Friday, February 29, 2008

Buckley Special Airs Saturday on Fox News

Fox News Channel has announced that Davis Asman will host a special on the life of William F. Buckley Jr. on Saturday, March 1st, at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time.

Earlier this evening, incidentally, I ordered a copy of Buckley's MILES GONE BY: A LITERARY AUTOBIOGRAPHY which I am looking forward to reading soon.

Wasting Energy

A new study by UC Santa Barbara confirms a previous study in Australia: Daylight Savings Time not only doesn't save energy, it actually wastes energy.

I'm already dreading "jumping forward" -- next weekend! At that point it will have only been four months since we went on Standard Time.

Meanwhile, for a depressing read on the poor performance of the CFL bulbs Congress is mandating we use in the name of "saving energy," here's a story from yesterday's USA Today.

Among other problems, the bulbs don't work well (or at all) with dimmer switches or in hot environments -- the ideal home temperature for the bulbs is about 77 degrees.

The only problem with that temperature issue is that here in California the state refuses to build more electric power plants and the state and the electric companies are thus forcing conservation with electric costs so high that many families can no longer run air conditioning in the summer. If we can't run our air conditioning, does this also mean the bulbs will go out and we'll be sitting in the dark on hot summer days?

These so-called "conservationists" seem to want to push us back into the pre-electricity Dark Ages.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

"Farewell to a Great Man"

There are dozens of excellent tributes to William F. Buckley Jr. available on the web. I'd like to highlight a few, by Mona Charen (subject link), George Will, Michael Knox Beran, and Peggy Noonan.

Buckley's nephew, Brent Bozell, has also written a eulogy.

Many more essays on Mr. Buckley are currently available at the front page of National Review.

A transcript of Rush Limbaugh's Wednesday tribute to Buckley appears to be available on the "free" portion of his site.

It's worth the investment of time to read some of these stories, pause and give thanks for a man who profoundly impacted the conservative movement.

Previously: William F. Buckley Jr. Dies at 82.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Another NYT Hit Piece on McCain

Last week the New York Times continued to damage its reputation with a blatant smear of Senator John McCain.

This week the New York Times is raising questions about whether Senator McCain's birth in the Panama Canal Zone may disqualify him from being President, as although his parents were American citizens -- and he was born on a U.S. military installation, to boot -- he might not fit the Constitutional requirement of being a "natural-born citizen."

Carl Hulse of The Times starts his article: "The question has nagged at the parents of Americans born outside the continental United States for generations: Dare their children aspire to grow up and become president?"

Oh really? And how did Hulse arrive at this conclusion? Any evidence this has been on many parents' minds?

He later writes: "...whether he qualifies as natural-born has been a topic of Internet buzz for months, with some declaring him ineligible while others assert that he meets all the basic constitutional qualifications — a natural-born citizen at least 35 years of age with 14 years of residence."

Who are the "some" who declare him ineligible? What are the names of the sites where this debate has taken place? I'm not saying it hasn't happened, but I sure haven't come across such a discussion, and he makes a pretty sweeping generalization.

The paper does note that previous Presidential candidates have been born to American citizens living outside the United States, either in Arizona Territory (Barry Goldwater) or Mexico (George Romney).

This may be a question of passing interest as a matter of Presidential trivia, but this hardly seems likely to be a true Constitutional question which would prevent Senator McCain from becoming President. "Natural-born" does not mean "native-born."

The way Hulse and the Times breathlessly lay out the story, framing it with the kinds of generalizations noted above, makes it appear that the paper is continuing to look for any way possible to raise questions about a candidate who, ironically, was endorsed by the paper.

Update: Rick Moore at Holy Coast asks a couple good questions: "...how long have they had this story and why have they waited until now to release it? Surely they've known for many years where McCain was born..."

Patterico notes "...the New York Times can’t muster a single expert who really thinks McCain is likely to lose the issue in court."

Patterico also links to this funny comment at Hot Air: "Good thing McCain wasn’t born on February 29th, they’d be debating whether or not he is over 35."

A fellow fan of THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE?

Thursday Update: Bench Memos further demonstrates the frivolity of the Times article, and also makes note of the article's silly introduction.

Tonight's Movie: All That Heaven Allows (1955)

ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS, a romantic melodrama directed by Douglas Sirk, begins with an exquisitely beautiful shot of a New England town in the fall. The film only gets better from there, with gorgeous scenery and Sirk's characteristic use of rich colors making the film worth watching in and of itself. The Criterion DVD print is stunning; by all means watch the movie on DVD if at all possible.

The plot concerns a well-off 40-ish widow, Cary (Jane Wyman), whose children are on the verge of adulthood. Cary unexpectedly finds herself romanced by a younger gardener, Ron (Rock Hudson). When Cary accepts Ron's marriage proposal, her children and so-called friends are shocked that she would marry someone so "unsuitable," outside their own moneyed social class, not to mention younger.

In its day the film was apparently somewhat dismissed as a well-done "woman's film," but in recent years Sirk's films have come to be more appreciated not only for their use of color -- the color in Sirk's even more melodramatic WRITTEN ON THE WIND (1956) is amazing -- but also for their social commentary and symbolism. ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS is filled with the interesting use of doors, screens, windows, and reflections -- it's too bad there isn't a commentary track analyzing all of that to add to the richness of the viewing experience.

