Saturday, September 30, 2006

More Halloween Time at Disneyland

Thought I'd post a few more photos of Disneyland's Halloween decorations for your enjoyment.

The view at Main Street Train Station as you enter the park:

The Main Street Cinema:

A Main Street shop window:

Beautiful fall flowers:

I was surprised that New Orleans Square wasn't decorated; I'd expected to find orange, purple, and black beads strung across Royal Street and elsewhere, but there wasn't anything. Maybe they wanted to keep the focus on PIRATES mania.

Dodgers Going to the Playoffs!

This afternoon the Los Angeles Dodgers capped an exciting few days of baseball by clinching the wild card and a spot in the National League playoffs.

They are still in contention to win the National League West.

Go Dodger Blue!

Whoever Could Have Imagined...

...last spring that the Senate would be passing a "border fence only" bill mere weeks from the election, by a vote of 80-19?

Scroll down to Post 34 in this Free Republic thread for the names of the 19 senators who voted against the bill. Senator Kennedy abstained.

Both of California's Democrat Senators voted in favor of the bill.

There is still a long ways to go on border security, including protecting our northern border, but this 700-mile fence represents a step in the right direction. Hopefully funding will be passed quickly.

This vote represents a particular triumph for the House Republicans, who insisted on a commonsense border security plan being put into place before addressing issues such as citizenship and tax giveaways for illegal aliens. They remained committed to border security despite being in the uncomfortable position of disagreeing with the President on a major issue in an election year, and in the end, conservatism won an important victory. Well done.

CBS Strikes Again

CBS and 60 MINUTES love to do what they can to impact national elections, so the show's plan to publicize Bob Woodward's new book this weekend is no surprise.

Woodward, who has lost some credibility in recent years for reasons including concealing his role in the CIA leak "scandal," charges that the White House is dysfunctional and that Henry Kissinger is visiting frequently and refighting the Vietnam War via President Bush.

Whatever, Bob...

Tony Snow said today that books like Woodward's are often based on interviews with "smart people who didn't get their way" and that such memoirs could be titled "If Only They'd Listened To Me."

Thus far the First Lady, Condoleezza Rice, and Andrew Card have disputed various points in Woodward's book. Mrs. Bush, speaking through Tony Snow, said that what Woodward wrote about her was "flatly not true."

Rather than investing in Woodward's apparently half-imagined book, I suggest taking the time this weekend to watch the rerun of Fox New Channel's special on Donald Rumsfeld, WHY HE FIGHTS, hosted by Bret Baier. Or read Rowan Scarborough's RUMSFELD'S WAR: THE UNTOLD STORY OF AMERICA'S ANTI-TERRORIST COMMANDER.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Arnold's Veto Pen

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has this week vetoed two bills which were aimed at further advancing the homosexual agenda in public schools. One of the bills would have created a pilot program for "tolerance training" in public schools (read=not tolerance, but acceptance of homosexual behavior).

The Governor previously vetoed a bill which would have protected homosexuals from "discrimination" in textbooks.

Despite my dissatisfaction with the Governor on many levels, there are days when I'm certainly glad we have Governor Schwarzenegger and not Governor Davis or Governor Bustamante. And it's not looking like we'll have a Governor Angelides, either, if recent polls can be believed.

Today at Disneyland

It was a hectic week for both homeschooling and my business -- hence the light blogging -- so we were all happy when Friday arrived and we had time to take a break for a few hours at our favorite place, Disneyland. Normally autumn Fridays are our favorite time of year to visit, as the park is uncrowded and the weather is nice.

This year, however, Disneyland decided to jump on the Halloween bandwagon (see articles at link and here) and went all out with pumpkin-themed decorating. Disneyland's "Halloween Time" began today, and it was quite crowded.

Some of the decorating was a bit overdone for my taste:

I enjoyed some of the more subdued touches:

The decorations were a fun change of pace but overall I think I prefer Disneyland's past traditional fall decorations, mainly consisting of gourds and pumpkins in Main Street windows...and the smaller crowds that went with them. :)

Saturday Update: Welcome to readers of Holy Coast.

More photos are above.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

President Clinton Pardoned Terrorists

A timely reminder by Joseph Connor, whose father was killed in a New York attack by Puerto Rican FALN terrorists.

President Clinton pardoned 16 FALN members in 1999. Prior to that date, he had granted pardons to only 3 out of over 3000 applications. President Clinton never explained the pardons; as Connor mentions here, the thought was that he was courting the Hispanic vote for Hillary's Senate run.

As I recall, Barbara Olson covered the pardons in her book THE FINAL DAYS: THE LAST, DESPERATE ABUSES OF POWER BY THE CLINTON WHITE HOUSE. (Olson, of course, was herself killed by terrorists when her plane crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11.) It seems as though this is a topic which should be revisited by the media in light of Hillary's expected Presidential run and the former President's very public defense of his "legacy."

I would like to challenge a member of the media to directly ask former President Clinton for the explanation of the FALN pardons.

Will it happen? Not likely. But it should.

Census Bureau Loses Hundreds of Laptops

The Census Bureau is already overreaching and intrusive, conducting what I believe is an unconstitutional "American Community Survey" asking very personal questions, none of which are related to the Constitution's requirement that Congress "enumerate" voters every decade.

Now comes word that the Census Bureau just can't seem to keep that confidential information confidential: "The department has lost or had stolen 1,137 laptops since 2001 - the largest number of computers that any agency has publicly acknowledged losing."

It's enough to give anyone pause about answering a "survey" which may be illegal or unenforceable, in any event. Not only are there serious constitutional questions, but the survey attempts to supersede other federal and state privacy laws by demanding disclosure of private matters such as respondents' mental or physical health.

Skimming this website provides some interesting information on the American Community Survey, if you separate the wheat from the chaff. Based on this and other Internet research I've done over the last couple months, it appears the Census Bureau has not actually prosecuted anyone for refusing to fill out the Survey. It may be possible they don't want it put to a constitutional test.

I have emailed my Congressman, Ed Royce, twice about the American Community Survey and unfortunately have not received a response with his position.

The Fertility Gap

The "fertility gap" between Republicans and Democrats has been the subject of increased scrutiny in recent weeks.

Check out these related stats from today's edition of USA TODAY:

"Democrats control only one of the 50 districts with the highest marriage rates.

"Democrats represent 59 districts in which less than half of adults are married. Republicans represent only two.

"Democrats represent 30 districts in which less than half of children live with married parents. Republicans represent none."

Fascinating stuff.

More from USA TODAY here.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Kim Hume Leaving Fox News Channel

Washington Bureau Chief Kim Hume, who preceded her husband Brit as an employee of Fox News Channel, is leaving her position in November.

She gave an interview to U.S. News and World Report (linked above).

The Wild Bill Roundup

Lots of people have had lots to say about former President Clinton this week. A collection of some highlights:

Myrna Blyth of NRO, linked above, writes that Bill will always be Hillary's biggest problem.

Dick Morris, a man who has experienced the Clinton temper firsthand, thinks the idea suggested in some quarters that Mr. Clinton preplanned his TV tantrum is silly, and anyone who's worked for him knows it: "There he was on live television, the man those who have worked for him have come to know – the angry, sarcastic, snarling, self-righteous, bombastic bully, roused to a fever pitch."

