Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gone Fishing

We're heading out soon for our annual camping trip in the High Sierras!


You can see more photos of our destination which I posted here before we left last year.


This year we've added a couple days in Yosemite to the front end of our trip. It's been a decade since we've stayed there -- I was expecting our youngest at the time. It will be fun to see Camp Curry and the gorgeous sights of the Yosemite Valley once more.


Hope to have some beautiful photos to share when we return.

Regular blog posting should resume around August 3rd.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

TCM's Mankiewicz to Replace Ebert

Disney has announced that a new version of AT THE MOVIES will be hosted by Ben Mankiewicz, weekend host of Turner Classic Movies, and Ben Lyons.

This week Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper announced their retirement from the show Ebert cofounded with Gene Siskel 33 years ago.

Ebert has been off the air for the past two years due to a lengthy battle with cancer.

I haven't read yet if Mankiewicz will continue his role at TCM. I hope so; I enjoy him as an occasional "change of pace" from Robert Osborne. Mankiewicz is the grandson of Herman Mankiewicz and the great-nephew of Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

Lyons is the son of critic Jeffrey Lyons.

John Edwards Out of Running for V.P.?

I have to admit to finding this National Enquirer story most interesting, as it seems to have solid dates and times -- though not, at least as yet, a photo. Byron York of National Review notes the report "seems extremely strong."

So what was John Edwards doing wandering the halls of the Beverly Hilton at 2:40 a.m. this morning, without a colleague, a suitcase, or a briefcase in sight?

What makes it especially curious is the Enquirer is owned by one of Bill Clinton's best buddies, Ron Burkle. Who would be interested in sabotaging Edwards' V.P. prospects, and is some political hardball being played? Are there any more shoes to drop between now and the convention?

Roger Simon has thoughts on the story, which he indicates has been an open secret for some time. There seems to be plenty of arrogance and narcissism to go around in the Democratic Party these days.

This blog has links and background info.

For Mrs. Edwards' sake, I hope the story isn't true. She's got enough to deal with.

Coming to DVD: Quo Vadis (1951)

A two-disc Special Edition of QUO VADIS is coming to DVD November 11, 2008.

I love this DVD cover art! (Click to enlarge the picture.)

QUO VADIS stars two of my favorites, Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr. The movie has been restored, including Miklos Rozsa's "road show" overture. Extras include a documentary and a commentary track.

I saw bits of the film when I recorded it to video earlier this year and thought it looked very good -- there is a spectacular fire sequence -- but I haven't watched it yet. I'll be erasing my video and waiting to take in the spectacle on the new DVD release.

Monday, July 21, 2008

NYT: Way Over the Edge

The New York Times has engaged in blatant pro-Obama bias, refusing to publish an Op-Ed by John McCain because he won't set a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.

A timetable is not part of McCain's policy.

The Times recently published an editorial by Senator Obama on this topic. In its rejection letter the Times requested an Op-Ed from McCain which "mirrors" Senator Obama's editorial.

Drudge notes that the NYT editor who rejected the piece is a former Clinton Administration official.

Allahpundit at Hot Air has the details (click title of post).

Sean Hannity Renews Radio Show for 5 Years

On the heels of Rush Limbaugh's big deal comes word that Sean Hannity has signed a lucrative new radio deal.

Sean will be paid $100 million over five years, and also receive a share of the profits.

I enjoy Sean's radio show very much, second only to Rush. If I could offer one piece of constructive criticism about Sean from a long-time listener, it would be to be less repetitive, particularly when it comes to promos. That is one of the biggest differences between Sean and Rush, and consequently I often don't listen to all of Sean's show as I get tired of hearing the same information repeated multiple times per show.

We briefly met Sean at a booksigning at the Nixon Library a few years ago, and he was a very nice man who was particularly friendly to my children. He made a positive impression on all of us.

Congratulations to Sean on his success.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Obama Plans to Be President for "8 to 10 Years"

Hello?

Where's the press who teased Dan Quayle mercilessly?

And talk about presumptuous...Obama states regarding his foreign trip: "The objective of this trip was to have substantive discussions with people like President Karzai or Prime Minister Maliki or President Sarkozy or others who I expect to be dealing with over the next eight to 10 years. And it's important for me to have a relationship with them early, that I start listening to them now, getting a sense of what their interests and concerns are."

Sir, you're not President yet.

For more on the trip, check out Ed Morrissey's post about Obama's strange choice for his campaign stop in Germany.

Too Economical?

It's been a hectic weekend here as we prepare for our upcoming vacation, but I can't resist passing on a curious royal fashion note:

Yesterday Princess Anne of Great Britain wore the same dress and hat she had worn to Charles and Diana's 1981 wedding to the wedding of her cousin, Lady Rose Windsor.

While Anne is to be greatly commended for still fitting nicely in something she wore 27 years ago (!), it strikes me as somewhat tacky for a wealthy woman to "recycle" the dress by wearing it to a wedding, when it was first worn to another wedding that (in)famously ended in divorce and tragedy. Bad vibes there. She could have re-used it at a garden party or Ascot instead...

Lady Rose, for those who might wonder, is the daughter of the Queen's first cousin, the Duke of Gloucester.

Kate Middleton was in attendance although Prince William couldn't be there due to naval service; her solo appearance at a royal family event further stoked speculation that an engagement will be announced in the coming months.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Completely Nuts

Gas consumption is down, which means revenue from gas taxes is down.

The solution proposed by the tax-hungry Democrats in Congress? Raise gas taxes later this year by 10 cents a gallon.

I kid you not...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Jerry Brown's War on Suburbia

The Wall Street Journal on California Attorney General Jerry Brown:

"Mr. Brown is taking aim at the suburbs, concerned about the alleged environmental damage they cause. He sees suburban houses as inefficient users of energy. He sees suburban commuters clogging the roads as wasting precious fossil fuel. And, mostly, he sees wisdom in an intricately thought-out plan to compel residents to move to city centers or, at least, to high-density developments clustered near mass transit lines.

"Mr. Brown is not above using coercion to create the demographic patterns he wants. In recent months, he has threatened to file suit against municipalities that shun high-density housing in favor of building new suburban singe-family homes, on the grounds that they will pollute the environment. He is also backing controversial legislation -- Senate bill 375 -- moving through the state legislature that would restrict state highway funds to communities that refuse to adopt 'smart growth' development plans. 'We have to get the people from the suburbs to start coming back' to the cities, Mr. Brown told planning experts in March."

It's more than a little scary for someone in high public office to be using the legal system to coerce people into living where he thinks they should live.

As for Attorney General Brown, he is following the classic liberal pattern of instructing others to do what he refuses to do himself: "Mr. Brown himself, not long ago, moved from a loft in crime-ridden downtown Oakland to a bucolic setting in the Oakland Hills."

Obama Flubs Again

There's video out of a new speech in which Senator Obama refers to "the bomb that fell on Pearl Harbor."

Say what?