The movie is well-acted by an excellent cast. Agnes Moorehead and Hayden Rorke, as Cary's best friend and doctor, are her lone supporters among their social set. William Reynolds and Gloria Talbott play her snobby, self-centered children. Lovely Virginia Grey is one of Hudson's friends, while Conrad Nagel plays the man her family considers a "suitable" match for Wyman.

The plot is quite similar to a film of nearly a decade earlier, Barbara Stanwyck's MY REPUTATION, in which she played a widow whose romance was similarly condemned by family and country club friends. I highly recommend that movie as well.

ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS runs 89 minutes. It's also available on video.

Robert Osborne Interviewed at The Shelf

Fellow movie fan J.C. Loophole of The Shelf recently had the good fortune to conduct an interview with Robert Osborne, the longtime host of Turner Classic Movies.

If you're a TCM fan you'll want to check it out.

New on DVD: Newhart

Season 1 of NEWHART came out on DVD yesterday, to the delight of Newhart fans everywhere.

Bob Newhart gave a very interesting interview to a Minnesota paper. Like the rest of us, he's wondering why the last two seasons of THE BOB NEWHART SHOW have yet to be released on DVD. He also said that the first season of that show was released without his knowledge, at which point he insisted on contributing commentaries and featurettes for Seasons 2, 3, and 4. He has not been contacted about doing any work on the last two seasons.

According to this review, extras include a featurette on the making of the show, with tributes to Mary Frann and Tom Poston. My copy arrived in the mail as I was writing this, and the box shows a total of four featurettes, which is welcome news. No commentaries, unfortunately. (And I really think they could have done a better job on the cover art!)

(Update: Although the box lists four featurette titles, there are only three to be found on the discs. I watched them all and enjoyed them very much, particularly the longest one on the cast.)

Apparently Amazon requests for NEWHART helped lead to the show being put on DVD -- so if you're wondering if it does any good to request DVDs at sites like Amazon or TCM, which pass the requests on to DVD producers, that gives an indication.

(Hat tip re interview: TV Shows on DVD.)

Previously: It's Official: Newhart Coming to DVD.

William F. Buckley Jr. Dies at 82

Sad news today, that the great conservative, William F. Buckley Jr., passed away this morning.

Buckley founded National Review; his TV show FIRING LINE ran for decades.

Rush Limbaugh: "One of the greatest Americans in our lifetimes, in three or four generations. I rank him as a Founding Father."

National Review Online has published a statement on Mr. Buckley's passing.

Update: A statement about Mr. Buckley issued today by President Bush.

Late Update: Click here for a cute cartoon at The Corner.

An NRO Symposium has remembrances from many conservative leaders, including William J. Bennett, Mark Levin, and Kate O'Beirne.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom

Time for the final post in the series on my whirlwind trip to Disney World at the start of the month!

Californians are usually struck by how big Cinderella's Castle is compared to Sleeping Beauty Castle:


The castle has a restaurant inside, Cinderella's Royal Table.

One of the things Disneyland fans like me enjoy about Florida's Magic Kingdom is its "retro" appeal -- in many ways it reminds me of the Disneyland of my childhood. Florida's Fantasyland, for example, still has the colorful medieval "fair" type facades which Anaheim discarded when New Fantasyland opened in 1983.

There are a number of rides in Florida which are no longer at Disneyland, including Tomorrowland Transit Authority, which is a People Mover; Country Bear Jamboree; Swiss Family Treehouse; and Astro Orbiter, which has an elevator and is up high like Disneyland's old Rocket Jets, rather than sitting on the ground like our current Astro Orbitor. (See this post if you're curious about Florida having an Orbiter and Anaheim having an Orbitor...)

The Fantasyland rides in Anaheim and Florida are sometimes quite different. For instance, Florida's Snow White ride focuses more on Snow White, while Anaheim has more of the witch. Florida's Pooh ride has a section with a "Tigger bounce." The entrance to It's a Small World is much different in Florida -- the white buildings which are outdoors in Anaheim are inside in Florida:


(Speaking of It's a Small World, check out today's big update at MiceAge; they may put Disney characters in It's a Small World as part of the months-long rehab this year. I'm not wild about that idea...)

Florida's Magic Kingdom also has some rides which aren't at Disneyland. My favorite is Mickey's PhilharMagic, which according to the above MiceAge update isn't coming to California, at least anytime soon. Another of my favorites is Magic Carpets of Aladdin. I love the theming around this ride, too, which includes "jewels" pressed into the pavement.

There is an entire land, Liberty Square, which isn't at Disneyland. Its attractions include the Hall of Presidents. I love this area!

We enjoyed the new Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor:


Stitch's Great Escape! (remodeled from Alien Encounter) is fairly silly as Disney attractions go, but with major Stitch fans in the family, I've now seen it twice.

For those of you wondering about Disneyland rides missing from the Magic Kingdom, they include the Matterhorn, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Story Book Land Canal, the Casey Jr. Circus Train, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Tarzan's Treehouse, and Indiana Jones. The Magic Kingdom also does not have New Orleans Square or Critter Country.

People sometimes ask me which of the two parks I like best. I guess I'd have to say I feel a special love and loyalty for Disneyland, which was "Walt's Park," which I visited growing up and where I even met my husband. However, they are both wonderful parks, enjoyable for both their similarities and their differences, and I love them both!