A FReeper, AmericanInTokyo, reports on a Chris Wallace interview on Fox today; Wallace said that Clinton blew up at his staff after the interview and was very audible and very emotional.

Tony Snow quipped about Clinton: "He Retorts, You Decide."

Richard Miniter examines the historical record, noting "Bill Clinton's outburst on Fox News was something of a public service, launching a debate about the antiterror policies of his administration."

Wonders Never Cease

It's hard to believe this excellent editorial on "President Me" was in the L.A. Times.

Andrew Klavan does a particularly good job analyzing the differences between Presidents Reagan and Clinton:

"I cannot remember Reagan ever 'defending his legacy' with anything more than a quip and a smile... Reagan was a man who believed in truth. Not your truth or my truth but 'the truth,' the one that is out there whether you happen to believe in it or not."

Neither of these descriptions, of course, fits the self-obssessed President Clinton.

As the saying goes, read the whole thing. :)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Elizabeth Edwards in Fantasyland

In a new interview with TIME, Elizabeth Edwards asserts that her (very wealthy) husband is "in touch with the guy on the corner" and thus could have beaten President Bush if he had been on the top of the ticket:

"The President had portrayed himself as somebody in touch with the guy on the corner. What you needed to show the falsity of that was to have somebody who really was in touch with the guy on the corner, who really understood the lives of people who work in factories, people who struggle, people who live middle-class lives built around their children, Saturday or Sunday soccer, and Friday-night football."

I'd sure like to know why she thinks that her husband is any more of a "regular Joe" than President Bush. The very idea is absurd.

She was asked if John Kerry's "privileged background" created problems.

"I'd be telling you things that weren't true if I said that he didn't have an impediment. He did. He was certainly able to be painted as someone who didn't understand what people did with their free time or what their concerns were when they sat around the table."

She says that she and her husband enjoy "a different kind of luxury."

So John Kerry was too privileged, but she and her husband aren't? Right.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Patterico: Clinton Was Wrong

Patterico's Pontifications has found a transcript of Chris Wallace grilling Donald Rumsfeld about not capturing Osama bin Laden.

So much for the former President's "I don't believe you asked them that."

Mr. Clinton's ranting apparently continued after the cameras stopped rolling, as he told Chris Wallace he wouldn't get away with his questioning, whatever that meant.

Chris Wallace shared his thoughts on the interview with Media Bistro's Fish Bowl DC: "The President said I had a smirk. Actually -- it was sheer wonder at what I was witnessing."

Tonight's TV: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Tonight I caught up with my tape of last week's premiere episode of Aaron Sorkin's new series, STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP.

I adored Sorkin's SPORTS NIGHT, which I found one of the most delightful TV shows ever, and thought THE WEST WING was superb television as well. THE WEST WING, incidentally, had one of the all-time best pilot episodes, which I've viewed at least three times.

Unfortunately I can't say I felt the same about STUDIO 60's premiere episode, despite its positive reviews. I didn't find Amanda Peet at all believable as the head of a television network, didn't care for the overall SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE atmosphere and accompanying (so-called) music, found the snarky asides on Christianity tiresome, and generally found it disappointingly phony and shallow. I also could have done without the caption cards borrowed from FRASIER or the live television rant borrowed, as we were reminded incessantly, from NETWORK. And I could have done without the repeated use of a word I'm not sure I've ever before heard on national television.

All in all, the show had an unappealing smug, crass tone which was probably supposed to be "cutting edge" but left me cold.

That said, I'll try it again, because of my respect for Sorkin's past work and my enjoyment of several members of the cast, including Timothy Busfield, Bradley Whitford, and Matthew Perry. Here's hoping the show finds its feet.

"Hillary Won't Be President"

John Hinderaker makes a comforting prediction. :)

Meanwhile Byron York of NRO dissects Bill Clinton's now-infamous Fox News interview.

York: "The bottom line is that Bill Clinton, the commander-in-chief, could not find the will to order the military into action against al Qaeda, and Bill Clinton, the head of the executive branch, could not find the will to order the CIA and FBI to act. No matter what the former president says on Fox, or anywhere else, that is his legacy in the war on terror."

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Conservatism Wins

The current status of immigration issues in Congress, with the Senate preparing for a likely vote on a border fence bill this week, illustrates yet again that when conservatives embrace conservative principles, the public responds positively.

Rich Lowry writes "This political state of play is the exact reverse of what was widely predicted earlier in the year... It was assumed that the crazies in the House would bend to a Senate bill endorsed by all the great and the good. But a funny thing happened on the way to 'comprehensive reform' - the political marketplace worked... Now, the fence almost represents a consensus position, embraced by the left and right alike."

It is particularly telling that Senators in close races are turning their backs on the Senate's own amnesty plan and embracing "border security first."

Meanwhile, Lawrence Kudlow writes about "The GOP's Bush-Led Turnaround" and looks toward November with optimism.

In another good piece, Betsy Newmark highlights a Donald Lambro article about the GOP "nationalizing" the election. Can you imagine Alcee Hastings, an impeached and convicted judge, serving as head of the House Intelligence Committee? It hardly seems possible that that could even be legal, but that's Nancy Pelosi's plan if she becomes Speaker of the House.

Upcoming Book: My Father, My President

Doro Bush Koch has written a biography of her father which will be released in early October.

London's Sunday Times has a preview.

Clinton Accuses Wallace of "Conservative Hit Job"

Apparently the Bill Clinton interview on Fox News Channel is even juicier than the clip available on the You Tube video.

Chris Wallace asked the former President if he felt he'd done enough to go after Bin Laden. Clinton accused Wallace -- who is often "fair and balanced" but could hardly be considered a conservative -- of doing "a nice little conservative hit job" in their interview.

Clinton ranted: "I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked why didn’t you do anything about the Cole." (The Cole terrorism occurred during the final three months or so of the Clinton Administration.) He then repeatedly went off on Chris Wallace to "tell the truth," asserting that Wallace has not asked these kinds of questions of Republicans and that he needs to "be fair." He accused conservatives of a "disinformation campaign" about whether he did enough to combat terrorism.

He also said to Wallace: "And you’ve got that little smirk on your face. It looks like you’re so clever..."

Wallace obviously struck a very raw nerve.

Clinton also accuses Karl Rove of some sort of national security conspiracy: "Every even number year right before an election they come up with some security issue."

OK, Mr. Clinton, I'm sure Karl Rove invented the London airline terrorist plot just for the sake of the 2006 campaign...

When Wallace asked, "Do you think the White House and the Republicans want to make the American people afraid," the former President responded "Of course they do."

Bill Clinton was the most self-involved, immature, and narcissistic President in our nation's history, and this interview shows once and for all that he's deluded and irresponsible as well.

Think Progress has the transcript.

Tonight's Movie: On Dangerous Ground (1951)

ON DANGEROUS GROUND rivets the viewer's attention from the moment the RKO logo comes on the screen, accompanied by jolting theme music composed by Bernard Herrmann. We watch the opening credits roll from the viewpoint of a car racing down a dark street past neon signs -- recalling the opening of PANIC IN THE STREETS -- and soon we're swept into the world of big city cops patrolling the night beat.