No Republican would ever have survived such a succession of gaffes. By now the media heckling would have drowned out every other aspect of the campaign.

For another example of the scary prospect of an ignorant Obama leading our country, check out this video at Power Line.

One of the campaign promises that particularly caught my eye was his pledge to "cut investments in unproven missile defense systems."

Just think if Ronald Reagan had refused to invest in the "Star Wars" missile defense system because it was "unproven"...

Apparently Senator Obama feels the way to a safer world is to stop investing in protecting our nation.

Power Line has another interesting post about Obama calling for a "civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded" as the military. It's worth reading and contemplating at length, along with a post by Ed Morrissey.

In other news, the Obama campaign is flip-flopping on the candidate speaking at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

Obama's spokesman said, "The one thing that Barack made clear to us very early is that he didn’t think it made sense at all for him to speak at the Brandenburg Gate which he thought would be, perhaps, too presumptuous."

The press has previously reported that Obama requested to speak at the gate, and the campaign did not act promptly to dispute the story. You do the math...

Finally, NewsBusters has an interesting story comparing the lack of coverage for John McCain's last trip overseas, in contrast to all three network news anchors accompanying Obama. If it weren't already clear that the networks are in full pro-Obama campaign mode, this certainly erases any doubt.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Patricia Buckley Bozell Dies at 81

Patricia Buckley Bozell had a fascinating life as a publisher and the mother of 10.

One of her children is L. Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center.

Mrs. Bozell, in fact, was one of 10 children herself. Among her well-known siblings was the late William F. Buckley, Jr.

National Review Online has published a symposium remembering Mrs. Bozell.

If You Can't Stand the Heat, and All That

So Senator Obama finds criticism of his wife "infuriating."

Then why does he have her campaign and make speeches on his behalf? If you're going to be a political player and take on a significant role campaigning for your husband to have the most important job in the country -- and especially if you make controversial statements -- then you'd better be prepared to have your statements critiqued.

On another Obama topic, exercise is a great thing, but how does Senator Obama have time to make multiple gym visits per day while campaigning for President?

It crossed my mind that after one workout, he might want to be spending the rest of his free time with his daughters?

P.S. Shortly after I wrote the above paragraph, I came across this interesting post regarding Obama's thoughts on spending time with children -- including his own -- at The Campaign Spot.

Like I was saying...

Friday Update: Thanks to Dana for this marvelous column by Charles Krauthammer. Given Dr. Krauthammer's background as a psychiatrist, I find his thoughts especially interesting:

"For the first few months of the campaign, the question about Obama was: Who is he? The question now is: Who does he think he is?

"We are getting to know. Redeemer of our uninvolved, uninformed lives. Lord of the seas. And more. As he said on victory night, his rise marks the moment when 'our planet began to heal.'"

Incredibly, it seems likely that Barack Obama's ego is more inflated than that of John Kerry.

Singer Jo Stafford, Age 90

Jo Stafford has passed away at the age of 90.

Stafford's work included singing with the Pied Pipers, who backed up Frank Sinatra in the '40s.

More on her interesting career can be read at London's Daily Telegraph.

Saturday Update: Sweetness and Greatness from Power Line; the Bob Thomas obituary in the Long Beach Press-Telegram mentions her being a local girl who graduated from Poly High School.

Monday Update: Here's a nice remembrance from Jacqueline at Another Old Movie Blog.

Tony Snow Remembered Today

President Bush was among those who eulogized the late Tony Snow at a Funeral Mass in Washington, D.C., this morning.

The President's remarks can be read by clicking this post's title.

A few photos taken outside the cathedral can be seen by scrolling down this thread at Free Republic.

This has been a sad week for all of us who admired Tony. Our prayers continue to go to his family.

Update: Thoughts from Kathryn Jean Lopez and Laura Mazer.

Happy 53rd Birthday, Disneyland!

Disneyland celebrated its anniversary with marvelous news, officially announcing that the Sleeping Beauty Castle walk-through will soon be reopened.

Rumors that the castle, which has been closed since 2001, would reopen started just about a year ago, as Disneyland celebrated its 52nd anniversary.

The Register reports that Imagineer Tony Baxter plans for the castle to reopen in time for the holidays: "Before the last leaves of autumn fall, Sleeping Beauty will grace the castle halls."

Previous Disneyland anniversary posts: 2005 and 2006.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Coming to DVD: Fox Film Noir

Fox is releasing some wonderful titles in its ongoing Film Noir series on September 2, 2008.

The titles are ROAD HOUSE and MOONTIDE, both starring Ida Lupino, as well as the long-delayed BOOMERANG! with Dana Andrews. Curiously, Amazon does not yet have a new listing for BOOMERANG! but hopefully that will be up soon and we'll be assured that BOOMERANG! is going to be widely available at long last.

Copies of BOOMERANG! made it into the marketplace in the past before Fox recalled them due to rights issues. I saw a copy over a year ago, and it's an excellent film costarring Lee J. Cobb and Jane Wyatt along with Andrews. There are nice extras including an interesting commentary track by Alain Silver and James Ursini.

ROAD HOUSE, which costars Richard Widmark, Celeste Holm, and Cornel Wilde along with Lupino, has a commentary track by noir expert Eddie Muller, along with Kim Morgan, plus a featurette on Widmark and Lupino's work at Fox.

Lupino's MOONTIDE also stars Jean Gabin and Thomas Mitchell. It has a commentary track by Foster Hirsch and a featurette on the filming of the movie.

I'm especially looking forward to ROAD HOUSE. Great viewing is ahead for film noir fans.

This Is One Musical Sequel I'll Never See

Andrew Lloyd Webber has premiered the first act of a sequel to THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at the Sydmonton Festival. The sequel is called PHANTOM: ONCE UPON ANOTHER TIME.

Lloyd Webber hopes the complete musical will be ready for the West End by the fall of 2009.

The description of the plot -- which can be read by clicking the title of this post -- sounds more like something from the satiric site The Onion than anything that could be reality.

Why would Lloyd Webber ruin his masterpiece with such a ridiculous story?

Perhaps it will turn out to be incredibly wonderful and I'll be taking back these words, but after reading that plotline a second time, I just don't think so.

Ugh.

UC: Lowering Admissions Standards?

My very first blog post, three years ago today, was about the University of California lowering its admissions standards.

Three years later, UC is still in the news, for the same reasons. Among other proposals under consideration, the University of California is considering no longer requiring SAT subject tests or certain high school classes.

Their rationale is that the University of California has had to turn down students who had better GPA's than students who were admitted, because those high-GPA students had neglected to take the subject tests or the appropriate coursework.

UC claims that these requirements penalize students from "less privileged" backgrounds. Frankly, this seems like one more way to backdoor affirmative action...to make room for the students who haven't met the objective admissions criteria, the number of guaranteed admissions for students who have "followed the rules" will be reduced.