Previous posts: Walt Disney World: Epcot; Walt Disney World: Animal Kingdom; Walt Disney World: Disney's Hollywood Studios; Walt Disney World: The Resorts; Walt Disney World: Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa; Coming Soon.

Thanks to the Nanny Staters and Global Warming Alarmists...

...we can soon look forward to these hassles and health risks when the compact fluorescent bulbs we'll be legally required to purchase break:

"...if a compact fluorescent breaks, get children and pets out of the room. Ventilate the room. Never use a vacuum, even on a rug, to clean up a broken compact fluorescent lamps. Instead, use stiff paper such as index cards and tape to pick up pieces, and then wipe the area with a wet wipe or damp paper towel. If there are young children or pregnant woman in the house, consider cutting out the piece of carpet where the lamp broke as a precaution. Place the shards and cleanup debris in a glass jar with a screw top and remove the jar from the house.

"Disposal regulations vary from state to state, with some requiring broken compact fluorescent light bulbs, to be disposed of as household hazardous waste. Most states allow intact compact fluorescents to be thrown away, but some - such as Vermont, Minnesota, and California - ban disposal in trash..."

The above is per today's Boston Globe.

I continue to be appalled that President Bush bought into this silliness and signed the energy bill banning traditional light bulbs over the next five years. I wonder if there's any chance it will be rescinded. (Not with any of the current Presidential candidates in the White House...)

I think it's time to start stockpiling incandescent light bulbs.

A January post including information on health risks associated with compact fluorescent bulbs is here.

Update: More info on the health risks of compact fluorescent light bulbs.

How is it that the government gets to decree that this is the only kind of light bulb we're allowed to purchase? It's time to start stockpiling incandescent light bulbs...and it's also time to start pressuring Congress to reverse this silly mandate.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Naughty But Nice (1939)

In NAUGHTY BUT NICE, a straight-laced music professor (Dick Powell) who disdains modern music finds his life turned upside down when he sells his symphony to a music publisher (Ronald Reagan) who turns it into a popular song with the help of a pretty lyricist (Gale Page) and an oomphy songstress (Ann Sheridan).

This mildly diverting musical comedy is filled with some amusingly wacky characters, including Zasu Pitts and Helen Broderick as Powell's aunts, Max Rosenbloom as a butler-cook named Killer, Jerry Colonna as a composer, and Granville Bates as a judge. Pitts in particular is quite funny. It's not a great movie, but it's a pleasant way to spend an evening.

NAUGHTY BUT NICE continues a Dick Powell movie weekend. This was Powell's last musical under contract to Warner Bros., and according to the TCM website, it spent a period of time "on the shelf" to retaliate against Powell when he left the studio. When NAUGHTY BUT NICE was made Powell was 35 and had matured past the "young leading man" roles he played in earlier Warners musicals; his singing voice seems a bit deeper, too.

When Powell left Warner Bros. he starred in a series of light comedies before having a notable career renaissance when he starred in MURDER, MY SWEET (1944), and began playing "tough guy" roles. Powell was also a pioneering early TV star and producer on FOUR STAR PLAYHOUSE beginning in 1952.

Powell's other movies include films made with his first wife, Joan Blondell, and his second wife, June Allyson; my favorite, though, is MRS. MIKE (1949), costarring Evelyn Keyes. I haven't seen it in years. It wasn't a very accurate filming of the classic book, but I liked it just the same.

Sweet Gale Page is perhaps best known as "the fourth Lane sister" in FOUR DAUGHTERS and three other films in which she appeared as the sister of Priscilla, Lola, and Rosemary Lane. She also had a small but notable role in THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT playing Humphrey Bogart's wife, and she played the wife of Knute Rockne in KNUTE ROCKNE ALL AMERICAN, which of course co-starred NAUGHTY BUT NICE supporting actor Ronald Reagan. After 1941's FOUR MOTHERS, the last film she made with the Lane sisters, Page retired for family life, only appearing in a small handful of other projects.

NAUGHTY BUT NICE was directed by Ray Enright. Writer-Producer Jerry Wald was one of the co-authors of the screenplay. This black and white film runs 89 minutes.

Unfortunately this movie isn't available on either video or DVD. It's part of the Turner Classic Movies library; they have the trailer available here. Click here to request the movie be added to the TCM schedule.

Captains Quarters' Ed Morrissey Moves to Hot Air

Big news in the political blogosphere this morning: Ed Morrissey is closing down his Captain's Quarters blog and, effective March 1st, will be blogging exclusively for Michelle Malkin's Hot Air.

Michelle's announcement is here.

More Hot Air news here.

February 29th Update: Here is Ed's farewell post today at Captain's Quarters. As of tonight I have removed Captain's Quarters from the sidebar blogroll and added Hot Air. Captain's Quarters will be missed very much, but I wish Ed the best in his new endeavor.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Hollywood Hotel (1937)

A young singer (Dick Powell) hoping to make it big in Hollywood falls in love with the lookalike stand-in (Rosemary Lane) of a temperamental movie actress (Lola Lane). By film's end the romantic couple's careers are on the rise as they sing on the radio from the glamorous Orchid Room of the HOLLYWOOD HOTEL.

That's all there is to the plot, which is stuffed with some great musical numbers and more characters than it knows what to do with. The movie is extremely goofy at times, but it also has some truly funny moments and some great bits of dialogue. The Lane Sisters are quite good; Lola is very funny as the melodramatic actress, and sparkling Rosemary's duet with Powell, "I'm a Fish Out of Water," is one of the film's highlights.