Robert Ryan plays Jim Wilson, a police officer who has become as brutal as the criminals he hunts. Wilson's chief sends him to assist on a murder case in a snowy rural area, hoping the change of scenery will cool Wilson's temperament. During the investigation, Wilson meets Mary Malden (Ida Lupino), a blind woman who will change his life. Despite its "noir" style in the early scenes, ultimately the film is about redemption and hope.

ON DANGEROUS GROUND is a starkly beautiful film, with the wintry outdoor scenes providing a contrast with the dark opening city sequences. The visual "look" of the film is striking and memorable. You can almost feel the cold, or imagine the snow soaking through Ryan's shoes as he runs after a suspect.

Herrmann's exciting score alternates between "action" music and gentler romantic themes. At times the music foreshadows his classic work for NORTH BY NORTHWEST -- my husband guessed the composer without seeing his screen credit.

The movie was directed by Nicholas Ray and produced by John Houseman. The supporting cast includes wonderful character actors such as Ward Bond, Olive Carey, Ian Wolfe, and Ed Begley. The film is in black and white and has a running time of 82 minutes.

ON DANGEROUS GROUND is available on DVD in a beautiful print as part of the Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 3. The extras are a commentary by Glenn Erickson (who reviews the entire set here) and the trailer.

2015 Update: I had a great experience seeing this film at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs, California.

October 2016 Update: ON DANGEROUS GROUND is now available on Blu-ray from the Warner Archive. My review of the Blu-ray is here.

Pass the Veggies, Light on God

You know, there are days I simply want to...scream.

NBC bought VEGGIE TALES for Saturday morning television. On the surface it sounds like a neat idea, though a bit surprising, given the religious content. They're wonderfully made, quality shows. I think we own them all. With their often sophisticated cultural allusions and punny humor, they amuse adults and teens as well as children.

However, NBC thinks the shows are too religious and their "broadcast standards" department has been editing out all "non-historical" references to God. The show's creator, Phil Vischer, was not told when the rights were purchased that NBC would be editing the programs. Even relatively generic statements such as "Remember kids, God made you special and He loves you very much" have been removed from the shows.

NBC compounded its error by first lying about the cuts, initially blaming them on "time constraints," before coming clean Friday with the real reason for the editing.


The entire point of these shows is that they communicate moral, religious Christian values, illustrating stories from the Bible.

If NBC thinks Christian messages are too controversial to air on their network, they never should have bought the show in the first place. I'd be awfully curious to know what's even left in each episode after the censors go at them with the scissors, but I'm not going to give NBC the viewership in order to find out.

I can't imagine what NBC was thinking when they bought it, or what they're thinking now. This has to be one of the most bone-headed moves I've ever heard of a TV network making.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The We Love Tony Snow Fan Club

The Washington Times writes about President Bush's "message man," Tony Snow, and wonders if some of the President's rising approval ratings are due to Mr. Snow's fine work.

(Hat tip: Power Line.)

It's All About Bill, Always

It looks like Bill Clinton had one of his finger-pointing "purple rages" in a new Fox News Channel interview...the You Tube link is above.

Ranting about the failure to capture Osama Bin Laden, the former President said: "At least I tried. That's the difference between me and some, including all the right wingers. They ridicule me for trying. They had eight months to try, they did not try. I tried. So I tried and failed..."

OK, so President Bush had 7-1/2 months, to be precise. Mr. Clinton had eight years...

Saturday Update: Power Line responds to Clinton and his "unserious Presidency."

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Tonight's TV: The Return of Grey's Anatomy

When last we left our friends at GREY'S ANATOMY, most of the characters were at personal and professional crossroads.

Tonight the series returns, and according to USA TODAY's four-star review, it's riveting as always: "Lovely, moving...sublimely enjoyable... This is a show that is all pleasure and no guilt."

Coming in Episode 2: Diahann Carroll and Richard Roundtree as Burke's parents.

USA TODAY also carried a lengthy profile of the women of GREY'S ANATOMY.


Friday Update: Canadian fans had an unpleasant surprise last night; CTV showed the wrong episode! They accidentally showed Episode 2 of the new season, and won't broadcast the season premiere till the show's regular night next week.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Regulate Baby Formula as Terror Threat?

Sudafed and similar medicines have been increasingly regulated because some of the ingredients are used in the production of methamphetamine. Law-abiding citizens have been forced to deal with the inconvenience and legally questionable requirement to produce driver's licenses and other i.d. in order to buy over-the-counter allergy medicine. Some stores keep logbooks recording individuals' purchases of these legal and necessary medicines.

Some senators have pushed this hyper regulation as part of the War on Terror, saying that drug sales are linked to terrorism. The very same senators who insist on collecting personal data on law-abiding Sudafed users refuse, of course, to secure our borders against illegal entry or to require photo identification of voters to prevent voter fraud. Strange priorities.

Now it turns out that powdered baby formula is being used by drug producers to dilute and thus sell more methamphetamine. Already, some stores are putting the powdered formula behind the counter to prevent shoplifting.

Will senators be racing to add the regulation and identification of baby formula users to the Patriot Act, along with the names of those who need to use Sudafed?

I doubt it...which just goes to show that the senators' selective regulation is rather silly and hypocritical.

Oh, Brother

The California Attorney General, Bill Lockyer, has sued six auto makers for causing global warming.

Rolling eyes...

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Backs Pope

Lord George Carey has entered the fray regarding Pope Benedict's comments of last week on Islam and violent forced conversion.

The former AofC said, in part: "Islam’s borders are bloody and so are its innards. The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilisation whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power."

Carey warned about the growing "clash of civilisations" and said, "We are living in dangerous and potentially cataclysmic times."

If the Islamofascists were upset by the Pope's words, one can only imagine how they could react to this.

Elections Present and Future

It's looking as though the Congressional turnover, pushed hard by the media this summer as inevitable, may not happen after all. Dick Morris has analysis.

The future of Congress is up in the air, but I think the MSM's hard sell of the "coming" Democratic takeover may possibly be playing a role in improving prospects for Republicans. In the wake of September 11th's anniversary, as well as the thwarted airline attacks of August, the public is considering the reality of a Democratic Congress and perhaps finding it a worrisome prospect. For instance, on Tuesday Sen. John Kerry said "The President's policy is in fact creating terrorists." Yes, Mr. Kerry, terrorism is all President Bush's fault. Isn't everything?

Looking ahead to 2008, The Hill (subject link) reports that former DNC head Terry McAuliffe will be chairing Hillary Clinton's run for the Presidency. One word: ick.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

George Lucas Funds Biggest Donation in USC History

More Southern California news: George Lucas, already a major donor to the University of Southern California, today announced a $175 million donation to build a new state-of-the-art facility for USC's film school.

I note this not only because I'm a STAR WARS fan, but because our daughter attends said university. :)

Today it was also announced that Mr. Lucas will be the Grand Marshal of the 2007 Rose Parade. 2007, as all STAR WARS fans know, will mark the 30th anniversary of the release of the first STAR WARS film.

Let's just hope that this year Stephanie Edwards isn't left covering the parade in the rain...

Back to Back to Back to Back...and Then Some!

One of the wonderful things about baseball is that inevitably, eventually...magic happens.