This is an absurdity. Getting into and succeeding at a good university requires skills other than GPA and good scores -- like common sense and good planning. If you're not on the ball enough to go on the UC website and read their list of requirements and then follow through, perhaps you shouldn't be going to a UC school.

Update: More discussion at Joanne Jacobs: "I’d also like to see a list of high schools so dysfunctional that students with high grades and high scores aren’t told to take the A-G courses, which are required by both UC and the second-tier California State University system. Why not do something about high schools that fail to prepare their best students for college?

"The goal of the proposed changes is to make more Hispanic and black students eligible for consideration. Likely result? More UC students will have to take remedial English or math; more will fail to earn a degree."

Thursday Update: The Regents have delayed making a decision about SAT subject exams. The arguments of those who claim that by lowering admissions standards they are "raising" standards boggle the mind, as does the whining that "There are students being disenfranchised unfairly."

How unfair is it to "disenfranchise" a student who didn't play by the rules? And how much more unfair would it be to give a seat to a student who didn't complete the required work, while refusing admission to someone who made sure they met all the requirements?

Three-Year Bloggiversary!

It's hard to believe, but Laura's Miscellaneous Musings has hit its three-year anniversary!

As always, my thanks to all those who visit, comment, link, and otherwise offer support and encouragement to this blogging endeavor.

Previously: One-Year Bloggiversary, Two-Year Bloggiversary.

Update: My great thanks to Anne at Just Muttering for her very kind congratulatory post!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Postscript: University Apologizes re KKK Book

Last March I wrote about the mind-boggling case of an Indiana university disciplining a janitor for reading a history book about Notre Dame students fighting against the KKK.

The university said that reading anything about the KKK -- even about a battle against the Klan -- was insensitive to black coworkers and constituted racial harassment.

The university chancellor has, at long last, written a letter to the janitor apologizing.

Frankly, it strikes me as too little, too late. It's quite troubling that there was no one at the university willing to stop the madness and dismiss this incident months ago.

Well, My Day Just Went Downhill Fast

Brit Hume has announced that he is stepping down as the host of my favorite TV program, SPECIAL REPORT WITH BRIT HUME. He will leave after the November election.

Hume is working on a deal to continue at the network approximately 100 days a year as a political analyst and the anchor for special events. He is expected to continue on the panel of FOX NEWS SUNDAY.

Hume, who is 65, has hinted at interest in a reduced role for some time. His wife, Kim, retired from the network two years ago.

A sad week for fans of Fox News Channel in more ways than one.

If the Government Can Ban Trans Fat...

...it can ban anything.

Yesterday the California legislature passed a law banning trans fats from restaurants across the entire state. They would also be banned from hospitals and "facilities with food-preparation areas."

The bill has been sent to the governor for signature.

A similar bill is pending in Massachusetts.

The slope here is so slippery it's downright scary. What's stopping the banning of fried foods, sugar, and more?

Trust me, if these laws take hold and aren't overturned, more bans are coming in the future.

Hmmmmmm

According to Michelle Obama, Senator Obama tried to avoid marrying her with the claim that marriage is an outdated institution.

He told her "Marriage, it doesn’t mean anything, it’s really how you feel."

Aside from losing further respect for him because of his point of view on marriage, this also makes me wonder if his ultimate decision to marry was a political calculation. A candidate who is just "shacking up" with his significant other is probably not likely to be elected Senator...or President.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Nooooo....

Mike Huckabee is said to be in talks with Fox News Channel for his own show.

Huckabee recently signed with the network as a commentator. When his face turns up on HANNITY & COLMES or elsewhere, I hit either "off" or "fast forward" on my remote.

During the campaign I found Huckabee to be a snarky salesman who is not particularly conservative on a variety of issues. Jonah Goldberg called Huckabee a "right-wing statist."

I have no interest whatsoever in Huckabee's "take" on political matters.

An NRO Symposium on Tony Snow

Lovely memories from Lucianne Goldberg, Karl Rove, Peter Robinson, and more.

Also, don't miss Mark Steyn and this transcription of one of Juan Williams' weekend appearances discussing his friendship with Tony.

Update: President and Mrs. Bush visited Tony's family today. The Bushes will attend Tony's funeral Thursday.

Here's Fred Barnes and Bill Kristol on Tony.

Cards for the Snow Family will be collected on their behalf by the White House Correspondents' Association at this address.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Scaramouche (1952)

1952 was a good year for Stewart Granger. He starred in two spectactular swashbucklers, SCARAMOUCHE and THE PRISONER OF ZENDA, which continue to provide marvelous entertainment over half a century after they were first released.

SCARAMOUCHE is loosely based on the novel by Rafael Sabatini. Revolution is brewing in France, and for reasons too complicated to explain here, Andre Moreau (Granger) is on the run for his life and ends up taking refuge with an acting company, where he hides behind a mask as the comedic title character.

There is a colorful cast of characters, including flame-haired Eleanor Parker as the free-spirited, mercenary Lenore, an actress who loves Andre; Janet Leigh as Aline, a sweet young woman of the nobility who also loves Andre, but may never be able to have a relationship with him; and Mel Ferrer as Noel, Aline's guardian and later fiance, who is a master swordsman whose dueling competitors rarely survive. Andre has pledged to kill Noel, as Noel killed Andre's best friend (Richard Anderson). But first, Andre must learn fencing...

All four actors are wonderful. I particularly enjoyed Parker and Granger's love-hate relationship, as well as the alliance Parker and Leigh form to try to save the life of the man they both love. Granger and Ferrer's climactic duel all over the theater is said to be the longest dueling sequence filmed at that point in time.

The cast includes Robert Coote and Lewis Stone, who also appeared with Granger in THE PRISONER OF ZENDA. Lewis Stone, rather remarkably, was in the silent versions of both SCARAMOUCHE and THE PRISONER OF ZENDA. Henry Wilcoxon, Nina Foch, John Dehner, and Elisabeth Risdon are among the many other excellent actors appearing in the film.

Barbara Ruick can be glimpsed in a quick scene, in her second film; four years later she played Carrie Pipperidge and sang "Mr. Snow" in CAROUSEL. Ruick, the daughter of character actors Melville Ruick and Lurene Tuttle, was married to composer-conductor John Williams for nearly 20 years, until her untimely death in 1974.

The movie was directed by George Sidney, who directed many classic MGM musicals including SHOW BOAT and KISS ME KATE. He also directed Gene Kelly's version of THE THREE MUSKETEERS.

This film runs 115 minutes. It was strikingly photographed by Charles Rosher. As an Amazon review notes, "Rosher's Technicolor palette alternates commedia dell'arte garishness and misty, Watteau-like imagery."

SCARAMOUCHE is available on video and DVD.

The DVD contains a wonderful 2003 interview with Mel Ferrer, who just passed away last month. Ferrer describes how he learned fencing as a series of dance routines, since he had a background as a dancer. He and Granger did most, if not all, of their own stunts, including Granger swinging on a rope into the theater box.

SCARAMOUCHE can also be seen on TCM, where it next airs tomorrow, July 14, 2008, as well as on August 26, 2008.

