Monday, March 31, 2008

Obama: "I Don't Want Them Punished With a Baby"

Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama said last Saturday that if his daughters make "a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby."

Well, if that isn't a peek inside the self-centered mind of a pro-abortionist in a nutshell.

If someone makes the choice to engage in sex and has an unexpected pregnancy, let's just punish the baby instead and kill it...and of course, that choice is not a "mistake"!

Play Ball!

The Dodgers had a beautiful Opening Day ceremony this afternoon celebrating the team's 50th anniversary in Los Angeles. As the music played from FIELD OF DREAMS, one by one Dodger greats of the past took their old positions.

After all the players took the field, they then gathered behind the pitching mound, forming the backdrop as not one, not two, but three Dodger pitching greats simultaneously threw out the first pitch: Sandy Koufax, Don Newcombe, and Carl Erskine. Then Vin Scully called over the P.A. "It's time for Dodger baseball!" and the crowd roared.

It was a beautiful moment for anyone who loves the Dodgers.

Update: Here's a photo gallery.

And here's a piece by ESPN's Eric Neel, one of my favorite sports columnists, on last Saturday's exhibition game at the Coliseum.

Late Update: History Comes in from the Cornfield.

Tuesday: One more article which sums up the unforgettable pregame ceremony: Past Becomes a Present to Dodger Fans.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tonight's Movie: The Silver Horde (1930)

THE SILVER HORDE is an early talkie about the salmon industry. The film is notable chiefly for interesting location filming in Ketchikan, Alaska, as well as for being the first onscreen pairing of Joel McCrea and Jean Arthur, who would go on to costar in ADVENTURE IN MANHATTAN and the classic THE MORE THE MERRIER.

The film is reminiscent of CARNIVAL BOAT, another early sound film which had interesting location shooting about the logging industry, but which was also somewhat primitively acted. (It's fascinating that impeccably polished sound pictures like TROUBLE IN PARADISE and LOVE ME TONIGHT were made the same year as the old-fashioned CARNIVAL BOAT, which one could easily envision being a silent movie.) In THE SILVER HORDE, regular title cards serve as a reminder that "talking pictures" were still a fairly new thing.

While Joel McCrea and Evelyn Brent (playing a lady of ill repute who helps McCrea start a salmon fishery) act in an understated, modern style, Gavin Gordon, who plays the villain of the piece, has a habit of rolling his eyes at the end of threatening speeches; if his mustache were any bigger, he'd be twirling it. His style would be more suited for the silents, where exaggerated actions helped to convey the story.

McCrea's character is not particularly well developed, other than demonstrating he's a determined young man, but McCrea displays the likeability that would lead to movie stardom. He's always been one of my favorites. Brent, as a tough, confident businesswoman, has the most interesting character in the film; this being a pre-Code movie, her "camp follower" has the chance to win the hero without repercussions for her past sins.

Jean Arthur was still a few years away from being a delightful, beloved comedienne; here she is badly made up (those eyebrows!) and photographed. She plays McCrea's fiancee, who is revealed to be a rather shrewish type. Arthur fans will want to see this film if only to understand how far her career traveled from its earliest days.

Louis Wolheim, playing Evelyn Brent's dim-witted righthand man, is a tiresome thug who slows down every scene he's in. In contrast, former silent actress Blanche Sweet brings some interest to the proceedings as Brent's friend.

An almost documentary-style sequence showing the process from salmon trapping to canning is very interesting, particularly for the insight into the kinds of machinery available in the film's time period.

THE SILVER HORDE was directed by George Archainbaud. It runs 75 minutes.

THE SILVER HORDE is available on DVD and video. It is also available on TCM. The TCM print wasn't a very sharp picture, but I suspect, given the film's age, that their print might be as good as it gets.

Coming to DVD: The Big Trail (1930)

John Wayne's historic early film THE BIG TRAIL comes to DVD in a two-disc special edition on May 13, 2008.

THE BIG TRAIL, which was directed by Raoul Walsh, is notable not just because it features the very young John Wayne in a starring role, but because it was a widescreen movie, over two decades before the invention of CinemaScope and other commonly used widescreen processes. I was fortunate to see the widescreen version quite a few years back at the Los Angeles County Art Museum, and it was truly fascinating.

The film is also of historic interest as it was the last film made by Tyrone Power Sr., whose son -- billed in his earliest films as Tyrone Power Jr. -- would achieve the height of Hollywood stardom.

THE BIG TRAIL will be presented on DVD in both its 70mm edition and a fullscreen version. Extras include a commentary by Richard Schickel as well as featurettes and photo galleries.

THE BIG TRAIL can be purchased as either an individual title (subject link) or as part of a boxed set called John Wayne: The Fox Westerns Collection with NORTH TO ALASKA, THE COMANCHEROS, and THE UNDEFEATED.

Clinton Campaign Refuses to Pay Small Businesses

Hillary Clinton has no problem spending taxpayers' money -- remember her Christmas ad where she "gave away" countless programs, like universal preschool, which would actually be paid for by you and me?

It seems that when it comes to her own money, or at least her campaign's, Senator Clinton isn't interested in "the little people" she claims to champion. Countless small businesses have been stiffed by the Clinton campaign, as she hoards her dwindling funds for TV ads.

The bills may well be paid eventually, but in the meantime these businesses have been doing without while she "borrows" the funds they are due in order to run her campaign.

While we're on the subject of Mrs. Clinton, don't miss Mark Steyn's Sunday column, "Hillary Stranger Than Fiction."

Saturday, March 29, 2008

It's a Small World of Controversy

Disneyland's current months-long rehab of It's a Small World has run into some controversy.

Disney has confirmed it intends to add some Disney characters to the ride.

Plans include adding Alice in Wonderland and the White Rabbit to the England section of the ride, "in keeping with attraction creator Mary Blair’s original designs and color palette."

This kind of thing tends to cause controversy every now and then, as those who want to keep the park "as is" -- which is, in a sense, also preserving a piece of history -- collide with those who believe in continuing to freshen up and "plus" rides, following Walt's belief that the park would never be finished. Sometimes I come down on one side of the argument, sometimes the other.

In this case, although I was originally quite dubious about the inclusion of characters, I think it may work. Mary Blair, after all, was the artist whose sketches gave the animated films ALICE IN WONDERLAND, PETER PAN, and CINDERELLA their "looks," so if the characters are selected carefully and incorporate Blair's original designs for those films, the new characters might fit in.

Blair's son, however, is unhappy with the idea. Some folks have even started a Save the Small World website. Re-Imagineering is another site critical of the remodel plans.