Monday night was one of those nights. The Los Angeles Dodgers became only the fourth team in baseball history to hit four back-to-back home runs, and the first team ever to do it coming from behind in the ninth inning. They capped the amazing rally with yet another home run in the tenth inning, a walk-off which vaulted the Dodgers back into first place. (A position they unfortunately fell back out of on Tuesday.)

You can read excerpts of Vin Scully's call here. Or check the team's official site and see if the video clips are still available.

Read more on this exciting night here, here, and here.

Wednesday Update: Video is available at this MLB link. (Hat tip: The Irish Trojan.)

Further Update: Don't miss this story on Vin Scully, who had a hard time getting to sleep after all the excitement Monday night.

"Translating the Pope"

Kathleen Parker at Real Clear Politics analyzes Pope Benedict's speech. "One can decide that the pope is full of business, or that he's lacking in diplomatic skills. Or, one could conclude that he is the bravest man on Earth."

Lee Smith at The Weekly Standard writes that the Pope is "fighting for hearts and minds" in Europe.

The Washington Times Op-Ed page has a good piece by Tony Blankley on warnings from both the Pope and Henry Kissinger.

It's hard to understand hand-wringing of someone such as E.J. Dionne, who seems to believe in Rosie O'Donnell style moral equivalency.

Betsy Newmark writes that those of all faiths should support the Pope. I certainly concur.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Border Fence Vote?

Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters says Senate Majority Leader Frist intends to hold a vote on a border fence:

"It will force the Senate to vote on an issue that many people see as critical to our national security, and the bill provides a common-sense solution to the chronically porous border in the American Southwest. Those who vote against it, and especially those who attempt to filibuster it, will have to answer why they insisted on linking national security to normalization for illegal immigrants...

"Keep an eye out for the fence's vote later this week. I'm guessing that supporters of comprehensive immigration reform will attempt a filibuster, but it will be tough to go home and explain why Congress can't build a border barrier as a first step towards that end."

Actually funding the fence is another matter. Morrissey speculates that passage of the bill would put pressure on Congress to then actually fund it.

"I Forgive, I Forgive"

The dying words of Sister Leonella, who was likely murdered by Islamic Jihadists, after devoting decades of her life to helping those in need.

It strikes me that, just as Pope John Paul II was instrumental in the battle against Communism, Pope Benedict XVI may prove to play a significant role in the ongoing worldwide battle against Islamofascists, who respond to the slightest questioning or criticism -- whether in editorial cartoons or by the Pope -- with riots and murder.

And where are the Islamic leaders from this so-called "religion of peace" speaking out against the violence? Not daring to open their mouths, I suspect.

Particularly after the murder of Sister Leonella, it's hard not to think that, by speaking out, the Pope has put his life at some level of risk. He is in my prayers.

The Anchoress, a fine writer, has continuous updates on this important story.

Richard John Neuhaus of First Things: "It can be argued that the Regensburg lecture will turn out to be the most important statement by a world leader in the post–September 11 period."

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Patricia Kennedy Lawford Dies at 82

As a member of the Kennedy family, Mrs. Lawford witnessed some of our nation's most fascinating -- and tragic -- history.

Further obituaries can be found at The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post.

Coulter on Clinton and Terrorism

In her trademark no-holds-barred style, Ann Coulter describes former President Clinton's refusal to seriously address terrorism during his time in office.

She concludes: "Democrats are hoping we'll forget the consequences of the Democrat strategy of doing nothing in response to terrorism and abandon the Bush policies that have kept this nation safe since 9/11."

Tonight's Movie: The Tall T (1957)

Tonight's movie was a well-done Western made by the same team responsible for the previous year's SEVEN MEN FROM NOW (1956): actor Randolph Scott, writer Burt Kennedy, and director Budd Boetticher. In this go-around, instead of Gail Russell and Lee Marvin we have Maureen O'Sullivan as the woman with questionable taste in choosing a husband and Richard Boone as the colorful outlaw.

Scott is once again a great Western hero, a man of character and know-how who patiently calculates how to deal with the bad guys after he is caught up in a robbery and ransom attempt by Boone and his gang. Scott's character in THE TALL T is happier and more optimistic than the haunted hero of SEVEN MEN FROM NOW; I loved his closing line as he walks away from the scene of carnage into a "nice day."

O'Sullivan starts out as a dowdy plain Jane (no pun intended) who by film's end looks quite lovely and has a happier romantic future ahead of her. Boone's well-spoken villain was interesting though not especially sympathetic, given the murderous acts he and his henchmen commit early in the film. The violence is muted and tasteful by today's standards, sometimes occurring offscreen -- yet, interestingly, in some cases what the viewer imagines is more difficult than what is actually shown.

Like SEVEN MEN FROM NOW, THE TALL T was filmed outside beautiful Lone Pine, California. Our family drives through the area most summers as we travel up the 395 to the High Sierras. Watching Boetticher's films, one can almost smell the dust and the pine trees. You can read more about Lone Pine in ON LOCATION IN LONE PINE by the late Dave Holland.

Screenwriter Burt Kennedy later directed one of my favorite comedies, SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF! with James Garner. Kennedy was a veteran of WWII who is buried at Arlington National Cemetery; interesting information on his military career can be read at the official Arlington website. The back of his tombstone reads: "WRITER PRODUCER DIRECTOR OF MOTION PICTURES NOTABLY WESTERNS WHICH HAVE STRIVED TO PRESERVE OUR GREAT AMERICAN HERITAGE."

THE TALL T was filmed in Technicolor and runs 78 minutes. It is available on video.

Update: THE TALL T is now available as part of the Films of Budd Boetticher collection. It can also be purchased as a single title from the Sony Choice "MOD" line.

2018 Update: THE TALL T is now available on Blu-ray from Indicator.

2019 Update: I had the wonderful opportunity to see this film in 35mm at The Autry Museum of the American West.

"The Trap"

Bill Kristol writes in The Weekly Standard that November's election will be centered on national security.

If recent upswings for Republicans in polls are any indication, it seems the public may be realizing this and not liking what the Democrats have to offer on this issue...which is nothing.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Radio Rumors

Brian Maloney of Inside Radio says word is that Sean Hannity will leave ABC radio sometime after the ABC/Citadel merger is complete.

Details are vague, but Citadel may be disenchanted with talk radio, not interested in paying top dollar for hosts, and/or more interested in local talk shows.

We shall see.

"What Did Fitzgerald Know, and When Did He Know It?"

So asks one of my favorite attorney/pundits, Victoria Toensing.

She notes, incidentally, that any witness is free to discuss their testimony and that there was no legal basis for Armitage to remain silent all these years. "By his silence, Mr. Armitage is responsible for one of the most factually distorted investigations in history."

Her conclusion: "It is not just Mr. Armitage who should apologize. So should Joe Wilson and Pat Fitzgerald."

And Mr. Fitzgerald should dismiss the case against Scooter Libby immediately.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Gee, That's Mature

John Kerry, threatening to run for President again, says of the Swift Boat Veterans: "I’m prepared to kick their ass from one end of America to the other."

Just the kind of temperament I want in a potential President.