The biggest bright spots for many music fans are the numbers with Benny Goodman and his band, including Harry James soloing on trumpet, Gene Krupa, Lionel Hampton and Teddy Wilson. Frances Langford is also on hand to sing, although her mooning after Powell in a couple of early scenes is a plot throwaway which doesn't really go anywhere. Raymond Paige and his orchestra also perform near the film's end, offering a striking performance of "Dark Eyes."

The cast includes Allyn Joslyn, Glenda Farrell, Alan Mowbray, Grant Mitchell, Louella Parsons, and Edgar Kennedy. Hugh Herbert and Mabel Todd play Lola Lane's demented father and sister, popping into the proceedings periodically to do something nutty, then leaving again; their roles could easily have been sliced, and it would have made for a film a little more streamlined and a little less strange.

Although the film was directed by Busby Berkeley, it doesn't have any of the large production numbers typically associated with Berkeley's style. However, the relatively straightforward band performances are most welcome presented in that fashion, as one can watch the musicians undistracted.

The movie runs 109 minutes.

HOLLYWOOD HOTEL is not available on video or DVD, but can be seen on Turner Classic Movies. The trailer can be seen at TCM's site.

Stills from this movie and more information on the Lane Sisters can be found at the Lane Sisters Archives at Simpson College.

November 2008 Update: HOLLYWOOD HOTEL was recently released on DVD as part of the Busby Berkeley Collection, Vol. 2.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Footlight Parade (1933)

FOOTLIGHT PARADE is perhaps my favorite example of the Warner Bros. Depression-era musical. The movie is lightning-paced, wickedly funny, politically incorrect, and completely, wonderfully unbelievable, whether it's asking us to believe that James Cagney and company stage and build sets for three gargantuan production numbers for three different theaters in just three days, or to believe that the numbers themselves actually fit on a theater stage!

Cagney plays a producer of "prologues" -- live stage musical numbers which precede "talking pictures" -- and he dominates every scene he's in. No one else was ever quite like Cagney, whose energy almost bursts off the screen.

Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler are his stars and Joan Blondell is his loyal secretary. Frank McHugh is the perenially stressed dance director. The cast also includes Guy Kibbee, Ruth Donnelly, and Claire Dodd. John Garfield can be spotted briefly peeking over a barrel in the "Shanghai Lil" number near the end of the film. Ann Sothern, Dorothy Lamour, and Jean Rogers are supposed to be chorus girls, although I didn't spot them.

The musical numbers are all choreographed by the great Busby Berkeley. The film ends with three rock 'em, sock 'em numbers back to back: "Honeymoon Hotel," "By a Waterfall," and "Shanghai Lil." Although the melody is memorable, "Honeymoon Hotel" is my least favorite, partially because of the strange presence of Billy Barty.

The next number, "By a Waterfall," is a work of genius -- completely creative and just a touch bizarre. It amazes me to realize that sound movies had existed just a handful of years when they were able to put together such a huge number. The kaleidoscopic effects created by the swimmers, the underwater photography, the slides...it's all simply amazing.

For me, though, the musical reaches the height of musical joy in a relatively simply moment, when James Cagney, dressed in a sailor suit, joins Ruby Keeler dancing on top of a bar in "Shanghai Lil." It's one of those classic movie moments that will always stay with you.

I first saw this film as a teenager, at the now-gone Plitt Theaters in Century City. If I remember correctly, it was screened as a part of a Filmex musical marathon.

Although I have seen it on TV in the years since my first viewing, it was particularly interesting to see it now, in the context of the pre-Code movies I've seen recently. This film definitely has its surprising moments which would not have made it onto the screen if the film had been released the following year, once enforcement of the Production Code began.

The movie was directed by Lloyd Bacon, with "dialogue direction" by William Keighley. It runs 104 minutes.

FOOTLIGHT PARADE is available on DVD as part of the Busby Berkeley Collection, which also includes 42ND STREET, DAMES, GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933, and GOLD DIGGERS OF 1935. The FOOTLIGHT PARADE disc has an excellent 15-minute featurette on the film.

It's also available on videotape or on cable on Turner Classic Movies.

The trailer can be seen here.

Walt Disney World: Epcot

On our trip to Disney World earlier this month we spent an afternoon and evening at Epcot. This gave us the chance to visit a new ride and a remodeled ride, as well as the time to check out old favorites.

Mexico's El Rio Del Tiempo ride in the World Showcase has been remodeled as the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros. It opened last year. Consequently, there is colorful Three Caballeros merchandise for sale -- I brought home a new mug.

At The Seas with Nemo and Friends (formerly the Living Seas), there's a new Finding Nemo ride which uses some of the same technology from the Submarine Voyage here at Disneyland. Guests ride in Omnimover-type vehicles (such as those used in the Haunted Mansion) past windows which look into the ocean. A song from the new Finding Nemo musical at the Animal Kingdom is also used in the ride. I didn't like it as much as Submarine Voyage, but it was fun to see it and compare the two rides.


A closeup of the iconic Spaceship Earth:


They were "soft opening" the remodeled Spaceship Earth ride when we were there but we didn't have the chance to try it out. It officially reopened on February 15th, shortly after our visit.