Some of the controversy apparently stems from the fact that the Small World opening at Hong Kong Disneyland next month has a whopping 38 Disney characters. Disney says the Disneyland version will not look like the Hong Kong Disneyland ride.

In related news, an ALICE IN WONDERLAND book illustrated with Mary Blair's ALICE sketches will be released later this year. It appears the book will be similar to the recent CINDERELLA book illustrated with Blair's sketches. CINDERELLA is a beautiful book which I intend to add to our Disney bookshelf.

Hopefully the publication of a Blair-illustrated PETER PAN won't be far behind.

April 9th Update: An open letter from Imagineering Ambassador Marty Sklar.

February 5, 2009 Update: Disneyland's Renovated Small World Opens Friday.

George Will on Opening Day

George Will has written a fun column wherein he waxes rhapsodic about his favorite interest, baseball. It's a perfect read for the week when all things are new again, baseball-wise.

Dodgers Make Historic Return to Coliseum Tonight

Tonight the L.A. Dodgers will celebrate their 50th anniversary in Los Angeles by playing an exhibition game against the Red Sox in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Coliseum was the team's home field their first four seasons in L.A.

Over 115,000 tickets have been sold. It is expected the Dodgers and Red Sox will set a new record for the biggest crowd to attend a baseball game, passing the previous record of over 93,000 set by the exhibition tribute game for Roy Campanella in 1959. My grandparents were in attendance at that game. Midway through the game the Coliseum's lights were darkened and those in the crowd lit matches and lighters. It's hard to imagine fire marshals allowing that these days...

The game starts shortly after 7:00 p.m. Pacific Time.

Sunday: Even though the Dodgers lost, it was a wonderful anniversary party. A good time was had by all at a memorable event in Dodger history. And what fun to see a two-man outfield!

Here's a great photo gallery.

Monday Update: Here's a lovely column on the game by ESPN's Eric Neel.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Coming to TV: Sense and Sensibility (2008)

A new two-part production of SENSE AND SENSIBILITY begins airing Sunday evening on MASTERPIECE. It's the conclusion of this spring's Austen Festival on PBS, and it sounds like it's a winner.

USA Today, in its four-star review, enthuses that the show is "truly a masterpiece."

The L.A. Times says that this new production, with its longer television length, is more complete than the wonderful Emma Thompson version. Sunday night's movie was adapted by Andrew Davies, who also adapted the classic Colin Firth-Jennifer Ehle PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.

The Times raves: "The cast is above reproach...there isn't a missed note among them."

Fans of UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS will be pleased to hear that Jean Marsh plays Mrs. Ferrars, while HARRY POTTER fans may enjoy knowing that Mark Williams (Mr. Weasley) plays Sir John Middleton. (A trivia note, on their last viewing of the Thompson version of S&S, my younger children counted at least five actors who are also in the POTTER films.)

Sounds like some very enjoyable viewing ahead for Austen fans.

Saturday Update: A few adjectives from the San Francisco Chronicle: "Breathtaking... Davies' script is stunning, magical and, above all, precise... Compelling."

Coming to DVD: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY will be released on DVD on April 8th. Extras include a commentary track. The set also includes MISS AUSTEN REGRETS, which aired on PBS as part of their Austen Festival.

I've got all of the recent Austen films on tape, stacked in my "to be watched" pile! I'm most looking forward to seeing SENSE AND SENSIBILITY.

Tonight's Movie: Copper Canyon (1950)

COPPER CANYON is an entertaining Western shot in glorious Technicolor. It's nothing particularly special, but it has a polished, agreeable cast, a few unusual plot twists, and some gorgeous Sedona, Arizona locations, all of which combine to make it an enjoyable way to spend part of a Friday evening.

Ray Milland stars as a vaudeville sharpshooter who may or may not be a former Confederate colonel who escaped with $20,000 from a Union safe. Although he never directly admits his true identity, he comes to the aid of a group of ex-Rebel copper miners who are being robbed and prevented from making a new life for themselves in the west. Milland is excellent as the calm, smooth-talking man of mystery who dazzles with guns but would prefer a peaceful life.

Beautiful Hedy Lamarr plays a lady gambler who seems to be in league with the crooks but who might be falling in love with Milland. Although not much is explained about Lamarr's character or motivations, she wears gowns by Edith Head and is lovely in Technicolor.

Harry Carey, Jr., and Mona Freeman are appealing as the secondary romantic leads, a Yankee lieutenant and a Confederate widow. The cast also includes Macdonald Carey, who is particularly good as the chief villain, plus Frank Faylen, Hope Emerson (rather scary in bright red hair), and Ian Wolfe.

The movie makes great use of color and is visually beautiful, although the excellent location filming alternates with some truly dreadful soundstage exteriors.

COPPER CANYON was directed by John Farrow. It runs 84 minutes.

COPPER CANYON is available on DVD and VHS.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Tomorrow is Forever (1946)

TOMORROW IS FOREVER tells a somewhat melodramatic but engrossing story, with fine performances by a wonderful cast.

As the film begins, John and Elizabeth MacDonald (Orson Welles, Claudette Colbert) are happily married newlyweds when John is reported dead at the end of World War I. In reality, John has been wounded and disfigured so terribly that he does not want to return to be a burden to Elizabeth. Unknown to John, Elizabeth is expecting their child.

During her pregnancy, a frail Elizabeth is taken in by her sympathetic employer, Larry Hamilton (George Brent), and his family. Love blooms, and with the passage of time Larry and Elizabeth marry and Larry raises Elizabeth's son Drew (Richard Long, in his film debut) as his own.

Flash forward nearly two decades later. An Austrian chemist named Erik Kessler arrives in the U.S. with his adopted daughter Margaret (Natalie Wood). Kessler and Margaret have fled war-torn Europe, and Kessler has secured employment with Larry's company. Underneath his beard and accent, the limping Mr. Kessler looks somewhat like...John MacDonald. And Mr. Kessler is rather stunned when he meets his new employer's wife.

The above is all established very early in the movie. I'll leave off there so viewers can find out for themselves what happens next. It's a complicated story with many interesting angles.

The cast is excellent, with Welles particularly touching; his performance is commanding but subdued. (It must be said, though, that at times his makeup seems too obvious and in danger of coming off.) Colbert and Brent are always effortlessly elegant, and they give warm, affecting performances. Little Natalie Wood is quite good as a war refugee; the scene where she has a flashback and sobs hysterically in German is quite remarkable. She calls to mind Margaret O'Brien's great performance as a British WWII orphan in JOURNEY FOR MARGARET.

The movie was directed by Irving Pichel. The musical score is by Max Steiner. The film runs 105 minutes.