Taking into account the Democrats' recent threats to ABC over the airing of THE PATH TO 9/11, it seems as though one of the Democrats' tactics is now going to be bullying and intimidation, rather than campaigning based on the truth...because the truth isn't on their side.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Everybody Loves Richard Armitage...Not

Robert Novak (linked above) is none too happy with Richard Armitage's version of the Plamegate "leak" Novak published "Real Story Behind Armitage's Role."

Captain's Quarters has some interesting analysis on the import of Novak's assertions.

Meanwhile, Plame and Wilson are trying to salvage their anti-Bush lawsuit by suing Armitage, while simultaneously claiming he wasn't part of the supposed Bush-Rove attempt to ruin their lives.

Some people just don't know when to quit...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Happy First Bloggiversary... Missy of Missyisms!

Missy and I met online in the early '90s on Prodigy, thanks to our common interests in children's literature and movies. Back in those days of limited online minutes, charges for more than 30 emails a month (!), and no Internet "surfing," I don't think we ever envisioned we'd each be doing this thing called "blogging" so many years later.

Congrats, Missy, and good wishes for happy blogging for many years to come. :)

Tonight's Movie: Seven Men From Now (1956)

SEVEN MEN FROM NOW (1956) is a tremendously effective Western starring Randolph Scott, Gail Russell, and Lee Marvin. Produced by John Wayne's Batjac Productions and directed by Budd Boetticher, the movie tells the story of an ex-sheriff on the hunt for the gang of outlaws who murdered his wife during a robbery. Along the way he meets a struggling pioneer woman (Russell) and her ineffectual husband (Walter Reed), as well as an old nemesis (Marvin, who comes close to stealing the movie).

The movie grabs the attention from the opening credits sequence and the rainy campfire scene that follows. Burt Kennedy's dialogue is concise and amusing, every word carefully chosen. The title song is used effectively as background music throughout the film. The Alabama Hills landscapes, filmed outside Lone Pine, California, are breathtaking. About my only complaint was the last line of the script could have been a little more decisive.

In short, it's a pretty perfect little Western. It was a treat to see it for the first time.

This widescreen movie was filmed in color and runs a brief 78 minutes.

SEVEN MEN FROM NOW is available in a superb print on DVD, in a Collector's Edition filled with extras, including a commentary, a documentary on director Budd Boetticher, and shorter featurettes on actress Gail Russell and the Lone Pine location. Well worth the investment if you like classic Westerns.

July 2012 Update: There's a little more on this film in my review of DECISION AT SUNDOWN (1957).

"Bonding Through DVD"

A very nice article from USA TODAY on the pleasure of sharing great movies with family and friends.

"Nine years after DVD arrived in stores, the format...also is helping people pass their movie memories along to family and friends. And studios are packaging more classic fare that allows them to do it."

As readers here may have gathered, we are a multi-generational movie-loving family. :) Sharing beloved movies with our children has been and continues to be a special experience.

Having grown up in the pre-VCR era where the only resources for classic movies were revival theaters in Los Angeles (trips our family made on a regular basis) or heavily edited, commercial filled TV airings, I am still continually amazed and grateful that I can watch any of my favorite movies, any time I want, on a lovely flat-screen TV. And I love the ease with which I can try new-to-me films, such as my recent exposure to film noir. It's wonderful that so many titles are being released on DVD.

I also appreciate that, thanks to DVD, my children have plenty of quality television to watch, though they rarely watch any programs currently in production. My 11-year-old, for example, is just the age I was when THE WALTONS first aired, and she loves it with the same intensity that I did. My boys are crazy for EMERGENCY!, another childhood favorite which has held up surprisingly well -- and which provides them with wonderful role models of people in "helping" professions, in addition to being entertaining.

The article touches on a variety of topics, including using movies as teaching tools and the ease of sharing DVDs. (Our neighbors are borrowing our copy of UNITED 93 this week...)

Retailer Exclusive DVD Bonus Discs, Part 2

As I wrote just about a year ago, retailer exclusive bonus discs are a trend I don't care for. I want to know that I'm buying the same DVD set regardless of store, and shop for the best price.

Unfortunately, one year later the trend goes on. Amazon has the best price for Season 2 of GREY'S ANATOMY, released today.

But for $3 more, Target is selling the same set with a bonus disc.

I don't like paying extra to support the very trend I don't care for. Yet if I'm going to buy a set, I'd like it to be as complete as possible. Rumor has it the bonus disc has a special "recap" episode. Arrrggh. What to do?

What Are Democrats Hiding?

Democrats nationwide are battling against new voter identification laws, designed to prevent fraudulent voting.

I just don't buy the idea that this will "disenfranchise" the poor or elderly. If you can take the trouble to register and vote, you can take a little extra trouble to obtain and produce a photo ID or other identification.

I think we all know the real reasons the Democrats are fighting this... (For a hint, check out this book by John Fund.)

Monday, September 11, 2006

In Remembrance

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Tonight's Movie: The Fastest Gun Alive (1956)

Tonight I wanted a change of pace and picked out a Western, as I haven't watched one in a while. THE FASTEST GUN ALIVE (1956) seemed like an appropriate choice, in honor of the late Glenn Ford.

George Temple (Ford) is a mild-mannered storekeeper with a lovely wife (Jeanne Crain) and a baby on the way. But George is tortured by a secret past as "the fastest gun alive." One day he cracks and demonstrates his shooting skills to the townspeople. And then a man (Broderick Crawford) who wants to be the fastest gun alive arrives in town...

This is a quiet movie which is more talk than action. While not a particularly exciting film, it builds to a moving climax. Ford and Crain are touching in the leads, and a wealth of well-known Western actors, including Leif Erickson, Chubby Johnson, and Virginia Gregg, fill the roles of the townspeople. Crawford's henchmen are played by Noah Beery and John Dehner.

A curiosity in the film is the inclusion of Russ Tamblyn in the cast as one of the townspeople. Early on in the film Tamblyn performs a 7 BRIDES style acrobatic number at a town dance. It's a fun piece, though a bit jarring as it really has nothing to do with the story which has just started developing, and his character isn't integral to the plot. Perhaps the dance was meant to demonstrate it's a nice town?

The musical score, incidentally, is by Andre Previn.

THE FASTEST GUN ALIVE was directed and co-written by Russell Rouse. It was filmed in black and white. Various sources peg the running time at 89, 91, 92, and 95 minutes; my videotape clocked in at 89 minutes.

The movie is available on video

THE FASTEST GUN ALIVE isn't a top-tier movie, but it rewards the patient viewer and is worth seeing.

August 2010 Update: THE FASTEST GUN ALIVE is now available in DVD-R format from the Warner Archive.

2023 Update: THE FASTEST GUN ALIVE will be released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive in July 2023. My review of the Blu-ray may be read here.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Tonight's Movie: United 93 (2006)

I approached UNITED 93 with a good deal of trepidation. When it was released a few months ago, I was intrigued by its outstanding reviews and inspiring story, yet I wasn't sure I actually wanted to view the ordeal experienced by the passengers on United 93. I decided not to see it in a movie theater, as I felt seeing it in the dark on the big screen would be too intense. I wanted to be able to put some emotional distance between myself and the movie by watching it on a smaller screen, with my finger on the fast-forward button if things got to be too much.