The Monorail track, looking towards The Land:


Club Cool is a unique stop which allows guests to try free samples of Coca-Cola products from around the world:


Trying the "Beverly" is a rite of passage for new Epcot visitors (grin).

Victoria Gardens in the Canadian section of World Showcase:


The exterior of Le Cellier, a favorite Epcot restaurant:


A pretty view near Le Cellier:


The British Pavilion in World Showcase:


China:


As an "extra," here's a photo I took of World Showcase Lagoon in 2004, as we were waiting for IllumiNations to start. If you're visiting WDW for the first time, IllumiNations is a must-see:


Some of our other favorite stops at Epcot are the Test Track ride, shopping at the Mitsukoshi store in Japan, and the CircleVision 360 movie O CANADA! in Canada -- unfortunately we didn't have time to see the updated version of the movie.

Previous posts: Walt Disney World: Animal Kingdom; Walt Disney World: Disney's Hollywood Studios; Walt Disney World: The Resorts; Walt Disney World: Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa; Coming Soon.

Updated: Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

New Book: Walt Disney's Cinderella

I just discovered that last August a beautiful new edition of CINDERELLA was published, with text by Cynthia Rylant; most intriguingly, the book is illustrated with the great Mary Blair's concept sketches for Disney's animated film.

Blair designed the look of many great Disney films, also including ALICE IN WONDERLAND and PETER PAN. Additionally, she was one of the leading creators of the It's a Small World ride.

Blair is also famous for her tile murals, including those at the Grand Canyon Concourse at Disney's Contemporary Resort in Florida. Her murals also used to adorn Disneyland's Tomorrowland.

The Blair-illustrated Little Golden Book I CAN FLY has long been on our bookshelves.

For more on Mary Blair, I highly recommend THE ART AND FLAIR OF MARY BLAIR by John Canemaker.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tonight's Movie: The Purchase Price (1932)

A Broadway singer (Barbara Stanwyck) finds her chances for a respectable marriage destroyed by her previous romantic connection with a hood (Lyle Talbot) who still wants her. Determined to put the mobster out of her life, she moves to Montreal and sings under an assumed name. But when the ex-boyfriend tracks her down, what's a girl to do but run off to be a mail order bride to a struggling North Dakota farmer (George Brent)?

The movie is somewhat episodic and the humor is a bit broad in places -- George Brent's "cold" was annoying, and the characters in the wedding and shivaree scenes are unappealing country bumpkins -- but all in all, I liked this movie. It had a feel similar to turning the pages of a good romantic novel, and I was interested to find out what would happen next as the farmer and the singer got to know one another.

I have been gradually coming to appreciate Barbara Stanwyck -- readers may recall I didn't care for Stanwyck from BIG VALLEY on -- and her performance in this film is very enjoyable. Stanwyck fans will definitely want to see it.

Brent, in another film from his "pre-mustache" period, plays a shy, gangly man completely at odds with the debonair characters from later in his career, including MY REPUTATION, in which he and Stanwyck costarred over a decade after making THE PURCHASE PRICE. I'm finding Brent's early performances rather unexpected and interesting.

The movie has great period detail; the North Dakota farm feels very real, inside and out.

The film was directed by William A. Wellman. It runs 68-70 minutes.

THE PURCHASE PRICE is available on video. It can also be seen on TCM. Click here to request it be added to TCM's schedule.

The trailer is here.

For a similar storyline filmed more recently, I highly recommend Hallmark Hall of Fame's THE MAGIC OF ORDINARY DAYS, starring Keri Russell and Skeet Ulrich.

January 2009 Update: THE PURCHASE PRICE will be released on DVD on March 24, 2009, as part of the Forbidden Hollywood Vol. 3 set, which spotlights the work of director William Wellman.

And It's Only February

The New York Times unloads an anti-McCain story tomorrow, linking McCain to a much-younger female lobbyist.

The paper also discusses the Keating scandal at length, as I predicted a couple weeks ago: "The long-suppressed stories about McCain's anger, profanity, and his ego will start turning up in the press regularly, along with concerns about his age and health. We'll start hearing about the Keating Five again, too."

The FReepers are busy speculating about the who's and why's of this story hitting the paper this early in the year. I have to say I'm surprised the paper didn't hold their fire until after the nominating conventions, when such articles could do the most damage.

More from the Drudge Report archives. Apparently McCain and the paper have been battling over this story for several weeks.

Update: Thoughts from Rich Lowry at National Review Online. Power Line also weighs in.

The Washington Examiner's Bill Sammon, a panelist on HANNITY AND COLMES this evening, commented that he didn't believe he could have gotten the NYT's story past an editor at any of the papers he'd ever worked for, because it was so poorly sourced and lacking in hard facts.

The World of Beverly Cleary

Beverly Cleary is one of my little boy's favorite authors. He is currently doing a book report on Cleary's RUNAWAY RALPH. While we were looking online for biographical info on Cleary he could include in his report, we discovered that she has a very nice website, The World of Beverly Cleary.

The website includes a "neighborhood map" of Klickitat Street, character profiles, a trivia quiz, and a reading guide for RAMONA.

I hope other Cleary fans will enjoy visiting her site as much as we did.

Previously: Beverly Cleary at 90, posted here on March 28, 2006.

Shrinking Newspapers

Word comes today that the Orange County Register is going to be shrinking -- literally. It will lose one inch in width by this fall.

