Wednesday, May 27, 2015

My Life In The Movies by Ace Toscano

(From a column I wrote for a small North Carolina newspaper back in the early 90s.)

Look out - You're about to be buried beneath an avalanche of news inspired, made-for-TV docudramas. Coming soon to a tube near you will be movies inspired by the standoff in Waco, the Twin Towers bombing, the plight of a young couple and baby lost in the snowy nowheres of Nevada, skiers lost over Aspen and the Blizzard of '93.

The slate of coming attractions will be rounded off by the heartwarming family drama, Mia and Woody, and a possible Amy Fisher sequel, I Love the Warden, And the Warden Loves Me.

In addition to providing us with (yuk-yuk) top-notch entertainment, the sale of film rights to these tales provides otherwise ordinary folks like us, folks whose lives are instantly magnified and Magnavoxed, with some heavy-duty compensation. Some Hollywood yoyo recently paid out a half million dollars to a lady scalded by hot coffee.

Well, naturally, this got me thinking. I've led a full life. I actually saw John Madden's bus once - it was traveling the other way on I-40 - and I could always use another half million bucks. So, why not hop that Hollywood freight and sell the rights to some of my greatest moments? Yes... why not!

Immediately, I started pouring through my memory bands, hunting down experiences best suited for that nine to eleven time slot. Here are a few ideas that should whet your cinematic appetites.

How about a movie for kids based on me and my childhood pet, Ozzie the Turkey. A compelling tale of faithful companionship, it could chronicle events right up to the tragic day he wound up as the main ingredient in the Sunday gravy. We might call this flick The Gizzard of Oz.

To satisfy the sci-fi contingent, the moguls could recreate my recent kidnapping by a saucer full of alien scientists. These evil demons strapped me to their operating table and surgically removed every last hair from the top of my head, replacing each with a tiny, mega-powerful microchip. My scalp is now as powerful as 623 mainframe computers and I'm the focal point of an interplanetary information processing system. Let's call this epic The Martian Follicles.

In the realm of action-adventures, here's a swashbuckler with a leading role Harrison Ford or Arnold would be glad to sink their teeth into. High up on the roof, repairing the chimney flashing, our hero is suddenly hailed by exigencies below. As he races down the ladder, his feet get tangled and he plummets 23 feet, landing on his head and nearly breaking his neck. He recovers, yes, but the rose bush and his $30 jeans do not. The working title of this supercharged saga is When the Prunes Kicked In.

And there are more, plenty more. The way I figure it, I've got more than enough stock to keep the major networks supplied up to and beyond the coming millennium.

I suppose, now, you'll all be rushing out to buy yourselves big-screen TVs. Good idea. I recommend a 39 incher with surround sound. And here's a viewing tip: turn up the volume when our hero races for the ladder. You'll love the sound effects.

(Taken from My Live in the Movies and other writings: Collected Wit, Humor and Reflections of an Aspiring Hack by Ace Toscano)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Astral Herbal: First Kindle Edition

Just released, the Kindle edition of the seminal work by me, Michael "Ace" Toscano, and Bob Ricciotti that sent Astrology buffs everywhere frolicking through woods, fields and swamps hunting down medicinal herbs compatible with their signs. It's the ground-breaking book "The Astral Herbal: An Astrologer's Guide To Medicinal Plants."

Download The Astral Herbal onto your phone and have the plant descriptions and illustrations with you when you go out stalking the medicinal herbs associated with your sign.

And follow The Astral Herbal on Facebook.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Pasco Tree and Crane Service - A Thumbs Down Review

They Fooled Me Once. Don't Let Them Fool You

Having just moved into a house, we've had to seek the service of various local companies - a plumber, a sprinkler service, a lawn and landscaping service, a concrete contractor, and, unfortunately, a tree service, the latter to remove some large trees from the property.