Earlier this week the film was released on DVD. I was still uncertain about viewing it, but Mike Clark of USA Today, a film critic I particularly like, mentioned in his 4-star DVD review that among other things, UNITED 93 is "one of the best films about on-the-job professionals ever made."

I was especially interested in the story of the air traffic controllers on that day, and I decided that viewing this film as we approach September 11th would be a meaningful way to mark this somber anniversary. (Has it really been half a decade since that day?) I'll be honest, I did use that fast-forward button a couple of times. I just couldn't watch the evil in action, as the hijackers prayed at the start of the film and then again when they took over the plane.

That said, this was a superbly made film. The low-key documentary-style approach was pitch perfect. How many of us have sat in an airport lounge with the early morning sunlight streaming through the windows, watching the crew walk past us as we wait to board a flight? Small details like that brought home that these were ordinary people on an ordinary flight. Or so they thought.

The remarkable quick thinking and bravery of those on United 93 is fully captured. Truly, these men and women were American patriots to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude.

As I expected, I particularly enjoyed, if that word can be used in this context, the depiction of the air traffic controllers. Ben Sliney, who was on his first day as the FAA's Head of Operations on 9/11, plays himself, as do other cast members. Non-actors, including at least one actual stewardess, fill other roles. (Indeed, the only actor I recognized in the film was Gregg Henry.) Watching the controllers unravel what was happening in the skies was as gripping as any suspense film I've ever seen, even knowing the story. One of the wonderful things that happened on that day, along with the heroism of the passengers of Flight 93, was the courageous and unprecedented decision to ground every plane flying over the United States.

The movie has a running time of one hour and 51 minutes. (The final 10 minutes is a written epilogue and the end credits.) It is rated R for language and intensity.

Roger Ebert's four-star review can be read here.

A 2-disc special edition DVD, which contains a couple of extra documentaries, including one on the flight controllers, was apparently made in very limited quantities and is not easily available. Both the single- and double-disc editions of the DVD contain a director commentary.

Was UNITED 93 worth seeing? Yes.

I recommend watching this film, whether this coming week or in the future, as a very meaningful way to remember the heroism of our fellow Americans.

Congrats to Our Friends at The Shelf...

...on their one-year bloggiversary!

You'll find lots of great links for movies, music, and books at The Shelf, as well as occasional political commentary. Check it out. :)

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Sound of Goodbye

Peggy Noonan with a reflection on 9/11 which is both inspiring and tear-inducing.

Read it.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Richard Armitage, A True Friend

Richard Armitage has finally broken his silence, and he says he remained silent about his role as the Plamegate leaker at the request of prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald's request raises questions in and of itself; why did he suppress the truth and carry on with an investigation when the matter was "solved" from the time he was assigned the case?

But setting that aside for the moment, Armitage's self-defense is too cute for words -- in essence, "The President made me do it."

As described by the New York Times: "Expressing irritation over assertions in some newspaper editorials and on some Internet blogs that, by his silence, he had been disloyal to the Bush administration, Mr. Armitage said that he had followed Mr. Bush’s repeated instruction to administration officials to cooperate with the Fitzgerald inquiry. 'I felt like I was doing exactly what he wanted,' he said."

Yes, Mr. Armitage, I'm sure the President wanted you to remain completely silent while his closest friends and advisors had their jobs threatened, racked up huge attorneys' bills, and had their reputations trashed. Not to mention the distractions and problems it caused for the Administration as a whole.

I'd like to know, at any time in the last few years did Mr. Armitage ever try going back to Fitzgerald, prior to this week, and see if Fitzgerald would consent to him speaking out about his role? Was there anyone in the Administration, such as the counsel's office, he could ethically have spoken to, to receive advice on his dilemma?

Armitage seems proud of not having hired a lawyer. Maybe, as he saw his colleagues' mounting legal bills, he should have spent some money on a lawyer himself to see if there was anything he could do to help them, given the truth he knew? What would the legal ramifications have been if he had spoken out despite Fitzgerald's request? Was he afraid of irritating Fitzgerald and being prosecuted, so he saved his own hide by keeping silent and letting others take the blame for his actions?

Saturday Update: Many thanks to Michael Weiss of Slate for the kind mention.

Federal Spending Database Passes Senate

The holds were finally busted and the bill has now passed the Senate... Captain's Quarters has the details.

Rush Limbaugh's CBS News Editorial

I didn't see Rush Limbaugh's editorial on CBS News tonight, as I had no desire to see Katie Couric -- or any other "Big 3" network anchor -- deliver the news. Brit Hume's Special Report is all the news I need. :)

However, thanks to the Internet, if you missed Rush you can watch his editorial online at the above link. It's a nice piece on fighting militant Islam.

"What Did ABC Edit?"

Hugh Hewitt has some of the latest info on the topic of THE PATH TO 9/11. Senate Democrats are threatening ABC if the network goes forward airing the film.

Hugh sums it up neatly: "It was a feckless and dissolute administration, staffed in many key places by the vain and the vacuous. The collective impact on the national security was one of fundamental unseriousness about everything. The bill was paid, and not by them. Now they resent any recollection of their fecklessness."

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Clinton & Co. on the Warpath

Bill Clinton and former members of his administration are very unhappy with ABC's THE PATH TO 9/11 and its portrayal of the administration's "wall" between the FBI and CIA and its missed opportunities to capture Bin Laden (which Bill Clinton himself described in a 2002 speech, only to recant his statements years later).

The former President personally called the head of Disney/ABC, Robert Iger, to ask that the program be edited. Now Madeleine Albright, Sandy Berger, and Bruce Lindsey have all written ABC to protest the film.

The idea that Sandy Berger, the man who stole Clinton Administation documents regarding 9/11 from the National Archives, would attempt to act as some sort of arbiter of truth is particularly amusing.

ABC is rumored to have made "minor edits" over the holiday weekend, following the former President's phone call.

The New York Times reports an ABC spokesperson appears to be leaving the door open to further changes: "It is common practice to continue to make edits to strengthen a project right up to the broadcast date."

There are literally hundreds of "screeners" already in the hands of talk show hosts and pundits. Hopefully ABC is smart enough to realize that if they cave in to pressure from Clinton & Co., it will soon be obvious to the American public.

Thursday Update: Mr. Clinton is apparently going so far as to demand the movie not be shown if it's not censored.

Rush Limbaugh points out this morning that the movie is also critical of Republicans, and, for example, it takes Richard Clarke seriously when most conservatives think he's a "doofus." Yet Republicans aren't up in arms and complaining. Rush says that this episode shows just how flimsy the "Clinton legacy" is, when the Clintonites aren't able to just ignore any supposed errors and move on. They apparently fear that a single TV-movie can undo the administration's reputation.

Arnold Uses His Veto Pen

Governor Schwarzenegger has today announced a veto of two bills recently passed by the California legislature.

Today he vetoed a law that would have given homosexuals special protection from "discrimination" in public school textbooks and classrooms -- how discrimination would have been defined is anyone's guess -- saying homosexuals are already protected from discrimination under the state Constitution.

The Governor also announced he will veto the law which would establish a "single payer" state-run health care system.

Conservatives such as myself are in a quandary when it comes to whether or not to vote for the governor's re-election. Governor Schwarzenegger has taken a number of positions with which I very strongly disagree. While he made a good decision today to prevent the further encroachment of the homosexual agenda into classrooms, just a few days ago he supported a law preventing any school with a moral conduct code from receiving state funding.