The screenplay was based on a novel by Gwen Bristow. Although I haven't yet read this book, I have very much enjoyed some of Bristow's other books, including JUBILEE TRAIL (filmed with Joan Leslie), CALICO PALACE, and CELIA GARTH.

This movie can be seen on VHS. Vote here for a DVD release of this fine film.

TOMORROW IS FOREVER is frequently shown on TCM, where it next airs on April 13 and May 26, 2008.

An article at the TCM link above has lovely quotes from Richard Long and Natalie Wood about what it was like for them, as newcomers to film, to work with Claudette Colbert. Wood once said that Colbert was "so kind...such a loving woman." Long was quoted, "I was green and awkward, and I know she sensed my hesitancies and doubts. I always felt that in the complicated scenes I had to do with her that she was playing back specially to me, her eyes willing ease and encouragement." As I recounted in a post on THE SECRET HEART, released the same year, June Allyson so admired Colbert and appreciated her support that she asked her to be godmother to her daughter.

A new Colbert biography, CLAUDETTE COLBERT: SHE WALKED IN BEAUTY, is due out next October. Other books available on Colbert include Lawrence J. Quirk's CLAUDETTE COLBERT: AN ILLUSTRATED BIOGRAPHY and William K. Everson's entry on Colbert in the Pyramid Illustrated History of the Movies -- a series which deserves to be brought back into print, updated, and expanded.

Disney to Resume Control of Disney Stores

Since 2005 Disney Stores have been run by a subsidiary of The Children's Place. The Children's Place has declared Ch. 11 bankruptcy for this subsidiary and expects to close 100 stores and return control of over 200 other stores to Disney.

Children's Place clothing stores are not affected by the bankruptcy.

I hope that Disney resuming running the Disney Stores will lead to improved store quality and merchandise. The stores used to have a wide variety of merchandise, including items which appealed to adults. (I really miss Santa Ana's long-gone Disney Gallery store, which only sold merchandise aimed at adults and collectors... At least we still have the Disneyana store at Disneyland!)

There have been occasions in the last couple years when the stores have had nice seasonal items -- they had a wonderful line of summer plates and cups last year, as well as pretty serving items for Easter 2007 -- but for the most part the merchandise the last few years has been boringly generic. The toys are often cheaply made junk. Also, some of the stores have not been well kept and are looking run down.

I've shopped at Disney Stores since the day the first store in our area opened, but I rarely visit anymore, for the above reasons.

I hope Disney will give me a reason to return.

Coming to DVD: Rawhide (1951)

The excellent Western RAWHIDE, reviewed here one year ago, is coming to DVD on May 13, 2008.

RAWHIDE stars Tyrone Power, Susan Hayward, and Huge Marlowe. Like dozens of Westerns, it was filmed on location in Lone Pine, California. According to the DVD Times, RAWHIDE extras include a featurette titled "Shot It In Lone Pine!" as well as a piece on Susan Hayward.

RAWHIDE will be part of a three-film Fox Western Classics set, along with GARDEN OF EVIL and THE GUNFIGHTER. GARDEN OF EVIL stars Gary Cooper, Richard Widmark, Susan Hayward, and Huge Marlowe, while THE GUNFIGHTER stars Gregory Peck, Jean Parker, and Karl Malden.

GARDEN OF EVIL has the added bonus of a commentary track; unfortunately, it appears RAWHIDE and THE GUNFIGHTER do not have commentaries. GARDEN OF EVIL also has a featurette on director Henry Hathaway and a "making of" documentary, while GUNFIGHTER's extras seem to be fairly minimal. Overall, it looks like another terrific set from Fox.

Rehearing Granted in CA Homeschooling Case

The State Appeals Court in Los Angeles has granted a petition for rehearing agreeing to revisit its controversial February decision which attempted to ban private homeschooling in California.

The court has invited briefs from "state and local education officials and teachers' unions." The court will accept amicus briefs from other groups, so hopefully there will be some counterbalance to the briefs filed by teachers' unions, as we all know whose interests the unions will support.

Hopefully the court will be educated on aspects of state law and precedents it ignored and overturn its original decision, rather than issuing a decision that causes more trouble.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Trouble in Paradise (1932)

TROUBLE IN PARADISE is a lighter-than-air pre-Code confection directed by Ernst Lubitsch.

Gaston and Lily (Herbert Marshall, Miriam Hopkins) are romantically involved jewel thieves whose latest mark is an elegant Parisian widow, Mariette (Kay Francis). Gaston takes a position as Mariette's secretary, with Lily as his assistant. The "trouble in paradise" brews when Gaston, who still loves Lily, also finds himself falling for Mariette.

Words cannot adequately convey this movie's charm and elegance. I loved Marshall as a millionaire butler in IF YOU COULD ONLY COOK (1935), and he's even more debonair in this. Miriam Hopkins' enthusiastic crook is a completely different kind of character from those she played opposite, say, Bette Davis. And was Kay Francis ever more lovely than in this film? Add in a great script, amazingly gorgeous Art Deco sets, and beautiful gowns by Travis Banton, and you have cinema perfection.

One of the most appealing things about the movie is that it is quite unpredictable, told in a very sophisticated manner. Lubitsch is never obvious, but tells the story in an indirect way and lets the audience put the pieces together. The first 10 minutes of the movie are a great illustration of this, as moment by moment the characters and plot are revealed in unique ways. (For the specifics, do see the movie yourself!) The plot of this 82-minute film moves at a fast pace, with Lubitsch using interesting dissolves to move the story along more quickly. I'm looking forward to the commentary track so I can absorb more of the film's details on the second viewing.

As a side note, there are a couple of scenes where the shadow of a microphone is visible on a wall -- an interesting reminder of the difficulties of moving actors around in early sound films.

TROUBLE IN PARADISE is available on DVD from the Criterion Collection. Extras include a commentary by Lubitsch biographer Scott Eyman, an introduction by Peter Bogdanovich, and a radio performance starring Claudette Colbert, Basil Rathbone, and Jack Benny.

TROUBLE IN PARADISE can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies.

A DVD review was posted at Salon. (Did you know that Salon was founded by the son of actor Lyle Talbot?) And here's another review by Glenn Erickson at DVD Savant. You may want to save the reviews for after seeing the film if you don't want to know too much of the plot in advance.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing TROUBLE IN PARADISE for the first time. Highly recommended.

Coming to DVD: Blues in the Night (1941), Tyrone Power Collection

A great piece of news: according to a column today at The Digital Bits, BLUES IN THE NIGHT, reviewed here 10 days ago, will be coming to DVD on July 22, 2008.

BLUES IN THE NIGHT stars Priscilla Lane, Jack Carson, Richard Whorf, Betty Field, Lloyd Nolan, and Elia Kazan.