The trailer can be seen here.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Big Brown Eyes (1936)

BIG BROWN EYES is the somewhat nonsensical title for a diverting film about a police detective and his manicurist-turned-reporter girlfriend solving a baby's murder and cracking a ring of jewel thieves. The film is a blend of comedy and melodrama which works surprisingly well.

Cary Grant plays the detective and Joan Bennett is his girlfriend. BIG BROWN EYES was the first of two releases in which they costarred in 1936; the second, WEDDING PRESENT, was reviewed here in May. Grant and Bennett are an appealing team, and it's a shame they didn't make more movies together. As noted here previously, in 1937 Grant costarred with Joan's older sister, Constance, in the classic TOPPER.

BIG BROWN EYES costars Walter Pidgeon in an uncharacteristic role as a smooth-talking, urbane villain, who from time to time tries to impart some education to his henchmen. Pidgeon, strolling around with a bowler hat and umbrella, seems to be having a good time in the role. The following year Pidgeon signed with MGM, where he remained for nearly two decades.

Lloyd Nolan is featured prominently as one of Pidgeon's henchmen, who would have perhaps been happier working as a florist. Isabel Jewell, Henry Brandon, Douglas Fowley, and Alan Baxter are also in the cast.

Well-known model Jinx Falkenburg can be seen as one of the manicurists. Falkenburg may be remembered by some film fans for her small role playing herself in 1944's COVER GIRL with Gene Kelly and Rita Hayworth.

Helen Brown, who played the baby's mother, was not a household name but acted steadily in small parts over six decades -- though she wasn't onscreen between 1965 and 1985 -- appearing in an episode of E.R. in 1994, the year she passed away.

The film is directed with flair by Raoul Walsh, who utilizes some interesting angled shots and quick edits to move the story forward at a fast pace of 77 minutes. Walsh conveys disturbing violence without a drop of blood being seen; the baby's unintended death, caught in the crossfire of a gun battle, is conveyed by a single shot of the mother's horrified reaction, and what the imagination does is more potent than if it had actually been shown. Filmmakers could learn from this but alas, subtlety is rarely prized when depicting violence in modern films.

BIG BROWN EYES is available on DVD as part of the five-film Cary Grant Screen Legend Collection. The other films in the set are WEDDING PRESENT, KISS AND MAKE UP, WINGS IN THE DARK, and THIRTY DAY PRINCESS.

Remembering Tony Snow

Heartbreaking, though not unexpected, news this morning: Tony Snow has lost his battle with cancer and passed away at the age of 53.

Last May Tony cancelled a speech in Ohio, and though I checked Google News regularly, he has been out of the news ever since. He had signed with CNN as a commentator in April but has been absent from the network's political coverage. CNN's obituary is here.

A video tribute narrated by Brit Hume has been posted at Fox News Channel.

Mike Allen of the Politico has written a tribute including quotes from several of Tony's Fox colleagues, as well as President George H.W. Bush, for whom Tony worked as speechwriter.

Here are tributes from Ed Morrissey, Michelle Malkin, John Podhoretz, and Time.

One of my favorite memories of Tony is when he subbed for Rush Limbaugh several years ago. He shared memories of a recent trip to Italy with his family and talked about the magic of watching fireflies with his young children. His monologue about that trip was a piece of poetry.

Tony is survived by his wife and three children. Tony had a deep Christian faith and, while he will be greatly missed, it's a solace knowing he's out of pain, in a far better place.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Obama Flips on Whether He Speaks Foreign Languages

At the Campaign Spot, Jim Geraghty writes about a quote where Senator Obama claims he speaks "Indonesian and a little Spanish," which was also noted by USA Today: "For the record, Obama says he speaks Indonesian and a little Spanish."

However, Geraghty reports that today Senator Obama said, "I don’t speak a foreign language. It's embarrasing!"

What happened to the Indonesian and Spanish?!

The Obamas' Arrogance Shows Again

Michelle Obama showed once again that she is out of touch with the real world.

The same woman who complained about having to spend $10,000 a year for piano, sports and dance lessons for her children has turned up her nose at the $600 stimulus checks, saying "What can you do with that?" and suggesting the money would be gone as soon as someone bought a new pair of earrings.

Well, Michelle, most Americans can do quite a lot with $600 -- which never should have been taken by the government in the first place -- and I suspect many taxpayers would be taken aback by the idea of blowing it on expensive earrings.

What planet is this woman living on?

News On CA Homeschooling Court Case

In an interesting development, the original family law case which gave rise to the controversial anti-homeschooling court opinion in California has been dismissed.

It's unclear what effect the dismissal will have on the pending appellate decision, which follows a recent rehearing on homeschooling.

Some experts suggest the dismissal of the original case makes the homeschooling issue moot and the matter should end without further rulings, with the original ruling voided. That would certainly be the best outcome. The last thing we need is judges legislating from the bench about what forms of homeschooling they personally consider acceptable.

Tonight's Movie: The Stranger (1946)

THE STRANGER is a small masterpiece: 95 minutes of nailbiting black and white suspense, stylishly directed by Orson Welles and acted with gusto by Welles, Loretta Young, and Edward G. Robinson.

I love watching Robinson play a cagey good guy, and he's wonderful in this film as an investigator on the trail of an infamous Nazi war criminal (Welles) who is hiding under a new identity as a teacher in a small Connecticut town. Robinson arrives in town on the same day that Welles marries lovely Loretta Young, playing the daughter of a Supreme Court justice. Robinson isn't immediately sure he's found his man, until bit by bit various clues reveal themselves.

It's a little difficult to understand Young's blind devotion to her brooding new husband, but reading between the lines, it seems that perhaps she was an "old maid" teacher -- hard to believe, when she's so beautiful -- who is happy to have her own husband and home at last. Given that small quibble, Young is excellent as the bride whose new life unravels at a startling pace.

It's fascinating that in the same year, 1946, Welles played two different men who changed their identities and came to postwar America in search of a new life. In contrast with the evil Nazi war criminal of THE STRANGER, the disabled engineer Welles played in TOMORROW IS FOREVER (reviewed here) was a benevolent soul who had adopted a child orphaned by the Nazis. The performances are so different it's hard to believe it's the same actor, and not just because of the changes in hair and makeup.

It's also of note that the young Richard Long played key roles in each film. THE STRANGER also stars Philip Merivale, Byron Keith, and Billy House. Martha Wentworth, who plays the maid, Sara, was the voice of Nanny in 101 DALMATIANS and also voiced several characters in THE SWORD IN THE STONE. The minister in the wedding scene is Neal Dodd, who was written about here.

Welles' direction of the earliest scenes, including dark alleys in Europe, calls to mind his later film THE THIRD MAN. As one might expect, he chooses striking camera angles. The ending is macabre but perfectly in keeping with the story, and the sudden imposition of the card reading "The End" provides a jolt of surprise in and of itself.