If a Democrat were governor, we would now be facing being forced into a government healthcare system.

Is half a loaf better than none?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Around the Blogosphere Today

Lots of bloggy goodness on the 'Net are a few highlights.

Hugh Hewitt (linked above) posts an email claiming that ABC executives met over the holiday weekend to consider whether or not to accede to Bill Clinton's request that they edit THE PATH TO 9/11. Apparently some minor changes resulted. With hundreds of "screeners" already available, bloggers and pundits will easily be able to compare and see if the changes were significant or not.

Ed Morrissey posts on the restrictions on free speech as we enter the "McCain-Feingold blackout period" prior to the election. Ed: "If you feel just a little less free today, this is the reason why." I hope the Supreme Court will be revisiting this clearly unconstitutional law at some point in the future.

Speaking of the Supreme Court, Betsy's Page recently pointed out an interesting interview with Justice Alito and his wife.

Rush Limbaugh on immigration today, headlined "No immigration bill better than a bad one": "The House is the only body that's been right on this, but McCain and sadly the White House, led the Senate and defined what this bill is going to be, and that makes the House effort to get this done impossible." I'm not certain whether this piece is available on the "free" side of Rush's site, but it's worth taking a look.

NewsBusters notes that Katie Couric's CBS News has hired the liberal historian Douglas Brinkley.

Finally, NBC's prima donna David Gregory had another temper tantrum today, after Tony Snow said that David had "nicely summarized the Democratic point of view." Apparently the truth hurts.

You Know You Want to Peek... the newly released photo of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' baby. Apparently she really does exist.

And that should just about do it for this blog's first and only Baby Suri post. :)

New Books: Limbaugh, Williams


I've enjoyed his previous books, ABSOLUTE POWER and PERSECUTION, and look forward to his latest effort.

I'm also intrigued by Juan Williams' new book, ENOUGH: THE PHONY LEADERS, DEAD-END MOVEMENTS, AND CULTURE OF FAILURE THAT ARE UNDERMINING BLACK AMERICA, AND WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT. Although at times I find Juan frustratingly obtuse, he has always struck me as a decent man with a bit of a conservative streak hiding under the liberalism. (It thus wasn't too much of a surprise to learn his son is running for office as a Republican.) One of his previous books, THIS FAR BY FAITH, chronicled African-American religious history.

Tonight's Dinner: Cola Pot Roast

A few weeks ago I resurrected my crockpot, inspired by an interesting cookbook, THE FIX-IT AND FORGET-IT COOKBOOK (linked above).

Tonight we tried one of the more unusual recipes, Cola Roast. I've previously had Ribs in Coca-Cola and liked them, which made me brave enough to try the recipe. It consists of pouring one packet of onion soup mix (I used Lipton's Beefy Onion mix) and two cans of Classic Coke over a roast and letting it cook away in the crockpot all day.

It may sound a bit unusual, but it was really tasty. The marinade juices were good poured over the roast and mashed potatoes. Easy and everybody liked it -- can't ask for more than that!

It's a Boy!

Japan has a new member of the family who is now third in line to the Imperial Throne, as Princess Kiko -- wife of the Crown Prince's younger brother -- has given birth to a boy.

Crown Prince Naruhito and his wife, Masako, have thus far only been blessed with a daughter, Aiko. A movement has been underway in Japan to change succession laws so that a girl can inherit the throne. This apparently didn't please the "suits" of the Imperial Household Agency, the powers behind the throne. Out of the blue Princess Kiko, whose youngest daughter is 11, announced her pregnancy, amidst considerable media speculation about whether there was any "scientific assistance" to increase her chances of having a boy.

For now the newborn boy will follow his uncle, Crown Prince Naruhito, and his father, Prince Akishino, in the line of succession. Whether the succession laws are changed in coming years remains to be seen.

The Royal News Forum can be counted on for regular updates.

Weekend Reading: Los Angeles Art Deco

I found this book, LOS ANGELES ART DECO, in the store on my daughter's college campus. It's a lovely little volume filled with interesting photos of art deco buildings which were or are in the Los Angeles area.

It follows the usual pattern of the books in Arcadia Publishing's Historic Images series, with crisp black and white photos and informative captions.

As a side note, some of the buildings depicted in the book, such as Crossroads of the World and the Darkroom camera shop, have been paid tribute with reproductions at Disney-MGM at Florida's Walt Disney World. I think it's my favorite of the four Florida parks from a "visual" point of view.

If art deco architecture interests you, it's worthwhile to spend an hour curled up with this interesting book.

Elementary School: Too Much, Too Soon

Newsweek asks "Are Kids Getting Pushed Too Fast, Too Soon?"

The answer, I think, is yes and no. They are being pushed -- and tested -- way too early on "academics" like reading and math, but at the same time they're not being exposed to the kinds of things that will interest them in lifelong learning, like history, music, and art. Even quality literature is pushed aside in favor of dry "reading textbooks" which have had all the personality stripped out of them by committees afraid of running afoul of the P.C. police.

The article attempts to blame the No Child Left Behind Act, but I think the problem is actually not so much "standards" or "testing" -- it's the increasingly early ages the standards are expected to be met. Since school administrators haven't wised up to this commonsense idea, parents are often responding by starting their children in school a year later. And as the article notes accurately, "Testing kids before third grade gives you a snapshot of what they know at that moment but is a poor predictor of how they will perform later on."

The pressure on children from an early age is out of control -- and pointless. I remember well when a kindergarten teacher approached me with deep concern because one of my children didn't know four letter sounds and couldn't count all the way to 100, three months into kindergarten. Said child is now a few years older, reads just fine and is an excellent math student.

One mother in the article, whose child has had private tutoring in reading since the age of three, proudly says "It's paying off. In kindergarten, he was the only one who could read a book at age 5." And that matters why? Does she not realize that all children develop at wildly varying rates, and does she think all the other children won't be reading by, say, third grade? Will that child who was pressured with "tutoring" from age 3 really have a leg up on his peers a decade later? What matters much more is that he learn to love learning.

These kinds of issues are among several reasons we turned to homeschooling. At home my youngest child learned phonics in kindergarten, in a low-key way, but he also got to be a little boy! He learned world geography, for example, by going on "airplane trips" made from chairs in our living room (he even made a "passport" with his photo on it) to countries like "France," "Spain," and "Holland." He made Dutch canals out of clay, and together we read MADELINE and FERDINAND THE BULL. He painted his version of the Eiffel Tower. That kind of "exploratory play" has been pretty much eradicated from our local kindergarten classrooms. School plays, holiday parties, Social Studies, Art, and Music have all seen similar cuts as the focus has built on "teaching to the test." And yet children seem to be worse off educationally than in my (or my parents') generation, when reading waited till 1st grade and multiplication tables till 3rd or 4th grade.

AFI's Top 25 Musicals List

These lists are usually fun as jumping-off points for discussion, but I do think this list is one of AFI's goofier efforts.

The list is too heavily weighted with movies made since the '60s which really don't deserve the honor (or at least such high rankings) when stood side by side with older musicals. One has to wonder how well those on the voting panel actually knew their "vintage" musicals.