Another jazz-themed film, PETE KELLY'S BLUES, will be released on the same date.

More good DVD news: The TCM Forum has word of a 10-film Tyrone Power set coming from Fox in July. It contains many lesser-known titles I've been wanting to see, including films with Linda Darnell and Loretta Young. The Fox DVD website simply lists Tyrone Power: The Matinee Idol Collection "coming soon."

More details on all of the above as they become available...

Update: Here is the Amazon link for the Tyrone Power set, and BLUES IN THE NIGHT can be found at Amazon here.

On Their Way On Their Own

This is a neat story about students from a school in a blue-collar area of Miami who have decided to band together and study for the SAT themselves, in hopes of scoring at least 700 on each of the test's three sections. (800 is a perfect score.)

These students have taken responsibility for their own learning and are, in essence, homeschooling themselves since the education they received at their school was inadequate.

Instead of complaining (like a certain politician's wife does frequently), they're simply doing. And I'd venture to guess they'll be very successful.

I believe that writing about this learning experience on college application essays will also help these students achieve their goals. My daughter shared her own experience self-studying for the Advanced Placement European History exam in some of her college applications.

Universities are interested in motivated, self-starting learners, as this recent Washington Post article on homeschoolers illustrates. The Post article makes a number of excellent points and is well worth reading.

(Hat tip re SAT article: Betsy's Page.)

One of My Favorites Has Passed On

The great Richard Widmark has passed away at age 93.

I've particularly come to appreciate Mr. Widmark as I've seen a number of his movies over the past year and a half or so. My favorites have included PANIC IN THE STREETS, YELLOW SKY, THE LAST WAGON, and PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET. In these films Widmark was equally at home playing a sardonic anti-hero (PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET), an elegant Western bad guy (YELLOW SKY), or a hero who works to save others (PANIC IN THE STREETS, THE LAST WAGON).

I recently saw a BIOGRAPHY show on Widmark which is available on the HELL AND HIGH WATER DVD. He was well educated and seemed to have a healthy attitude toward show business as a job; like James Cagney, he was as happy (or happier) riding a tractor on his farm as he was acting.

He had an enduring marriage of nearly 55 years to his college sweetheart, and for the last years of his life was married to Susan Blanchard, stepdaughter of Oscar Hammerstein II.

An interesting note is that for a number of years Widmark was the father-in-law of Dodgers pitching great Sandy Koufax.

I still have the pleasure of looking forward to enjoying many of Widmark's films for the first time. I'm very sad he's left us, but I'm grateful for the wonderful body of work he left behind.

A long life, well lived.

Update: The Washington Post.

Late Update: Welcome to readers of The Shelf, and thanks to J.C. for the link.

Another nice Widmark tribute can be found at Libertas.

The Daily Telegraph, which has a particularly good obituary page, has now posted a story.

Thursday Update: Mike Clark of USA Today remembers Widmark, including 5 of his best movies.

Susan King of the L.A. Times shares her thoughts on Widmark's best films. (Thus far I've not found this article in the print edition of today's paper, only online.)

Leonard Maltin currently has a Widmark tribute on the main page of his site. (Unfortunately his posts don't have individual permanent links...)

Thursday Evening Update: A nice tribute at Noir of the Week.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

New on DVD: Warner Gangsters Collection, Vol. 3

Today was the release date for a great new set, the Warner Gangsters Collection, Vol. 3.

As you might expect, the set features plenty of Cagney, Bogart, and Robinson. The titles included are PICTURE SNATCHER, LADY KILLER, THE MAYOR OF HELL, SMART MONEY, BLACK LEGION, and BROTHER ORCHID.

Although sadly there are no new featurettes in this set, all the movies do have commentaries as well as the Warner Night at the Movies with trailers, newsreels, shorts, and cartoons accompanying each film in the set. The commentary tracks are by James Ursini, Alain Silver, Anthony Slide, Eric Lax, Patricia King Hanson, Greg Mank, and Alan L. Gansberg.

All of the movies will also be available for purchase as single-title releases.

Volume 1 and Volume 2 were reissued today. (If you have a Costco membership, I saw Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 today for under $30 apiece, an excellent price.) If you happen to remember there wasn't a Vol. 2, the answer to that is Warners has rereleased and retitled the set it originally called the Tough Guys Collection; the Tough Guys set is now Gangsters, Vol. 2.

"G" MEN, which is part of Vol. 2, was reviewed here last weekend.

Glenn Erickson reviews the new set at DVD Savant.

April 4th Update: And here's a review at The Shelf.

Hands-Free Cell Phones May Not Make Driving Safer...

...so say the "experts," because, you see, drivers will still be distracted by talking, and they may talk longer than ever since they're not holding a phone.

I'm just waiting for the day when the nanny staters outlaw drivers from talking to other people who are riding in the same car.

If you think that day's not coming, well, you probably didn't think cities would outlaw margarine, either.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Name That Political Party

The TV networks continue to hide the Democratic Party affiliation of disgraced politicians. The latest cover-up involves indicted Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

From NewsBusters tonight:

"Two weeks since the ABC and NBC evening shows took multiple days before getting around to informing viewers that disgraced New York Governor Eliot Spitzer belonged to the Democratic Party -- after every ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news program last year immediately highlighted the party of Republican Senators David Vitter and Larry Craig -- Monday's broadcast network evening newscasts all failed to note, verbally or on-screen, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's party."

Previously: Media Bias in Spitzer Coverage.

Socialized Medicine: Women in Labor Turned Away

State-run British hospitals are regularly closing their doors and turning away women in labor due to a lack of space.

The second-largest maternity ward in Britain closed its doors 28 times last year.

Another closed 39 times in a three-month period.

This follows stories last fall that Canada was "outsourcing" high-risk births to the United States because its socialized healthcare system didn't have the resources to handle all of the country's high-risk births and premature infants.

Yet politicians and others continue to insist that socialized medicine provides "health care for all." Completely baffling.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Blessings

Best Wishes for a Very Happy Easter Sunday.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Dames (1934)

DAMES is another in the string of '30s Warner Bros. musicals featuring elaborate numbers designed and directed by Busby Berkeley. Although the plot is not as engaging as some of Berkeley's other musicals -- links to reviews are at the conclusion of this post -- the kaleidoscopic musical numbers represent Berkeley at his zenith.

The story is silliness about a wealthy man (Hugh Hubert) who has no immediate heirs and wants to give some of his fortune to distant relatives. Two members of his family tree are played by Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler; Dick and Ruby are in love (they're just 13th cousins to each other, you see) and putting on a Broadway musical. Problem: their wealthy relative hates the theater! Once the wealthy relative sees their musical, of course, he likes it, and that's the end of that.