Other changes are detailed in an article published today. This news comes on the heels of the paper recently ditching its Business section, in part because people read stock news online.

I've also noticed that the Long Beach Press-Telegram has been shrinking rapidly. The Local News section recently completely disappeared. The paper -- which has also gotten thinner in width -- is down to a mere three sections.

Meanwhile, some days the L.A. Times Sports section -- the best part of the paper -- is incredibly thin. It's frustrating to expect to read about a certain topic at breakfast -- say, figure skating -- only to find a note in the paper that the article is "on L.A. Times com" only.

I love the Internet, but I also love to read newspapers -- although the bias at the L.A. Times drives me nuts. There is a certain pleasure from opening the crisp pages of a brand-new paper that can't be replaced by the computer. The paper's a little more portable, too. :)

I really wonder if newspapers and home newspaper delivery will even exist a decade or so from now.

Walt Disney World: Animal Kingdom

We only spent a couple hours in the Animal Kingdom park on my recent visit -- just long enough to accomplish our main goal, a ride on Expedition Everest:


This was an absolutely wonderful ride. It was exciting to be able to finally ride it, after having seen it under construction 2-1/2 years ago.

The ride area has excellent theming; the line "pre-show" area was a curious mixture of real Everest history and mythical Disney lore related to the "Yeti," who "stars" in the ride. (Think the Abominable Snowman at Disneyland's Matterhorn, only much bigger.) I thought the ride might end up being a little too intense for me, but it wasn't at all -- I loved it and can't wait to go on it again one day!

We also had time to fit in Dinosaur, which is a wild jeep ride similar in style to Disneyland's Indiana Jones ride.

The Tree of Life, photographed in 2005:


Previous links on this month's Disney World trip can all be found at the bottom of this post.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Michelle Obama Roundup

There's not much to say that's not already been said about Michelle Obama's empty-headed and mean-spirited comment that "for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country."

When I heard Michelle's remarks, my first thought was that she must be one very depressed or negative woman if she's lived as long as she has without being "really proud" of her country.

I think Victor Davis Hanson (subject link) has one of the best responses.

John Podhoretz, Jonathan Last, and Michelle Malkin are also worth reading on this topic.

NewsBusters asked yesterday whether the media would ignore Mrs. Obama's comments.

The answer to that seems to be that the media mainly covered it simply to point out that Mrs. Obama is being picked on by Cindy McCain, who pointedly commented today "I'm very proud of my country."

Michelle Obama's comments, in and of themselves, don't seem to have come in for any analysis by the network newscasts.

Wednesday Update: Rather than seeing Mrs. Obama's comments as an attack on our country, ABC's Mark Halperin sees Cindy McCain's measured response as evidence of a "rough Republican attack machine."

There's media bias for you in one neat, tidy package.

Coming to DVD: Father Knows Best, My Three Sons

Two family TV classics are coming to DVD.

Season 1 of FATHER KNOWS BEST is being released on DVD on April 1, 2008.

The set will include plentiful extras such as Robert Young's home movies and interviews with the cast. They even found a missing episode which was in the hands of a private collector.

MY THREE SONS will be released on DVD on June 3, 2008.

No word yet on any extras for MY THREE SONS.

Those who like classic family TV may also want to know that Season 7 of THE WALTONS comes to DVD on April 29th.

Feb. 21st Update: Paramount has indefinitely postponed their release of MY THREE SONS. No reason given as yet.

July 8 Update: At present MY THREE SONS is due to be released on September 30, 2008. It will be released as Season 1, Volume 1. (The trend to split up single seasons into multiple volumes is an annoyance...)

In Disney Park News...

We noticed the last time we rode on Big Thunder Mountain that Dynamite, the goat, was missing from his perch. The L.A. Times reports he's being rehabbed.

(The Times also says he's nameless, but we've always heard him referred to as Dynamite. Anyone else?)

There are rumors of a new, very pricey "5th gate" being built in Florida, to be called Night Kingdom.

The description doesn't sound appealing to me -- nor does the price -- but it will be interesting to see whether this concept actually comes to pass.

CA to Require Schools Teach Global Warming?

A Democratic California state senator wants to require that all science textbooks approved for use in California schools in future teach "climate change."

The senator says "You can't have a science curriculum that is relevant and current if it doesn't deal with the science behind climate change."

Of course, the problem is that the "science behind climate change" is hotly disputed.

If textbooks simply present the concept of global warming and evenhandedly explain that there are currently multiple scientific theories, which are unsettled, that seems reasonable; but in the first place I suspect global warming would be taught as fact, and in the second place, why does this reach the level of a state mandate?

Politics, of course...it's to the benefit of those in power, i.e., Democrats, for children to grow up believing in global warming.

State Senator Tom McClintock, a Republican, says, "I find it disturbing that this mandate to teach this theory is not accompanied by a requirement that the discussion be science-based and include a critical analysis of all sides of the subject."

Johnie's Broiler to Become Bob's Big Boy?

The saga of Johnie's (previously Harvey's) Broiler, a classic Googie building in Downey which was partially -- and illegally -- demolished, has been chronicled here in past posts.

The latest news is there is a prospective tenant who wants to preserve what's left of the restaurant and open a Bob's Big Boy on the site.