For instance, I liked CHICAGO well enough to buy the DVD, but putting this film, with its myriad quick cuts, ahead of a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie is just, well...dumb.

GREASE is a film which is mildly amusing but never especially impressed me -- certainly not enough to be among the 25 Greatest Musicals. As I recall, there are times in the dance scenes when the camera cuts off the dancers' feet! Yet we're going to put that on the list ahead of SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS? Get real.

THE KING AND I is a fine adaptation of the Broadway musical, but again I would not have placed it ahead of such original film musicals as SEVEN BRIDES or THE BAND WAGON. I don't necessarily dispute its inclusion on the list, but would have ranked it in the lower fifth.

GUYS AND DOLLS, while fun, is just not a Top 25 musical. Maybe they didn't want more than two Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals on the list, but the films of OKLAHOMA! and CAROUSEL were far better than GUYS AND DOLLS. And the adaptation of THE MUSIC MAN was "practically perfect in every way." How is it that THE MUSIC MAN was omitted and GUYS AND DOLLS included?

MOULIN ROUGE made the Top 25, but not GIGI, the Best Film of 1958?

I would have put any number of things on the list ahead of FUNNY GIRL or CABARET, including less acclaimed musicals such as Fred Astaire and Judy Garland's EASTER PARADE or Astaire's YOU WERE NEVER LOVELIER, which has a hokey plot but divine Jerome Kern music and divine dancing with Rita Hayworth. Or SWING TIME. Or PAJAMA GAME. Or the underappreciated WHITE CHRISTMAS. Or...

I'll stop there with my complaints. If you were to remove roughly a half-dozen titles from the list and make some substitutions, it would be a pretty good list.

I'm pleased to see MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS and MARY POPPINS recognized in the Top 10. I would place ST. LOUIS on the short list of "greatest movies ever made," and MARY POPPINS is a film I appreciate more on each successive viewing. I believe its stature among original film musicals is growing with time, as it should. And THE SOUND OF MUSIC and WEST SIDE STORY definitely rank in my mind as the all-time best film adaptations of Broadway musicals.

I was also pleased to see BEAUTY AND THE BEAST on the list. I'll never forget the first time we saw husband and I turned to each other after the opening number and jointly exclaimed "Wow!"

Marni Nixon hit the a glance, it seems she might be the talent who "appeared" in the most movies on the list. She dubbed the leading ladies' singing in MY FAIR LADY, THE KING AND I, and WEST SIDE STORY, she was a nun in THE SOUND OF MUSIC...and she also sang for one of the animals in MARY POPPINS!

In closing, I note that my three favorite movies are included on the list -- SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, and MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS. If you haven't seen one of these films yet, it's way past time. :)

Update: Missy has posted her thoughts.

While I'm at it, another candidate for the list: LOVE ME TONIGHT, starring Jeanette MacDonald and Maurice Chevalier, with a Rodgers and Hart score and a remarkable opening musical sequence.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Juan Williams' Son Runs for D.C. Council... a Republican. The Weekly Standard has the story.

I wish this young man luck, it sounds like he would be a much-needed breath of fresh air in Washington.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Today's Movie: Panic in the Streets (1950)

PANIC IN THE STREETS is an exceptionally well-done thriller. A murder victim whose body turns up on the New Orleans waterfront is also discovered to have had pneumonic plague. It's up to a public health doctor (Richard Widmark) and a police captain (Paul Douglas) to find the people the murder victim came in contact with, including the killer, and stop the spread of the lethal disease. They have just a couple of days to successfully accomplish their mission and prevent widespread "panic in the streets."

The film has tremendous atmosphere, beginning with the neon lights of New Orleans under the opening credits. The movie was filmed on location, and it thus has a realistic, genuinely gritty feel fairly unusual for its era. Snatches of jazz heard in the background further add to the sense of "place." (Director Elia Kazan followed this with another project set in New Orleans, the film version of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE.)

The interesting plotline received the Academy Award for Best Story. Some of the issues raised still resonate today, including the role of a responsible press and when the public has a "right to know." Illegal immigration also comes into play.

The supporting cast includes Barbara Bel Geddes, charming in her few scenes as Widmark's supportive wife, and Jack Palance as a very creepy villain. (Palance, in his film debut, was billed as Walter Jack Palance.) Zero Mostel (Broadway's original Tevye in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF) and Tommy Rettig (of TV's LASSIE) also have significant roles.

The movie runs a fast-paced 93 minutes.

PANIC IN THE STREETS is available on DVD as No. 3 in the Fox Film Noir series. The print quality is superb. Extras include a commentary track and trailer.

It's also available on video.

May 2015 Update: I had a wonderful experience seeing this film again on a big screen at the 2015 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Answer is No

The Los Angeles Times asks: "Can Recast Clinton Play to the Nation?"

Glenn Ford, Patriot

Glenn Ford was not only a beloved actor, he was part of a bygone era when movie stars were patriots who served on the front lines.

Phil Brennan of NewsMax focuses on Ford's military career (linked above). While Brennan's assertion that the actor's obits ignored his military career is not entirely true (witness this short mention in the L.A. Times), his essay does an excellent job focusing attention on Ford's military career, which stretched from WWII to Vietnam.

Ford leaves movie fans with happy memories of great films made during Hollywood's Golden Era, including GILDA, BLACKBOARD JUNGLE, and THE COURTSHIP OF EDDIE'S FATHER. THE FASTEST GUN ALIVE has been sitting in my "watch soon" stack for a few weeks now.

Like many people of a certain age, however, I think Ford might be most appreciated by me for his brief but moving portrayal of Jonathan Kent in SUPERMAN. In his few scenes he conveyed both humor and poignance, creating a truly unforgettable performance. "There's one thing I know for sure, son. And that is, you are here for a reason..."

The London Times has another excellent obituary, and be sure to check out the remembrance posted by our friends at The Shelf.

Friday, September 01, 2006

A Retro Labor Day Barbecue

I stumbled across the new COOKOUT USA: GRILLING FAVORITES COAST TO COAST, by Georgia Orcutt and John Margolies, in a bookstore last week. I love "retro" graphic designs of the '40s and '50s so the cover immediately caught my eye.

The book contains BBQ recipes from all 50 states. It's illustrated with a treasure trove of vintage travel brochures, postcards, advertisements, and other "fun stuff." I purchased it on the spot, and we'll be making the Roasted Corn recipe (from the state of Illinois) on Sunday. We've been meaning to learn how to roast corn on the outdoor grill for some time now (we usually boil it), so now's the time!

There are a couple other wonderful retro style barbecue books on the market, RETRO BARBECUE, by Linda Everett, and PATIO DADDY-O by Gideon Bosker, et al. RETRO RANCH by C.W. Welch also contains many recipes which would be appropriate for a "cookout weekend."

All of the above titles are colorfully illustrated, enjoyable to look at as well as to cook from.

Happy Labor Day weekend!

"The Failed Lesson of Katrina"

Robert Tracinski at Real Clear Politics on New Orleans, Katrina, and the failure of the welfare state.

He makes a number of hard-hitting points, and concludes: "Hurricane Katrina demonstrated that the moral difference between self-reliance and dependence on government is ultimately the difference between life and death."

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