The song "I Only Have Eyes for You" originated in DAMES. It appears first as a quietly charming number which Powell sings to Keeler on a Staten Island ferry. The song reappears in Powell and Keeler's show as a dizzying tribute to Keeler, whose face multiplies in countless ways as endless choruses of Warren & Dubin's beautiful tune are sung.

Even more dazzling is the title song, with its amazing kaleidoscope effects -- it's worth rewinding and taking at second look after the movie concludes, simply to admire Berkeley's creativity. As always, these musical numbers are improbably supposed to be taking place on a theater stage -- suspending disbelief and going on a wild ride with Berkeley's imagination is part of the fun. In an accompanying DVD featurette, USC film historian Richard Jewell opines "Busby Berkeley was from outer space." I'm not sure he was joking (grin).

The cast includes Joan Blondell, Guy Kibbee, Zasu Pitts, and Leila Bennett. Composer Sammy Fain plays songwright Buttercup Balmer. Notable faces in the chorus include Virginia Grey and Jean Rogers, who would go on to act at MGM. Guy Kibbee's brother, Milton, has a bit part as a reporter; Milton was a bit player who was not as well known as Guy, but he managed to accumulate 373 credits in two decades!

DAMES was directed by Ray Enright, with a screenplay by Delmer Daves. The movie runs 90 minutes.

DAMES is available on DVD as a single title or as part of the Busby Berkeley DVD set. It's also available on video.

It can be seen on Turner Classic Movies. The trailer can be viewed on the TCM website here.

Related posts: FOOTLIGHT PARADE, 42ND STREET, and GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Tonight's Movie: "G" Men (1935)

With the news these days filled with so many stories of tiresome politicians -- the 2007-2008 election cycle seems to be the never-ending campaign, with New York gubernatorial politics as a sideshow -- it's rather satisfying to simply tune all that blather out and instead watch Jimmy Cagney as an FBI agent machine gunning the bad guys. No nonsense there, and the good guys win!

When the enforcement of the Production Code began in 1934, movies with gangster anti-heroes were largely out, due to concerns that popular movie stars were making crime too attractive for young viewers. The studios quickly found a new way to spin the traditional gangster movie, by shifting the focus to lawmen as heroes. Car chases and the aforementioned machine gun fights could still be filmed, as long as it was clear the gangsters were villains who would pay the price and lose to law enforcement. One of the earliest examples of this new kind of action movie was "G" MEN, which is terrific entertainment.

James Cagney plays Brick Davis, a poor kid who was put through college and law school by a kindly mobster (there's an oxymoron for you, but the film makes it work). When Brick's college roommate, an FBI agent, is gunned down, Brick decides to join the FBI himself. Brick uses his firsthand knowledge of some mob members to help the FBI solve his friend's murder case and round up a large ring of criminals.

"G" MEN is an exciting and even informative film. (One of the film's interesting angles is that the FBI agents were initially hampered in fighting organized crime because, among other things, they could not carry guns.) The movie was re-released in 1949 in celebration of the FBI's silver anniversary, and a new prologue was filmed introducing the film. That prologue is included in the print on DVD.

Cagney is great, as always -- tough, tender, fast-talking, funny, and constantly moving. The rest of the cast is excellent, particularly Robert Armstrong as Brick's skeptical boss and Ann Dvorak as a girl from Brick's past who tries to help him. Margaret Lindsay, Barton MacLane, Lloyd Nolan, and Regis Toomey are also in the cast. If you don't blink, you can spot Ward Bond as a gunman in a scene at a train station. I had to rewind to make sure it was him -- I'm not sure he spoke a word!

"G" MEN was directed by William Keighley. It runs 86 minutes.

The film is on DVD as a single-title release or as part of the Warner Bros. Tough Guys Collection, which is being reissued next week under the title Warner Bros. Gangsters Collection, Vol. 2. (The brand-new Gangsters Collection, Vol. 3 is also being issued on Tuesday.) The DVD includes a commentary track by USC professor Richard Jewell, a 20-minute featurette on the enforcement of the Production Code in the mid-'30s, and a Warner Night at the Movies with a newsreel, short, cartoon and trailers from the year "G" MEN was released.

"G" MEN has also had a video release.

"G" MEN can be seen on cable on TCM, where it next airs April 27, 2008. The trailer can be seen here.

A Brief History of the Jelly Bean

A fun read as we head into Easter weekend.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs: More Bad News

Evidence continues to mount about the dangers of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL's). The mercury in each bulb not only poses considerable risks for homeowners, but the bulbs are going to wreak havoc with landfills and our groundwater supply.

A Johns Hopkins professor warns: "This is an enormous amount of mercury that’s going to enter the waste stream at present with no preparation for it."

Common sense needs to rule and the bill signed by President Bush outlawing traditional lightbulbs within the next five years -- effectively forcing consumers to buy CFL's -- needs to be repealed.

(Hat tip: Ed Morrissey.)

Maybe They Should Quit While They're Ahead

Saturday the Metropolitan Opera is doing a live national performance of TRISTAN AND ISOLDE, which will be broadcast to movie theaters across the country. My daughter, who is home on spring break from college, is sorry that she's missing seeing the free performance at USC's theater.

The Met has met with varying degrees of disaster for three straight performances, culminating with a "set malfunction" Tuesday night which sent the lead tenor headfirst into the prompter's box. The cast has also contended with an underprepared understudy and a stomach virus which sent the leading lady running offstage.

The New York Times gives a fascinating history of "jinxed" performances of TRISTAN AND ISOLDE.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008)

If there's a better reason to go to the movies these days than simply to watch Amy Adams in action, I don't know what it is. Adams follows her terrific performances in JUNEBUG and ENCHANTED with another triumph, this time as the ditzy, amoral yet warm-hearted and loveable '30s starlet Delysia Lafosse in MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY. In MISS PETTIGREW Adams calls to mind Carole Lombard's ability to play appealing screwballs, yet she has her own unique style. As in ENCHANTED, Adams also has the opportunity to showcase her lovely singing voice.

In the title role, Frances McDormand plays a London governess who has fallen on hard times and through gumption and luck lands a job as Delysia's social secretary. McDormand is excellent, drawing not only our sympathy, but our growing admiration for her quick thinking and pluck. Over the course of a single day, Miss Pettigrew leads Delysia to make positive changes, while at the same time, the day with Delysia completely transforms Miss Pettigrew's life.