The cinematography is by Russell Metty, who also shot Welles' TOUCH OF EVIL. The stunning color New England landscapes in ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS were also shot by Metty.

THE STRANGER is available on DVD and video.

Evelyn Keyes Died Last Week, Age 91

It was announced today that actress Evelyn Keyes passed away on the 4th of July.

Keyes initially achieved a certain amount of fame as Suellen O'Hara, the bratty younger sister of Scarlett in GONE WITH THE WIND. For me, Keyes' scene-stealing performance is one of many highlights in a perfect movie. Ann Rutherford, who played Carreen, is now the sole surviving O'Hara sister.

Keyes starred in a number of interesting films, including HERE COMES MR. JORDAN with Robert Montgomery, MRS. MIKE with Dick Powell, and THE JOLSON STORY with Larry Parks.

A family favorite is THE MATING OF MILLIE, in which she appeared with frequent costar Glenn Ford.

Her entertaining comedy-mystery DANGEROUS BLONDES, which costarred Allyn Joslyn, was reviewed here last year.

The oft-married Keyes chronicled her colorful life in the autobiographies SCARLETT O'HARA'S YOUNGER SISTER and I'LL THINK ABOUT THAT TOMORROW.

Update: The L.A. Times obituary.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tonight's Movie: China Seas (1935)

I last saw CHINA SEAS over three decades ago, at one of the many revival theaters in Los Angeles at that time, the Tiffany. My memories of the film were fairly vague, but pleasant; I particularly remembered the typhoon sequence.

CHINA SEAS stars Clark Gable as Captain Alan Gaskell, the skipper of the Kin Lung, a ship which battles precarious weather and pirates as it travels the Hong Kong-Singapore route. Jean Harlow is Dolly, the lower-class floozy Alan's dallied with, and Rosalind Russell is Sybil, a past love of Alan's who reappears in his life.

The cast also prominently features Wallace Beery and Robert Benchley, two actors whose appeal has always escaped me. It also stars Sir C. Aubrey Smith (one of my favorite character actors), Lewis Stone, Hattie McDaniel, Donald Meek, and Akim Tamiroff.

The movie is entertaining, doing a good job of conveying its exotic locale despite the use of back projections. The nail-biting storm sequence was especially well-done, with excellent special effects. I particularly enjoyed Gable, Russell, and Smith. Russell is sympathetic and elegant as the woman who dreams Gable will settle down with her in England. Gable is his usual charismatic self, in an energetic performance as the tough captain with the proverbial heart of gold.

I must say the film was quite a bit more violent than I remembered; over the course of the story many lives are in jeopardy or lost, and a sequence with Gable tortured by pirates had me reaching for the fast-forward button.

My other problem with the film is that the viewer is supposed to feel sympathy for Harlow's character, who is sick with (apparently) unrequited love for Gable, but out of spite she commits an act so heinous, directly leading to deaths and injuries, that I just wanted to see her carted off to jail. She didn't deserve a happy ending.

1935 was a significant year for Gable, as he was nominated for Best Actor for another 1935 film set on a ship, MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY; and when filming that year's release CALL OF THE WILD, he and Loretta Young conceived a child, Judy, whose paternity was hidden for decades.

A fun note of trivia is that the little girl Gable saves from being crushed by a piano during the typhoon was played by Wallace Beery's real-life daughter, Carol Ann.

CHINA SEAS was directed by Tay Garnett. It runs 87 minutes.

CHINA SEAS can be seen as part of the library at Turner Classic Movies, where it next airs on July 15, 2008, as part of Rosalind Russell month.

This film is available on video as well as on DVD, where it can be purchased as either a single-title release or as part of the 6-film Clark Gable Signature Collection. The other movies in the Signature Collection are SAN FRANCISCO, BOOM TOWN, WIFE VS. SECRETARY, DANCING LADY, and MOGAMBO.

The trailer can be seen here.

Victims of the "Real Estate Crisis"...Not

USA Today ran a heart-tugging story on the front page yesterday about how the "real estate crisis" is supposedly affecting children.

However, if one reads the article, it soon becomes apparent the problem with some of the families profiled is not real estate, it's parental choices.

Two of the three families profiled have single mothers, which puts a family at greater financial risk in and of itself.

One of the women, who obviously had a rocky marriage at the time, took on a $5000-a-month mortgage before selling the previous family home. When her husband abandoned the family just six weeks after the move to the new home, she was left holding the bag for two mortgages.

Is that the fault of the "real estate crisis," because she's having trouble selling at least one of the homes and paying a huge mortgage on her own? I don't think so. I was incredulous that the paper would blame her circumstances on the economy and sluggish real estate sales, rather than on a succession of bad choices.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

"The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie"

The New York Times has written a very interesting article on techniques for chocolate chip cookie perfection.

One of the interesting techniques is sprinkling cookies with sea salt just before baking. Another is chilling the dough for three days, which some claim leads to cookie perfection.

I'm printing the article out to save in my recipe folder, along with this recipe.

Know-It-All Obama Strikes Again

Last week I commented regarding Senator Obama: "...underneath the smooth oratory, he's a know-it-all, and I'm not sure that's going to wear well over the long haul."

The latest example: Senator Obama belittles Americans who are not multilingual, and says that we shouldn't be worrying about Spanish-speaking immigrants to the U.S. learning to speak English -- we need to be more concerned about American children learning Spanish.

He finds Americans "embarrassing": "It’s embarrassing when Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German. And then we go over to Europe and all we can say is merci beaucoup."

Putting aside the undoubted value of being multilingual, do we really want the next President looking down his nose at Americans the way Senator Obama is inclined to do? This calls to mind "bitter Americans clinging to guns and religion"... He seems to feel most of us are hicks.

Ed Morrissey: "He’s complaining that Americans don’t speak the native language when we visit Europe, but that we don’t speak the immigrant language when people move to the United States. With that argument, shouldn’t we expect Europeans to speak English when we travel there?"

In other Obama news, Michelle Malkin is amused by Obama's claim that a four-part interview with his very young daughters speaking to ACCESS HOLLYWOOD -- which raised questions about both exploitation and the tabloid-style choice of venue -- "suddenly...cropped up and I didn't catch it quickly enough." As Michelle notes, the interview probably took hours of setup, makeup, and more.

Do we want someone that slow reacting to world events? :)

Speaking of world events, German Chancellor Angela Merkel responded to Senator Obama's request to give a speech at the Brandenburg Gate this summer as "inappropriate," saying he should not hold a "campaign rally" there and that "It is unusual to do electioneering abroad. No German candidate for high office would even think of using the National Mall."

Ouch.

Thursday Update: John Hinderaker at Power Line writes "Obama Snickers at His Countrymen": "Barack Obama made a fool of himself again yesterday...he mocked Americans as ignoramuses..."

"The spectacle of Obama and his fans enjoying their presumed superiority over the rest of us benighted Americans -- the most telling feature of the video is the 'knowing' laughs Obama elicits from his audience -- is not pretty."