That could be a win-win solution for all. The Mel's Diner which recently opened in the preserved Parasol building in Seal Beach seems to do great business.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Confidentially Connie (1953)

CONFIDENTIALLY CONNIE reunited Van Johnson and Janet Leigh, who had costarred in her first movie, THE ROMANCE OF ROSY RIDGE, half a dozen years earlier.

The somewhat peculiar plot, which concerns Van's salary as a professor being insufficient to put meat on the table (literally) for his expectant wife Janet, is about on the level of a '50s family sitcom. However, it's executed by a solid cast, which includes Louis Calhern as Van's cattle rancher father; Gene and Kathleen Lockhart as the university president and his wife; Walter Slezak as a butcher; Hayden Rorke and Arthur Space as professors; and Barbara Ruick as a college student.

The storyline left me wondering who on earth came up with a script about meat-obsessed professors and their wives -- incredibly, novelist Herman Wouk (THE WINDS OF WAR) is one of those credited with the story -- but despite that I enjoyed the movie, which runs a fairly fast-paced 74 minutes.

A couple of movies ago I mentioned that films sometimes present an interesting peek at how times have changed. In the case of the previous movie, THE SECRET BRIDE, it was furs; watching this film I couldn't help being shocked by the opening scene, which finds pregnant Janet Leigh puffing away on a cigarette -- in her obstetrician's waiting room, no less! I know times have changed, but...wow. Times really have changed.

The movie was directed by Edward Buzzell.

It can be seen on cable as part of the library on Turner Classic Movies.

Update: For more thoughts on movies and changing times, here's Jacqueline's post at Another Old Movie Blog.

Restoration of L.A. County Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is one of the great old buildings of Los Angeles. Below, a couple photos I took on our last visit a little over two years ago.


The L.A. Times has published a very interesting story on the extremely complex three-year restoration of the museum. The lack of complete blueprints is only the start of the challenges faced by restorationists.

The rotunda skylight was restored by the great-grandson of the window's original designer:


Aside from the more difficult aspects of the restoration, museum staff are also making exciting discoveries, including hidden mosaics and marble walls.

(Hat tip: L.A. Observed.)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Walt Disney World: Disney's Hollywood Studios

Some photos to share from my recent trip to Disney World...

Until recently, Disney's Hollywood Studios was Disney-MGM, or just "MGM" to WDW fans. One of the things I like best about the park is its recreation of some of L.A.'s great Art Deco buildings, such as this:


and this:


For more on the original buildings, see my post on the book LOS ANGELES ART DECO.

The Carthay Circle pays tribute to the theater where SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES premiered:


It's rumored that the changes at Disney's California Adventure will include the addition of a replica of the Carthay Circle.

Disney's Hollywood Studios has what many consider the best ride in any of the parks, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster:


I love it, although I admit that as we launched I wondered for a second why I was on it again -- it's intense!

The park also has a more elaborate Tower of Terror than Disney's California Adventure:


The Prime Time Cafe is a fun restaurant. Guests are seated in kitchens with '50s decor and TV's running black and white clips from old TV shows:


The pot roast is great!

I think this is my favorite of the Florida parks after the Magic Kingdom, simply because it's so visually appealing. It's very enjoyable simply walking around the park, and the attractions are a lot of fun too. Although I didn't visit it on this trip, our family had a good time on past trips at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater -- loved their Coca-Cola Ribs.

Previously: Walt Disney World: The Resorts; Walt Disney World: Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa; Coming Soon.

Updated: Walt Disney World: Animal Kingdom; Walt Disney World: Epcot; Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom.

Michael Barone on the Coming Democrat Battle

The battles over superdelegates, Michigan, and Florida aren't going to be pretty.

Meanwhile, Obama's votes seem to have been curiously undercounted in New York.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Let's Go Racing, Boys!

You've got to love a sport which has its biggest event at the start of the season, rather than at the end.

It's Daytona 500 weekend!

Sunday Update: Congratulations to Ryan Newman, the engineer from Purdue who won today's Daytona 500.

Primary Follies

John McCain hasn't even clinched the Republican nomination and already the AP and the New York Times are running stories about his volcanic temper and constant cursing.

What do you want to bet the AP and NYT never run any stories about Hillary Clinton's equally well-known propensity for rages and cursing? The AP goes so far as to say that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama "are not known for such outbursts," which is a complete falsehood in the case of Clinton.

On the Democrat side, in a story sure to generate reaction, longtime Clinton advisor Harold Ickes said today that Obama's wins would be "irrelevant" and that the party's superdelegates would award the nomination to Hillary Clinton.

That would cause a ruckus for the ages, but no possibilities are out of bounds when it comes to the Clintons.

Amazingly, "party elders had not yet determined whether superdelegates should be urged to cast their votes for the candidate who has the most delegates, or the one who won their state or Congressional district, or the winner of the popular vote."

Talk about a recipe for chaos. Pass the popcorn!

Lawrence Kudlow has written an excellent column on "Obama's Gloomy Big Government Vision."

Kudlow: "The Obama spend-o-meter is now up around $800 billion. And tax hikes on the rich won't pay for it. It's the middle class that will ultimately shoulder this fiscal burden in terms of higher taxes and lower growth."

It's an ugly election year, and it's not going to be any prettier after the election.