The film is, in essence, a fairy tale, and it has a pair of wonderful Prince Charmings in Lee Pace (PUSHING DAISIES) and Ciaran Hinds (star of the '95 PERSUASION and the '97 JANE EYRE). Hinds is particularly effective as the lingerie designer who is tiring of London cafe society and spots a kindred spirit under Miss Pettigrew's initially drab exterior. Shirley Henderson (Moaning Myrtle of the HARRY POTTER series) also contributes a striking performance as the rather creepy dress designer, Edythe.

While the depiction of Delysia's love life is definitely "modern," the film otherwise is an old-fashioned '30s-style feel-good movie, entertaining its audience with comedy, romance, music, and eye-catching sets and costumes. I'm already looking forward to watching it again when it comes out on DVD.

Rave reviews for MISS PETTIGREW can be enjoyed in USA Today, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.

MISS PETTIGREW runs a fast-paced 92 minutes. It was directed by Bharat Nalluri.

The trailer can be seen here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Christmas in July (1940)

Tonight was my first-ever viewing of CHRISTMAS IN JULY, a seriocomic tale written and directed by Preston Sturges.

Jimmy (Dick Powell) is stuck in a dead-end job, not even making enough to marry his girlfriend Betty (Ellen Drew, in a sweet performance). Then Jimmy is led to believe he's won a contest creating a new ad slogan for a coffee company. Over the course of a single day Jimmy's life changes for the better, and in turn Jimmy is able to bring joy to his hard-working family and friends. As the day goes on, Jimmy experiences unexpected twists and turns, which culminate in a satisfying conclusion.

This film is by turns funny and touching, exploring themes such as hope, self-worth, and the adulation that comes with celebrity. It has moving lead performances by Powell and Drew; Powell in particular shows here a depth of feeling and poignance not usually seen in his lighthearted musical comedy roles of the '30s.

Ellen Drew is said to have been discovered by actor-agent William Demarest (who appears in the film) when she was waitressing at C.C. Brown's ice cream parlor on Hollywood Boulevard. I have happy memories of visiting C.C. Brown's when I was growing up. Although the restaurant is gone, apparently their chocolate sauce lives on. (I always got the caramel sauce, myself!)

The supporting cast includes Raymond Walburn, Franklin Pangborn, Alexander Carr, Ernest Truex, Harry Hayden, Rod Cameron, and Kay Stewart. Sheila Sheldon, who has a brief but noteworthy scene as a wheelchair-bound little girl in Jimmy's neighborhood, appeared in three other Sturges films in her brief career. Sturges himself has a cameo in the movie.

The movie runs a short 67 minutes.

I watched the film on a very nice VHS print. It's also available on DVD as part of the The Preston Sturges Collection.

CHRISTMAS IN JULY can be seen on cable on TCM.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Tuesday: Supreme Court Hears 2nd Amendment Case

Patterico's got some interesting links on a case which could lead to a momentous court decision.

SCOTUS Blog reports that once the arguments have concluded, they will be broadcast on C-Span.

Tuesday Update: It looks as though the Court is prepared to honor the Second Amendment as the Founding Fathers intended.

More at Patterico and Legalities.

Sad, Just Sad

David Paterson was sworn in as governor of New York today, and followed that happy event with a newspaper interview in which he and his wife admitted they have each had affairs during the course of their marriage.

Nothing like unloading bad news on the first day of an administration.

But hey, he swears he didn't use state funds or campaign cash to pay for his extramarital flings.

Meanwhile, the stories about the former governor of New Jersey...I don't even want to go there, except to speculate perhaps McGreevey and his pal are trying to smear Mrs. McGreevey for leverage in the divorce case.

What's wrong with our country in general, and politicians in particular, when low-class behavior like this is so commonplace?

Thursday Update: Paterson's assertion that he didn't use campaign cash to pay the expenses for his affairs wasn't true.

Tonight's Movie: Three Cheers for the Irish (1940)

For the second year in a row, I marked St. Patrick's Day with an Irish-themed film from Warner Bros. (Of course, it's a bit questionable as to whether today was actually St. Patrick's Day, but that's another story...) Tonight's movie was THREE CHEERS FOR THE IRISH, a very enjoyable bit o' blarney starring Priscilla Lane and Dennis Morgan as an Irish colleen and the Scots policeman she loves, to the horror of her father (Thomas Mitchell).

Mitchell is full of his usual bluster, but he's also quite touching at times. Morgan and Lane, with their sparkling eyes and dazzling smiles, are highly appealing as the young lovers.

The cast also includes Virginia Grey and Irene Hervey as Lane's sisters. Alan Hale, William Lundigan, and Frank Jenks are also in the cast.

The movie was directed by Lloyd Bacon. It runs 99 minutes.

THREE CHEERS FOR THE IRISH can be seen on TCM. (There are those of us who would be very happy with a Priscilla Lane boxed DVD set, though I suspect that's a pipe dream.)

The trailer is here.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

And Another Reason to Homeschool...

California has adopted new sex education standards for its public school system:

"In fifth grade, students will learn about the risks of sexually transmitted diseases. In middle school, they will discuss the psychological and physical consequences of rape and sexual assault. By high school, students will be talking about condoms and even the morning-after pill."

I cannot even imagine how it could be developmentally appropriate to discuss the above topics in elementary or middle school. 10-year-old 5th graders are just starting to understand the changes they'll undergo in adolescence...to go on to very negative adult material is too much, too soon.

Of course, there are those who will say that this information must be given out to children when they're young because some kids need it to be "safe." Great, let's give all children a warped and unhealthy view of sex, focusing them on learning about STD's and rape between the ages of 10 and 13, simply because some kids are engaging in sexual conduct. Sigh.

Thankfully my own kids aren't going to be exposed to this new curriculum, but thousands of young California children will.

Incidentally, I'm having a hard time believing the new study which says 26% of all teenage girls have STD's...I wonder if that figure will hold up as accurate over the long run. If it's true, God help our society.

(Hat tip: Joanne Jacobs.)

Disney's California Adventure: The Art of Snow White

Disney's California Adventure has a fascinating new exhibit, The Art of Snow White, in the Animation Building. We visited last Friday as part of our day at Disneyland.


The exhibit contains original sketches and cels from the production of the first full-length animated movie. 90 percent of the exhibit pieces had been in the hands of a private collector, who recently sold his collection to Disney. Details on the exhibit can be found in the article at the subject link, as well as in this thread at Mice Chat.

The photos below had to be taken without a flash, but hopefully they help convey the historic nature of the items on display. Click to enlarge the photos.