Let's get this straight, they can remove trees. Of course, during that part of the operation the boss/owner was there. Though he didn't identify himself as such, he was operating the crane. Unfortunately, when his work was done he left, leaving the stump grinding to his son and his crew. They don't have the same sense of honor nor the impulse to do good work as the owner. Not realizing this, I was operating under the premise that they wanted to do a good job for me. That's why when their foreman Sean approached me and suggested that instead of hauling away the chips from the biggest tree, a camphor tree, it might be a good idea for him to spread them around so the lawn, once sod was placed on top of the chips, would slope away from the house. It sounded like a good idea to me, so I said okay. That was a mistake. One, I didn't realize the mass of chips that stump and its roots would produce; and two, I didn't realize, as my landscaper later told me, that sod would not grow on top of the camphor chips and that it would take 5 or 6 years for the chips to compost.

My landscaper figured that PTCS had just been trying to save the cost of disposing of the chips. I think they were just lazy. BTW, did I mention that they covered a few of my sprinkler heads?

Anyway, I called the company and explained that my landscaper had told me the chips would have to be hauled away before sod was laid down and wondered if they would come back and pick up the chips. I was told they would get back to me, but they didn't. They weren't inclined to come back. Why should they? They had been paid their $2,000+.

I wanted to make sure I was operating under the proper premise regarding wood chips and sod so I googled for answers. It's pretty clear that it is not a good idea to place sod over wood chips. Check out this video:

And this article: How to Plant Sod Grass Over Tree Stump Grindings which suggests you "Remove any large wood chunks or sticks from the area. Remove as much of the wood chips and sawdust as possible and work the remainder into the soil."

So, I asked my landscaper to remove the chips. He and his two helpers did so for $275. In the process of removing the chips they uncovered parts of the tree, roots and stumps, that hadn't been ground down below ground level. He suggested I call PTCS and tell them to come back and finish the job. I called and was told by the girl who answered the phone that she would get back to me after she conferred with the men. She didn't get back to me. Before I called again, I emailed them some pictures.

That produced the desired effect. The boss came out to examine the unfinished job and told me they would be out the next day to finish the job the way it should have been finished the first time. They did. I was so pleased with the outcome that I was tempted to give this review a slight boost but, in his haste to leave the property, the foreman ran over a lawn sprinkler that he had been told he had to avoid. As a consequence, I continue to rate them "Avoid". If you do decide to use them, do so with caution.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta Novels in Order

What invariably happens when someone reads one of Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta novels is that they suddenly develop a strong desire to read them all. For those of you who find yourselves in this predicament, I have listed below all of Ms. Cornwell's novels to date along with a link to a convenient checklist so you can mark your progress as you fly through the list. Good reading!

The Kay Scarpetta Novels In Order

  • 1. Postmortem (1990)
  • 2. Body of Evidence (1991)
  • 3. All That Remains (1992)
  • 4. Cruel and Unusual (1993)
  • 5. The Body Farm (1994)
  • 6. From Potter's Field (1995)
  • 7. Cause of Death (1996)
  • 8. Unnatural Exposure (1997)
  • 9. Point of Origin (1998)
  • 10. Black Notice (1999)
  • 11. The Last Precinct (2000)
  • 12. Blow Fly (2003)
  • 13. Trace (2004)
  • 14. Predator (2005)
  • 15. Book of the Dead (2007)
  • 16. Scarpetta (2008)
  • 17. The Scarpetta Factor (2009)
  • 18. Port Mortuary (2010)
  • 19. Red Mist (2011)
  • 20. The Bone Bed (2012)
  • 21. Dust (2013)
  • 22. Flesh and Blood (2014)

  • Scarpetta fans, for your convenience, a link to the Printable Scarpetta Series Checklist.

    Tuesday, August 5, 2014

    Review: The Valley View Dental Consortium of Hudson, FL

    My lowest rating: Avoid 

    Are we supposed to address dentists as "Doctor" this or "Doctor" that. Probably not - they're just dentists. Anyway, my nightmare began when my previous dentist, an ex-marine who always treated me square, went out of business one day without notifying his patients and abruptly closed up his office. I was due for a cleaning so I called Valley View Dental. Oy vey!