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Orange County School Follies

Two stories illustrating the brainless bureaucracies running schools here in Orange County:

690 Advanced Placement (AP) exams administered at Trabuco Hills High in Mission Viejo have been thrown out by the College Board.

School officials ignored basic test administration protocols, including not having sufficient proctors and seating students opposite each other at tables. Some students were caught cheating via text messages.

There will be only one opportunity for the students to retake the tests this summer. If a student's family has vacation plans that week -- or if you're leaving for college -- tough luck.

The school owes those students who didn't cheat a whole lot more than the costs of retaking the exams. Taking one of those tests can be an utterly draining experience for high schoolers, who should only need to take each exam once in their high school careers.

(Wednesday: An update on the story. The Register has also published an editorial criticizing the school not only for breaking the testing rules but for hiding the test rejections from parents and students as long as possible: "Not until the ETS repeatedly denied the school's appeals did officials tell parents and students the truth: The school screwed up big time. The school tried to maintain an appearance of normalcy until the repercussions became too large to conceal.")

In San Juan Capistrano, the new district superintendent will be paid just under a million dollars for three years' work. Nice work if you can get it.

This is the same district which has come under fire for building a fancy new administration building while the students were housed in old portables. Obviously this is a district which has its priorities straight...not.

To top things off, after trustees approved the superintendent's contract, a termination clause was added guaranteeing the new superintendent as much as 18 months' pay if he's fired.

The District Attorney's office is investigating the behind-closed-doors contract "modification."

The school district has kept the D.A. busy for the last couple years.

Your tax dollars at work...

Garden Blogging

A couple of the beautiful flowers my husband recently planted:




Have a good day and stay cool!

"Universal Coverage"...Whenever

A few days ago my neighbor told me her Canadian mother was on a waiting list for a hip replacement, and that her mother was looking at a 15-month wait. In the meantime, this very active woman would suffer declining health due to having to be sedentary for over a year while awaiting the surgery.

Fortunately for my neighbor's mother, there was a cancellation and the doctor agreed to move her way up in the schedule, but not everyone in Canada gets that chance.

More stories demonstrating that "universal coverage" does not equate with "quality" coverage can be found by clicking the title of this post.

(Hat tip: The Corner.)

Monday, July 07, 2008

Coming to DVD: Touch of Evil (1958)

Orson Welles' TOUCH OF EVIL, also starring Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh, will be released in a two-disc 50th Anniversary Edition next October 7th.

The previous DVD release contained Welles' 111-minute cut. The new release will include three separate edits of the film. Along with Welles' cut, a "preview" version and the original theatrical release version will be part of the DVD set.

Other extras include four separate commentary tracks. Heston and Leigh are part of one commentary track; I assume archival interviews will be edited into the commentary but have not heard any details.

Too Stupid For Words

There are times I really feel a sense of despair due to all the hand-wringing, politically correct, totalitarian wimps out there.

This story takes the cake: a British government-funded agency working to prevent racism in young children warns that preschoolers who turn up their noses at spicy or unfamiliar foods are engaging in a form of racism.

In an agency guidebook, nursery school teachers are warned about young children who "react negatively to a culinary tradition other than their own by saying 'yuk.'"

This could indicate "a reaction to a food associated with people from a particular ethnic or cultural community."

Nursery schools are encouraged to report as many of these "racist" incidents to their local councils as possible...no doubt so that the little ones can be "re-educated."

British taxpayers are paying for this dreck to be published...and acted on.

How Orwellian, for preschoolers to risk being reported to the government if they're picky eaters.

There just aren't words...

Senator Obama: You Can't Raise My Children

One of Senator Obama's new initiatives is for all U.S. middle and high school students to perform 50 compulsory "volunteer" hours each year, and that amount goes double for college students.

Obama intends to enforce this plan by withholding federal funding from schools who do not demand community service of their students.

I have always found this idea infuriating. Schools are not doing an adequate job teaching far too many students, yet they -- and now Senator Obama -- too often want to stick their noses into my parenting choices. It's my business whether or not my children perform community service outside school hours, not Senator Obama's.

(Along these lines, I'm also heartily opposed to schools assigning summer homework and reading. Their summer break is family time, not school time.)

Reading about Senator Obama's plan sent me rummaging through my archives for a letter I sent to the junior high school principal a few years ago. (Our oldest child is the only one to have attended our local public junior high.) The school had created a Distinguished Scholar Award for its best students, with the catch being that the students had to report their extracurricular service activities to the school in order to receive the Scholarship award. What I wrote then applies to how I feel about Senator Obama's plan.

I wrote that our daughter "more than meets the community service requirements through Girl Scout and church activities. However, I am extremely uncomfortable being asked to report this to the school in order for her academic and citizenship successes to be recognized in a special way.

"My feeling is that the school’s job is to teach, not encourage community service. Constantly expanding a school’s 'mission' drains focus and resources away from what the school should be working on... Our daughter's job is to focus on her schoolwork and be a good citizen on campus. It is not the school’s job to be inquiring into her private life and what she does to serve the community through her church, Girl Scouts, or anywhere else.

"Frankly, this is not a Distinguished Scholar Award, it’s a Community Service Award..."

We did not participate in the program, despite our daughter being one of the school's top students. I suppose it was no surprise to the principal that I became a homeschooler...

Senator Obama doesn't even want to make such participation optional, he plans to use governmental power to force children and teens into "service." So much for American freedom.

As Jim Geraghty reminds us, this plan is an illustration of Michelle Obama's disturbing promise: "Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed."

More from Paul Mirengoff at Power Line.

Add to this Obama's plans to give his acceptance speech rock star style, at a stadium -- no doubt filled with screaming, fainting fans -- and I'm more than a little creeped out.

Update: "Serve or Flunk" at Joanne Jacobs.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

New Book: Doris Day: The Untold Story of the Girl Next Door

A new biography of one of the biggest box office stars of all time has just been published, DORIS DAY: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE GIRL NEXT DOOR by David Kaufman.

Susan King of the L.A. Times conducted an interview with the author.

Another article on the book has been published in the Dallas Morning News.

Speaking of Doris Day books, I highly recommend the book CONSIDERING DORIS DAY by Tom Santopietro, which offers a detailed critical assessment of all aspects of Day's career.

"Liking the Taste of America"

Nino's Italian Restaurant is a Long Beach favorite which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in business this summer.

Our wedding rehearsal dinner was held at Nino's, so it has a special place in my heart.

The Long Beach Press-Telegram has profiled Vince and Inge Cristiano, an Italian and German who married after WWII and within a few years were operating their own successful business in Southern California.

It's a wonderful story of the American dream which anyone can enjoy reading, even if you're never able to enjoy setting foot in Nino's.

The Most Beautiful Place on Earth

The L.A. Times Travel section spotlights Hunewill Guest Ranch just outside Bridgeport, California.