The exhibit entrance:


The Animation Building normally displays artwork from various Disney cartoons on huge screens which surround the entire room near the ceiling. In keeping with the theme of the display, currently the screens feature only Snow White sketches:


An exhibit wall:


A closeup of a sketch of Snow White:


A closeup of a sketch of the wishing well:


A closeup of sketches from the final scene:


The above sketches are part of the Happily Ever After wall:


More info on the exhibit is here. The artists' notes on the sketches, which are mentioned in the article, were fascinating.

It was surprising to realize that Disney had not preserved all of the above items, but doubtless they simply weren't seen as very valuable at the time they were created. How wonderful that someone took the time to carefully put together such a collection and then return it to Disney, so that it can be enjoyed by the public as well as preserved for the long term.

The exhibit will be open through sometime in April.

As a footnote, the new Toy Story Zoetrope, which is also in the Animation Building, was absolutely fascinating, but I had to stop watching it after a while -- the spinning table and strobe lights used to create the illusion of movement made me dizzy.

Fox News Channel News

Lovely Laurie Dhue has left Fox News Channel after over seven years. Agreement could not be reached a new contract.

A story on Megyn Kelly's recent wedding appeared in the New York Times. (Hat tip: TV Newser.) The ceremony was conducted by Fox's Kelly Wright, who's also a gospel singer and an ordained minister.

Tonight's Movie: Blues in the Night (1941)

From the first strains of the title song over the opening credits, BLUES IN THE NIGHT establishes terrific mood. Although the story about a struggling band isn't quite sure if it wants to be a musical or a film noir, it's very engrossing, if not entirely successful. As critic Stephen Scheuer wrote in his 3-star review, "With a little more work this could have been a great motion picture." While it doesn't quite fire on all cylinders, there is much in the film to appreciate.

The bandleader and pianist is played by future director Richard Whorf. Another better-known future director, Elia Kazan, is the group's clarinet player. Jack Carson and Priscilla Lane play a married couple who are the trumpeter and vocalist, while Billy Halop and Peter Whitney are the drummer and bass player.

The band criss-crosses the country in search of their big break, until the fateful night a crook (Lloyd Nolan) hops into their boxcar. He takes a liking to the band and sets them up with a steady gig in a roadhouse he owns. The roadhouse is filled with strange characters, played by Howard DaSilva, Wallace Ford, and Betty Field, who is Trouble with a capital T.

The movie loses focus when it spends time on the denizens of the roadhouse. The band members have enough problems of their own to have made an interesting movie, without bringing in gangsters. I would have liked to see more time invested in Priscilla Lane's character, who's worried she's going to lose her devil-may-care man when he finds out she's in the family way; she also seems more than a little stuck on the bandleader. Betty Field's temptress was somewhat extraneous to the proceedings; I had trouble believing Whorf was tormented with attraction for such an unappealing character.

The title song is wonderfully performed by William Gillespie in a jailhouse scene early on in the film. (It dawned on me partway through the scene that the jail cells were segregated, one of those "time capsule" moments that is disturbing viewed from today's vantage point.) Gillespie also sang in the "Grand Old Flag" number in YANKEE DOODLE DANDY and performed the role of Porgy in the George Gershwin bio RHAPSODY IN BLUE.

"Blues in the Night" is woven throughout the film's soundtrack. The final scene, as the band plays it once more as their boxcar pulls away into the night, is pure movie magic. It's hard to believe Mercer and Arlen's classic didn't win the Oscar for Best Song, until you look at the other nominees that year, which included "Chattanooga Choo Choo," "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," and the winner, "The Last Time I Saw Paris."

BLUES IN THE NIGHT was directed by Anatole Litvak. The black and white cinematography is by Ernest Haller, who also filmed GONE WITH THE WIND. The montage sequences were created by future director Don Siegel. The movie runs 88 minutes.

This movie would be perfect on a double bill with THE MAN I LOVE, another noirish Warner Bros. musical that was a bit muddled but fascinating.

BLUES IN THE NIGHT can be seen on TCM. The trailer is here. You can also check out the TCM introduction to the film.

All in all, the film's a little too heavy on the bad guys and a little too light on the music and fully fleshing out the band members, but still, it's got some great moments scattered throughout which make it very much worth watching. It'll stick with you after the end credits roll.

March 26 Update: Great news! According to The Digital Bits, BLUES IN THE NIGHT will be released on DVD on July 22, 2008. Another jazz-related movie, PETE KELLY'S BLUES, will be released on the same date.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Around the Blogosphere This Week

Ed Morrissey and Jim Geraghty write that Senator Obama earmarked $1 million for the hospital employing his wife, who then received a salary increase of nearly $200,000 a year. Where's the mainstream media on this one?

Other bits of interesting reading I've come across this week:

Petition Seeks Rehearing in Homeschooling Case: This article at World Net Daily points out something I mentioned last week, that the recent anti-homeschooling court opinion causing such controversy is at odds with California laws. A petition for rehearing has been filed on that basis, as well as citing the court's reliance on outdated precedents.

No Small Plan: Public Boarding Schools for Chicago: Just...wow. They sound like orphanages...maybe there is a need for this for children from terrible circumstances, but what a commentary on the collapse of the family. And this raises some of the same issues as the California homeschooling controversy: do children belong to their families or the state?

ABC Finally IDs Spitzer as a Democrat: ABC finally identified disgraced New York Governor Eliot Spitzer as a Democrat Wednesday, but it took NBC until Thursday. You've got to love the way the networks have played Hide the Democratic Label.

Neighbors Have a Beef With In-N-Out: Long, snaking lines at In-N-Out Burger are really news? :)

Forbidden Hollywood, Volume 2: Glenn Erickson reviews the new set at DVD Savant. He tags all the movies as "Very Good" or "Excellent."

Gloria Shayne Baker, 84; Helped Write "Do You Hear What I Hear?": The Christmas carol Baker wrote with her husband, Noel Regney, first became a hit for Bing Crosby in 1963. It was one of the carols I most enjoyed performing back when I was in junior high and high school chorus.

St. Patrick's Day, Catholic Church March to Different Drummers: This is the first time St. Patrick's Day has fallen during Holy Week since 1940. It won't occur again until 2160. A fascinating bit of trivia.

A Polygamist State of Mind: Lisa Schiffren writes at National Review that New York welfare officials regularly turn a blind eye toward Muslim polygamy.

In Rural England, the Mail's Bad News: Hundreds of small village post offices are being closed down in England.

Full Stream Ahead for Lower Owens: A more cheerful story is the restoration of the Lower Owens River near Lone Pine, along California's Highway 395.

Our Daily Bread? It's Costing More: I've sure noticed the higher bills at the grocery store. I blame a lot of it on the ethanol folly diverting corn from food production. According to this article, there's also a wheat shortage.