    To be honest, I've neglected my teeth most of my life and only for the last several years have I been taking care of them like I should have all along - brushing three times a day, flossing, rinsing with tartar control mouthwash. At 70, I can finally say "I'm on top of it."

    No, these are not my teeth.

    So, what I'm looking for from my dental consortium, unless I have an emergency of some kind, is a cleaning every 6 months, and a free toothbrush. Thank you very much. Cleaning my teeth isn't all that much work since my upkeep prevents much in the way of tartar buildup between visits. Candy, the girl at my previous dentist's office and Miranda at Valley View agreed on this. Unfortunately, dentist Wilson Maddoff of Valley View Dental wasn't happy with this arrangement. He decided it was necessary to improve my dental health - big time.

    First, he decided the cleanings I was getting from Miranda were not sufficient. What I needed now was a deep cleaning. Cost? A slight difference, he said, but it would be well worth it. Later, his assistant informed me that the deep cleaning was going to cost me $1500. I went along with it.

    Next, after that was all done he decided I needed some whitening. Really? You'll be amazed at the difference it makes, he said. Now, I've always been a realist when it came to my teeth. I do not have a Hollywood smile and my teeth, except for one souvenir of a long ago root canal which is brown, are hardly what you would call white. So, I went for it. $800. That's $2300 of dental improvement. I should have been feeling good but I didn't because, to tell you the truth, when I checked myself out in the mirror, my teeth looked exactly the same as they had when I was under the care of the ex-marine. Maybe, I thought, the benefits weren't readily visible. Yeah, that was probably it.

    During my next visit, Miranda cleaned my teeth, told me how good everything looked, then took x-rays and called in Maddoff to check out my mouth. Things didn't look so good to him. Bone loss. Well, I'd been told about this before but my former dentist had been satisfied that it didn't seem to be getting any worse. Not so with Maddoff. I needed laser surgery, right away. $500. I left his office without enough for cab fare. Thank god I didn't need a cab.

    By the next time I was due for a checkup, I was a little wary. Wilson Maddoff was into me for $2800 and my teeth didn't look any better. So, when Miranda finished with the x-rays and said she was going to fetch the dentist to have a look, I said, "Please, don't. Everytime he looks into my mouth it costs me money. I don't feel like another unneccessary treatment, today." Faithful to her employer, she reported what I had said and two days later I received a note in the mail advising me to find a new dentist. I don't believe my teeth were his primary concern - my money was.

    I imagine if I told Wilson Maddoff that I only had 6 weeks to live, he'd try to talk me into some last minute dental treatments to make my dwindling time more enjoyable. No thanks.

    There's a guy up in Spring Hill who offers free x-rays on the first visit for new patients. Next time, I think I'll try him.

    Tuesday, May 6, 2014

    After Losing Two Hundred Pounds, He Turns to Writing

    "I figured that if I could lose 203 pounds, I could do anything. Back when I was heavy, I used to spend a lot of time plopped on my backside watching TV and reading. I often thought to myself that I could write a nice story but I just didn't have the energy. Not so with the new me. I decided to try my hand at writing and with the help of a friend, Joanne Augello, who kept me on course, I recently finished my first story, a novella entitled Flight from the Wild Side. The process was so much fun, I'm already working on another story."

    So declared weight loss inspiration turned writer M. J. Toscano when I spoke to him at Joe Muggs in Port Richey, FL. "I love it here," he said. "I can read, drink coffee and chat with my friends in the friendliest of environments - a bookstore."

    We, of course, wish him much success with his writing career. We read Flight from the Wild Side and think it's a great beginning. "Are you afraid that success might lead to increased eating and a weight gain?" we asked. "No, I'm not afraid at all," he responded, adding, "Please pass me another donut."

    Tuesday, April 22, 2014

    My Art Collection - Desert by S. Mahaney, 1958

    This 16 X 20 painting has been in my collection for several years. The photo, unfortunately, does not do it justice. I'm guessing, based on the subject, that S. Mahaney may have been painting in the southwest. Of course, he or she might have been working from a photograph, but the details in the cacti suggest to me first hand knowledge. If you have any information on the artist, I'd appreciate your comment.