Tonight's Movie: When Ladies Meet (1933)

Jimmie (Robert Montgomery) loves Mary (Myrna Loy), who only has eyes for her married publisher Rogers (Frank Morgan). When Mary and Rogers arrange to rendezvous at the country home of a friend (Alice Brady), Jimmie arrives at the house unexpectedly with Rogers' wife, Claire (Ann Harding). The fireworks fly WHEN LADIES MEET.

WHEN LADIES MEET is a talky but amusing film in the "sophisticated people at a country home" romantic comedy genre. Loy is not especially sympathetic as the woman who repeatedly spurns the devoted Montgomery in favor of a married man, while Montgomery and Harding are charming. It's interesting to see Morgan in a stage of his career when he was still a dashing, if slightly older, ladies' man rather than a character actor. Brady is ditziness personified.

The country house set is wonderful "eye candy," as are the gowns by Adrian. The film was directed by Harry Beaumont; Robert Z. Leonard also worked on the film without credit. The movie runs 85 minutes.

Montgomery and Loy also appeared together in NIGHT FLIGHT and PETTICOAT FEVER; the latter film was reviewed here last year. Morgan and Harding costarred in ENCHANTED APRIL in 1935.

WHEN LADIES MEET can be seen on TCM. Click here to register interest in a DVD release or request that TCM add the film to its schedule.

WHEN LADIES MEET was remade in 1941 with Joan Crawford, Robert Taylor, Greer Garson, Herbert Marshall, and Spring Byington in the roles originally played on film by Loy, Montgomery, Harding, Morgan, and Brady. It was directed by Robert Z. Leonard, who (as noted above) also worked unbilled on the original film. The remake is available on video.

Coming to DVD: The New Maverick (1978)

My all-time favorite TV series is MAVERICK, starring James Garner and Jack Kelly. Alas, Warners has only seen fit to release a sampler DVD of three of the show's best-known episodes, rather than releasing the season sets fans have been anxiously awaiting.

A ray of sunshine for MAVERICK fans, however, is the May 20 DVD release of 1978's THE NEW MAVERICK, once again starring James Garner and Jack Kelly. It wasn't all that good -- though the series which followed, YOUNG MAVERICK, was kind of cute -- but for MAVERICK fans any release at all is welcome news.

Deep Discount has a particularly good price.

A bit of trivia is that part of THE NEW MAVERICK was filmed on location at Old Tucson.

Obama: A Mission to "Fix Our Souls"

Quotes from Michelle Obama, asserting that our nation needs to "fix our souls" and that her husband is the only one who understands this -- and ostensibly can handle the job -- are rather unsettling.

I'm in agreement with Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters: "Government doesn't exist to save souls; it exists to ensure domestic tranquility and provide for the common defense... I'll trust God and Jesus Christ with my soul."

Friday, February 15, 2008

Tonight's Movie: The Secret Bride (1934)

I started watching THE SECRET BRIDE on Valentine's Day; the title seemed appropriate! Although it has a very short run time of just over an hour, I had to wait and watch the second half this evening.

As the movie opens, a state attorney general (Warren William) and the governor's daughter (Barbara Stanwyck) have celebrated a quiet courthouse wedding. Before they can spring the news on her father, the governor is framed for taking a bribe. As the case escalates to include a suicide and then murder, the couple decide to keep their wedding a secret while the attorney general works to clear his new father-in-law.

This is a lightning-paced movie which is quite entertaining. There's nothing especially notable about the film, but it features a seasoned cast of professionals who all do their jobs well. The excellent cast includes Glenda Farrell, Henry O'Neill, Arthur Byron, Grant Mitchell, and Douglass Dumbrille. The movie was directed by William Dieterle.

Stanwyck's costumes are by Orry-Kelly. I found the furs she wore for much of the film -- complete with heads and paws! -- distracting; they looked rather creepy! Sensibilities have certainly changed in that regard since the '30s. That "time capsule" aspect of films is one of the things that makes movies so interesting.

THE SECRET BRIDE can be seen on Turner Classic Movies. It doesn't appear to have had a video or DVD release.

The trailer is here.

Update: This film is now available from the Warner Archive.

Today at Disneyland

The College Girl is home for the long weekend, so we went over to Disneyland this afternoon. It was quite crowded for the holiday weekend so we didn't stay long, but nonetheless we had a very nice time.

As usual, the flowers were spectacular. These tulips surround the statue of Walt and Mickey at the Hub:


Disneyland is celebrating Chinese New Year ("Year of the Mouse") with a photo area on Main Street where guests can pose for pictures with Mickey and Minnie, who are decked out in Chinese regalia:


The Disney Dream Suite above Pirates of the Caribbean, in the former Disney Gallery location:


There's a new line of Shag merchandise! While previous designs were in blue and then green, the predominant color in the new merchandise line is orange:


I hope to (finally) post some of the photos I recently took at the Walt Disney World parks later in the weekend.

Coming to DVD: The Adams Chronicles (1976)

The Emmy Award winning miniseries THE ADAMS CHRONICLES comes to DVD on May 13, 2008.

I have a book which was originally published in conjunction with the miniseries, but I never saw the show itself. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to see it.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Trailer for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

The first trailer was released today for INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL.

The trailer can be watched at the movie's official website (subject link).

I have no idea how good the movie will be, but that music...well, it sure conjures up some grand memories.

The movie will be released on May 22nd. I suspect it will have spectacular box office results over Memorial Day weekend.

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