'John Adams,' Second to None: The latest HBO miniseries produced by Tom Hanks is already sitting in my Netflix queue, awaiting the day it has a DVD release. It's based on David McCullough's great book.

Tonight's Movie: Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

1933 saw the release of a terrific trio of Warner Bros. musicals with production numbers designed by the great Busby Berkeley. The first of these movies was 42ND STREET and the last was FOOTLIGHT PARADE. In the middle came GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933.

GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 is, in some ways, the ultimate Depression-era musical. It vividly illustrates the struggles of the Depression, from the hungry actresses who steal their neighbor's milk bottle early in the film, to the stirring "Forgotten Man" finale showing WWI heroes standing in bread lines. (The end of this sequence, with soldiers marching in the background as Joan Blondell sings, sends a chill up and down the spine.) At the same time, the film provides tremendous escapism, from the opening number with Ginger Rogers singing "We're in the Money" -- she even sings a verse in Pig Latin! -- to glow-in-the-dark violins forming beautiful patterns in "The Shadow Waltz."

Although the plot detours a little too long in a "mistaken identity" sequence midway through the film, otherwise it's a brilliant movie -- all the more remarkable if one considers the movie in the context of both film and musicals. In 1933 it had been a mere handful of years since the advent of sound movies. The Warner musicals, along with a few other great early sound movies, such as the films Jeanette MacDonald made directed by Rouben Mamoulian and Ernst Lubitsch, were in the forefront of the creation of the movie musical genre.

As in 42ND STREET and FOOTLIGHT PARADE, Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler are the young lovestruck couple. The cast includes Joan Blondell, Warren William, Aline MacMahon, Guy Kibbee, Ned Sparks, and the aforementioned Ginger Rogers. Ginger's first film with Fred Astaire, FLYING DOWN TO RIO, was released at the end of 1933, and the rest is musical history.

Don't miss a couple quick glimpses of Busby Berkeley himself, knocking on dressing room doors near film's end.

Etta Moten, who sings part of the "Forgotten Man" number, was the first black woman to sing in the White House, where she performed for President and Mrs. Roosevelt. She lived to the age of 102.

This movie runs 96 minutes. It was directed by Mervyn LeRoy.

GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 can be seen on video or on DVD, where it can be purchased as a single title or in the Busby Berkeley Collection.

It can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies.

The trailer can be viewed here.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Today at Disneyland

It was a beautiful almost-spring day at Disneyland. Below, the tulips greeting us at Town Square:


We were able to go on the Submarine Voyage for just the second time since it reopened last summer. Dive!


A view of the underwater scenery in the first part of the ride:


A cast member told us that our submarine, Scout, was the Sea Wolf once upon a time. This Mice Chat thread has some history on the submarine names.

Here's another view out the submarine window:


A pretty view of Big Thunder Mountain:


Dynamite the goat is back on his perch at Big Thunder Mountain after being rehabbed. He seems to be a new color.


It's almost spring at the Hub:


Fudge, glorious fudge, on display in the Main Street Candy Palace:


My husband and youngest son are celebrating birthdays this week, so we had some fudge to celebrate!

This weekend I plan to post some photos taken at the Art of Snow White exhibit at Disney's California Adventure.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Reason No. 999,999 to Homeschool

Two former Cal Poly Pomona professors have published a hate-filled screed against homeschoolers in the L.A. Times. They also rant about charter homeschool programs taking money away from "traditional schools."

You have to love the gratuitous slam in this sentence:

"It's evident that the vast majority who teach their offspring in front of the television do so because they don't want their children to be subjected to such dangerous doctrines as evolution, abortion, global warming, equal rights and other ideas abhorrent to the evangelical mantra...

"There has always been something decidedly elitist and anti-democratic in home schooling. It smacks of a belief that privileged children should not have to associate with the other kids in the neighborhood and that by staying home, they would not be subjected to the leavening effect of democracy."

Got that? If you send your children to public school to receive proper liberal indoctrination, that's democratic.

But Americans exercising free choice is anti-democratic!

And Heaven forbid parents have the right to pass on their own beliefs and values to their children.

Incidentally, I didn't know evangelicals oppose equal rights, did you?

The professors also seem to be completely unaware that California homeschoolers are a diverse group -- they carry on as though there are no liberal homeschoolers.

Public school supporters such as these gentlemen are hardly a positive advertisement for the system.

I'd add that a comment at the Times site responding to the column says "Home schooling by Far Right parents and Fox pundits is a modern version of the 1930s Hitler Youth indoctrinations." This comment, by someone who obviously doesn't know his history, is truly ironic since homeschooling has been outlawed in Germany since the days of Hitler (1938 to be exact), because he wanted to use the schools to develop loyalty to the state. Modern Germany continues to use the very same rationale to prohibit homeschooling.

What about the American concept of freedom -- "life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness" -- do people such as the professors and this commenter not understand?

Update: A good analysis of the editorial can also be found at Consumed.

Among other points: "These men...have failed to justify a premise inherent in their argument, namely, that it is the right of the state to educate children, not the right of the parent to determine who and what educates their children... There's certainly nothing in the Constitution or our country's founding documents that warrants such a conclusion. Furthermore, public education in America is barely a hundred years old. Yes, it took secularists that long to convince the American public that it was the state's right and duty to educate children."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Final Harry Potter Book Will Be Two Films

There are seven HARRY POTTER books, but it was officially confirmed today that there will be eight films, as the final book, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, is going to be split into two movies.

Film No. 7 in the series will be out in November 2010, followed by Film No. 8 in May 2011. They will be titled HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1 and HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2.

Meanwhile, HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, Film No. 6, is due out this November 21, 2008.

New Book: The Cornbread Gospels

For the second day in a row I've been tempted into purchasing a beautiful new softcover cookbook.

THE CORNBREAD GOSPELS was published in mid-November 2007. The author is the uniquely named Crescent Dragonwagon. I came across the book while we were shopping for a baby gift this afternoon (it's probably no surprise that we like to give books as baby gifts!). Cornbread recipes are a subject of longtime interest to our family. I had a coupon which made it a good price so...

THE CORNBREAD GOSPELS contains over 200 cornbread recipes along with lots of interesting bits of history accompanying the recipes. Northern, southern, and southwestern cornbreads are all addressed, as well as puddings, stuffings, pancakes, yeasted cornbreads and fried cornbreads. One of the most intriguing recipes is George Washington's Favorite Corncakes, said to be his preferred breakfast at Mount Vernon.

By pure random coincidence, a Google search turned up an article on the book published today in the Boulder Daily Camera, originally published by the Hartford Courant.

In the meantime, if you don't have the book, here's a good-looking recipe for crispy skillet cornbread.

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