Hunewill Ranch viewed from the highway:


Hunewill sits midway between Bridgeport and our near-annual camping spot near Lower Twin Lake. We drive past Hunewill and its beautiful meadows on our daily trek to town for ice, newspapers, and treats from the Hi Sierra Bakery. We often see the guests on horseback herding cattle from one meadow to another.


The Times story includes a photo gallery. There is also a video at the Times website.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Once More, My Darling (1949)

Tonight I continued this year's informal Robert Montgomery Film Festival and watched him in the entertaining romantic comedy ONCE MORE, MY DARLING, which was one of several movies Montgomery also directed in the latter part of his film career.

Attorney Collier Laing (Montgomery) served with distinction during WWII and is enjoying a burgeoning film career, though his acting talent is questionable. (When Collier asks a family friend how he was in a recent film, the reply is "Tall. Very tall.") Collier's pleasant life is disrupted when he is recalled to service in the Army Criminal Investigative Division and tasked with tracking down a man smuggling jewels out of occupied Germany. To smoke the criminal from hiding, Laing must become close to Marita Connell (Ann Blyth), a wealthy debutante with whom the bad guy was romantically obsessed.

Marita takes one look at Collier and, despite their age difference, falls head over heels in love. Soon the bemused Collier has turned from being the pursuer to the pursued.

This film is a "satisfying comedy" (per Leonard Maltin) which is "nicely played" (Stephen H. Scheuer). It has interesting characters, unique plot angles, atmospheric location shooting, and some laugh-out-loud funny moments.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the film is the bantering relationship between Collier and his elegant, accomplished mother, who is also an attorney. Mrs. Laing doesn't understand why her son prefers to get up before dawn to report to soundstages and wants him to return to the family law firm -- and hopefully also marry and provide her with grandchildren in the near future. Mrs. Laing's deadpan reactions to meeting the whirlwind Marita provide some of the film's funniest moments. Jane Cowl, who plays Mrs. Laing, was a Broadway playwright (SMILIN' THROUGH) and actress who made her sound film debut -- her first film in over three decades -- in ONCE MORE, MY DARLING. Sadly, Cowl made only three more films, released in 1950-51, before dying of cancer.

Film noir veteran Charles McGraw appears here in an amusing turn as Marita's protective chauffeur. John Ridgely, who played John Garfield's close friend in PRIDE OF THE MARINES, plays a federal investigator with whom Collier has an antagonistic relationship. The Laings' maid, Mamie, is portrayed by Lillian Randolph, whose career lasted for four decades.

I think my only quibble is that more character development was needed for the hyperenergetic Marita and the lead couple's relationship. It would have been nice to have the characters slow down and have some scenes that were a little more serious, but that doesn't come until the last scene. In fact, it's curious to note that Montgomery creatively avoided showing a final clinch between Collier and Marita -- was this perhaps due to sensitivity over the age difference? The film actually was a little more up front acknowledging the actors' age gap than other films of its era; in fact, one of the advertising slogans is "Man About Town Meets Girl About Nineteen."

Montgomery conveys a good sense of "place" with locations in the Greater Los Angeles area including a studio lot, upscale homes, and the Hotel Bel-Air. There are also some interesting shots of late '40s Las Vegas, although it appears the only actors to leave California were doubles for the leads.

A photo gallery can be viewed at the Earl of Hollywood website, which is equally enthused about the film. Another reviewer: "Although it would be going a bit far to call Once More, My Darling an overlooked gem, it is surprising that this genial and very amusing little comedy isn't as well known among fans of older movies... Flaws are more than made up for by the above-average dialogue, the aura of fun that Montgomery's direction imparts and the fine cast that has been assembled for the picture."

ONCE MORE, MY DARLING runs 94 minutes. It was filmed in black and white.

It's not available on video or DVD. My great thanks to Carrie of Classic Montgomery for making it possible for me to see it.

Tonight's Movie: The Jane Austen Book Club (2007)

THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB is an enjoyable "chick flick" about five women and one (cute) guy who gather together each month to discuss Austen's novels.

All of the women have relationship issues which parallel various Austen characters. Sylvia (Amy Brenneman) was just dumped by her husband of two decades (Jimmy Smits). Sylvia's daughter Allegra (Maggie Grace) is a lesbian who makes reckless choices, whether it's her love life or jumping out of airplanes. French teacher Prudie (Emily Blunt) has a distant, sports-obsessed husband (Marc Blucas), a crazy hippie mother (Lynn Redgrave), and an inappropriate crush on a student (Kevin Zegers). Bernadette (Kathy Baker) has been married six times and is still looking for Mr. Right. Dog breeder Jocelyn (Maria Bello) seems to be the most "together" of the women, but she holds men at arm's length and, like Austen's Emma, focuses more on fixing up her friends than fixing her own life.

The male in the group is Grigg (Hugh Dancy) a geeky but nice, thoughtful man Jocelyn impulsively invites to join the club, thinking she can set him up with Sylvia. So why does Jocelyn feel unsettled when Grigg and Sylvia go out to lunch?

As the months pass, Austen's characters are discussed and debated by the club members, providing insight into the characters' own lives and choices. By film's end, everyone's relationships are wrapped up neatly, if a bit improbably. But then, happy endings are one reason we love Jane Austen, right?

The performances are all good; I thought Amy Brenneman and Maria Bello gave particularly realistic portrayals. It's a bit disconcerting hearing American "accents" coming out of the mouths of Emily Blunt and Hugh Dancy; every so often Dancy's British accent slips through. Dancy is charming, and watching his character develop beyond the surface first impressions is one of the film's most enjoyable aspects. (And his STAR WARS analogy provided one of the film's most amusing moments.) I also particularly liked seeing how the group evolved from awkwardness -- as several of the characters didn't know each other -- to comfortable friendship.

Parental advisory: This movie is rated PG-13; given some of the topics, I think R might be more appropriate. My biggest problem with the film is the frank depiction of Allegra and her serial romantic relationships with other women, an "ugh" factor which had me hitting the fast-forward button. Prudie's yearning for her student was also problematic; he might have been of legal age, but this is the kind of thing we too often see in the news in recent years.

THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB was directed by Robin Swicord, who wrote the screenplay for the 1994 version of LITTLE WOMEN. It runs 106 minutes.

Although the film is set in Northern California, it was shot at many Southern California locations, including Lakewood High School, Long Beach Airport, and Acres of Books, also located in Long Beach.

The movie is available on DVD. Extras include a commentary track and featurettes.

The bottom line on THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB is that it's flawed but entertaining; accepted on its own terms, it provides a pleasant diversion, particularly for those of us who love Jane Austen.

God Bless Our Military

Click on the title of this post to check out a stirring YouTube video of 1215 members of the military who spent their Independence Day participating in a Baghdad re-enlistment ceremony.

They committed to a combined 5,500 additional years of military service.

The photo of the ceremony, against the backdrop of a huge American flag hanging in one of Saddam's former palaces, is amazing.

The soldiers celebrated with donated Chicago pizza expressed in by DHL for the occasion.

