue:  Have one more thing that Grrrs me about Madonna. She is all about the Kaballah (Qabala, Cabala) religion. Now I will claim a little ignorance here, but don't they have something against lesbianism? I could be wrong. Anyway, all of these other celebs seem to attract, like magnets to the magnetic north, to any new fad. Now don't get me wrong, I KNOW that Kaballah has been around for 2000 years or so, but it seems to be the "popular" thing to do now.

Jane in Indy writes: Love your column! I too find it ridiculous that celebs use their name and elbow into other fields. John Mellencamp wins my ultimate Grrr! Not only is he an average musician from Indiana, but he THINKS he is a painter. As a painter myself who actually studied art for the majority of my life, I find it insulting that he would sell half-painted pieces for thousands of dollars. Not to mention the "oblivion" groupies who compare his artwork to Rembrandt or Picasso!  PLEASE! Hey Johnny, go back to that small town and stay!

Carl in N.Y.: I am outraged and want to scream every time I see the "Senior Citizens" discounts. We have four teenagers! Talk about needing a discount. Our paychecks are "fixed" just as seniors claim their income to be. So I usually wait until I see an over-60 type and ask her to buy my tickets, dinners, clothing, etc. ... all the while being a little loud about my "40-something" money being printed at the same mints. Grrr.

Dave in Amarillo, Texas: My Grrr goes out to all the people who abuse food stamps. You know, the ones who think food stamps are for buying junk food. Public money spent on grocery carts full of snack and junk food is shameful. I'm not saying people on food stamps shouldn't enjoy a snack every once in while. However, spending most of one's food stamp allowance on junk shouldn't be allowed ... ever!

Jacqueline in Dallas, Texas: Mike, you touched on my Grrr with your Bob Costas comment (last column). I also dread the upcoming Olympics because when my family and I sit down to watch the opening ceremonies, we will more than likely have to once again endure those such as Costas or Katie Couric's constant interruptions. During the last Olympics, we could not enjoy the show because Katie was constantly interrupting with little tidbits on what the costumes and flags were made of. And letting us know what was going to happen next. HEY KATIE AND BOB! WE DON'T CARE!  WE JUST WANT TO WATCH THE SHOW! Thank you Mike, I feel so much better.

— Me too.

Name Dropping

So I met "Apprentice" Erika Vetrini the other night at the Audemars-Piguet (search) jewelry watch store on West 57th Street, not far from Trump Tower, where Vetrini lived for six weeks while taping the NBC hit reality show. The Italian-American beauty says she's mulling over a bunch of television offers, but is having a difficult time with some of the non-compete elements of her contract with reality TV guru Mark Burnett.

"If I learned anything from Mr. Trump and Mr. Burnett," she said, "it's the importance of branding, and getting myself out there. I totally appreciate the experience they gave me, but it's been difficult to expand on it because of the way the contract is structured," she said. "I'm not bitter though. Please. This has been such an amazing experience," she said.

I will say for Erika, she wears fame — and pretty much everything else — quite well.

Stupid Li'l Dreamers

We learned a lot about our fellow countrymen and women immediately after Sept. 11, 2001.  Nothing in recent memory galvanized our great nation like that horrible day of terror. One of the many things that came out of that terrorist attack is something called the LifeCender (search).  It was developed by Patrick O'Kane, a NY/NJ Port Authority high-wire specialist who was called to duty as the World Trade Center towers were burning. Watching people who were helplessly trapped above the fire, he vowed to create a device that could rappel people at least a few stories down the side of a building, so that they could get below a fire — or all the way to the ground, safely. He and a company called American Escape Systems have succeeded in putting such a mechanism to market, and it will be only a matter of time before the LifeCender is as ubiquitous as the fire extinguisher.

Check out the "FOX Magazine" LifeCender feature (keep in mind I'm somewhat afraid of heights).

Until next week, Grrrrrrrrrr!

Read previous Strakalogue Grrr! columns

Mike Straka is the Director of Operations and Special Projects for, and contributes as a features reporter and producer on "FOX Magazine," "Sunday Best" and  As an actor, Straka appeared in the film "Analyze This," co-starred in the Off-Broadway hit "Tony n' Tina's Wedding," and has appeared in various TV commercials and programs.

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