Mark Martin Signs With Hendrick Motorsports

NASCAR driver Mark Martin, who has been semi-retired for the past two seasons, has announced that next year he will be driving the No. 5 car full-time for Hendrick Motorsports.

Martin joins Hendrick's all-star team alongside Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jimmie Johnson.

Martin is one of the classiest guys in racing, and it will be fun to see him on the racetrack every week next year.

Tonight's race at Daytona is the Coke Zero 400. If one of Coke's 13 sponsored drivers wins the race, everyone in the USA can download a coupon for a free bottle of Coke Zero.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Goleta Fire

We headed north today to spend the holiday with family in the Santa Barbara area.

The usual clear skies over the ocean had given way to thick smoke today due to the Goleta fire north of Santa Barbara.

A couple of photos to illustrate current conditions approaching the Carpinteria/Santa Barbara area:




Many of our fellow Californians have been facing a challenging day and week.

We were fortunate to enjoy a happy celebration with our family today. We'll be watching traditional street fireworks with our neighbors this evening.

Happy 4th!

Happy Independence Day!

In honor of the day, some shots of Disneyland all decked out last week in readiness for Independence Day. Click images to enlarge.

Main Street viewed from Town Square:


The Fire Station at Town Square:


The Bakery on Main Street:


A display in a Main Street shop window:


Have a wonderful day celebrating our country's birthday!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Tonight's Movie: The Whole Truth (1958)

THE WHOLE TRUTH is a nifty murder mystery starring Stewart Granger, Donna Reed, and George Sanders.

The plot, about a movie producer (Granger) framed for the murder of an actress (Gianna Maria Canale) with whom he once had a brief affair, isn't anything particularly special, but it's a well-paced film with an engaging, polished trio of lead actors. The jazzy score performed by John Dankworth (billed as Johnny Dankworth) and his Orchestra gives the film an added jolt of energy and elevates it a notch above your run-of-the-mill whodunit.

Handsome Granger is sympathetic as the man who made a mistake while estranged from his wife (Reed) and is now caught in a nightmare. Reed is appealing as his spunky wife -- she has the best line in the movie -- and Sanders is quite creepy. The story zips along smoothly to a satisfying conclusion, although I must say the comedic final scene felt out of place.

As music buffs know, John Dankworth has been married to singer Cleo Laine for half a century. I saw them in concert quite a while back.

THE WHOLE TRUTH was directed by John Guillermin. It was filmed in black and white and runs 84 minutes. The movie was shot in England.

This movie can be seen on Turner Classic Movies.

August 2013 Update: This movie is now available on DVD-R from Sony/Columbia.

Dr. Krauthammer: "A Man of Seasonal Principles"

As I listened to Barack Obama say today that he would make decisions about withdrawing troops from Iraq based on consultations with the generals, I thought "Why couldn't he have said that in the first place, if his decisions were always open to being changed by information from those who are actually in Iraq?"

Of course, the answer is it wouldn't have pleased his leftwing base during the primaries. Now he's trying to court Middle America...while claiming once again that he hasn't changed positions. In fact, he seemingly has even tried to flip-flop on his flip-flop today, by calling a second press conference to say he hasn't changed his mind about withdrawing.

The man has absolutely no core principles.

Coming to DVD: Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection

October 14th is the release date for the latest ginormous collection of Alfred Hitchcock movies.

The Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection contains 8 Hitchcock titles. Some of the titles have been released previously -- for instance, REBECCA, NOTORIOUS, and SPELLBOUND were all past Criterion releases -- there are many new extras including brand-new commentaries and featurettes.

NOTORIOUS, which had commentaries by Rudy Behlmer and Marian Keane in its previous release, this time around has commentaries by USC cinema professors Drew Casper and Richard Jewell. The NOTORIOUS disc will also contain the American Film Institute Tribute to Alfred Hitchcock.

Richard Schickel does the commentary for REBECCA (Leonard J. Leff was on the Criterion release), and SPELLBOUND has a commentary by Thomas Schatz and Charles Ramirez Berg (Marian Keane did the honors for Criterion). LIFEBOAT retains the Drew Casper commentary from its previous release. Casper holds the Alfred & Alma Hitchcock Chair at USC.

The other titles in the set are THE PARADINE CASE (starring Gregory Peck), SABOTAGE, THE LODGER, and YOUNG AND INNOCENT. All have commentaries and many other extras.

REBECCA, NOTORIOUS, and SPELLBOUND will be released as single titles as well as in the boxed set.

Chris Wallace on Fox News and Media Bias

Chris Wallace in a recent interview: ""When I was in the mainstream media, when I was working at NBC and ABC [...] I thought we were fair and balanced. But since coming to Fox four and a half years ago, I have come to see things a little differently. And I, in fact, do believe there is a bias in the mainstream media and that is something I was only able to understand when I was outside of it."

I have to admit that I wasn't happy when Wallace first arrived at Fox and replaced Tony Snow as the moderator of Fox News Sunday, and I didn't particularly care for his work early on. But I've come to appreciate him and think he usually does a good job of being "fair and balanced."

(Hat tip: NewsBusters.)

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

George Washington's Childhood Home Excavated

This is really fascinating stuff.

A few years ago I loved the chance to see Washington's tent, which is under glass at Valley Forge.

The current excavation project appears to already be providing fresh insights into the early years of our greatest President.

The L.A. Times Keeps Shrinking

It's an interesting contrast: on the same day Rush Limbaugh announces a new multi-year, $400 million contract, we learn that the L.A. Times will reduce its page count by 15% and its editorial staff by 17%...with more cuts likely in the future.

Meanwhile the Times refuses to acknowledge that a significant percentage of the paper's readers have given it up due to the paper's unrelenting leftward bias.

Those of us who still subscribe do so, as Hugh Hewitt says, for the Sports and Calendar sections.

Rush Limbaugh Signs Through 2016

Rush Limbaugh, who will soon celebrate his show's 20th anniversary, has signed a new contract through 2016.

The deal is rumored to be worth $400 million, with a nine-figure signing bonus.

This is certainly the best politically related news I've heard in a long time...

Rush is profiled in the Sunday New York Times Magazine. It's already online. I haven't had time to read it yet so I have no idea about the article's tone or accuracy.

There's a nice slide show accompanying the article.

I have to add that Limbaugh's righthand man, James Golden (aka Bo Snerdley), has provided some of the funniest radio I've heard in ages, in his role as the "Official Obama Criticizer."

Update: I've now read the article and agree with J.C. and Dana's comments that it was a good piece.

One of the things I don't think the article quite captures is the sheer volume of interesting information and detailed analysis which Rush provides his listeners on a daily basis. I enjoy other radio hosts, but find they become repetitive after the first hour and tend not to cover as much territory in a single show; they will often focus on just one main topic. Rush is the only host who consistently holds the listener's attention for his entire three-hour broadcast, thoughtfully covering a remarkable number of subjects in a single program.

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