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Saturday, September 27, 2008

The day I met Paul Newman


Paul Newman died yesterday of cancer at age 83.

We all know Paul Newman from his many great roles in pictures like "Somebody Up There Likes Me" (1956) which was his breakthrough role playing boxer Rocky Graziano, and "Cool Hand Luke" (1967) where he plays a loser convict who can’t quite escape from a southern prison.

His other credits are numerous and well known. They are much more famous than the picture Paul made in 1989 in Kansas City with his wife Joanne Woodward. He was in his mid 60s by then and the juicy "sensitive young man" roles that he was so good at were long gone. He and Joanne were in Kansas City to make "Mr. and Mrs. Bridge," the story of a couple in K. C. during the 1930s and 1940s and the changes in their lives that meet them during that period.

I read in the Kansas City Star one morning that the crew of the movie would be filming some scenes at a house in the wealthy Loose Park section of town. Being a movie guy, I thought I would go to that area and see what was going on. Maybe I could catch a glimpse of some of the stars.

When I arrived, there were trucks and old cars on the street to impersonate the era of the film and I could hear dialogue coming from within the house. I thought, "Drat the luck, they aren’t filming outside today." After about thirty minutes, my luck changed as Paul Newman himself walked outside dressed in full1940s clothing from his previous scene. There were many of us groupies standing by the curb on the street and Paul walked right up to us. In fact, he stopped in front of me! All I could think of was, "Damn! It’s Paul Newman and he is only about 5-8!" I felt I had to say something so I uttered, "How’s it going, Paul?" He answered, "O.K, how about you?" Nervously, I replied something like "Fine." So, there you have it, my brush with a famous movie star.

Newman had a long career making some great films with a few clunkers along the way. "Mr. And Mrs. Bridge" was released in 1990 and was not a huge financial success, but, I thought it was an interesting little film. It showed the versatility of a guy like Paul Newman who was able to adjust to his age and pull off a good performance.

I still laugh when I think of the hard boiled egg scene in "Cool hand Luke" and the way he swindled Robert Shaw in "The Sting."

I’ll miss Paul Newman.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What's in a name? Plenty!

Johnny Cash sang a classic song to the prisoners in San Quentin many years ago. It was called "A Boy Named Sue." The final line was: "And if I ever have a son, I think I'm gonna name him
Bill or George! Anything but Sue! I still hate that name!"

I can see his point. What young man would want to be named "Sue"? After reading Susy Lambert’s column this week about crazy names given to kids, "Sue" doesn’t sound too bad.

A court in New Zealand recently made a 9 year old girl a ward of the court so her name could be legally changed. Her idiot parents had originally named her "Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii." The judge explained that "The court is profoundly concerned about the very poor judgment which the child's parents have shown in choosing this name. It makes a fool of the child and sets her up with a social disability and handicap."

I don’t know why it took 9 years to make the change but I agree with the judge. The parents must have been smoking something when they came up with a handle like that. Although it is their kid, I think this is an example where clearer heads needed to step in and administer some common sense.

Here are some other names thrown out by New Zealand officials: Fish and Chips, Yeah Detroit, Keenan Got Lucy, and Sex Fruit. I feel sorry for the kids, their parents obviously have mental problems.

This silliness is not restricted to New Zealand. We have plenty of crazy names in this country too. Most of them come from the entertainment crowd. Many years ago, rocker Frank Zappa named his daughter "Moon Unit" and his son "Dweezil." More recently we have rapper T. I. and his kid "Messiah Ya’majesty." U2 singer Bono named his son "Elijah Bob Patricius Guggi Q" and then there is cute little "Audio Science" from actress Shannyn Sossaman, whoever she is.

What are these people thinking? Whatever happened to Bill, Bob, Mary, and Jane? How about Jason, Jared, Emily, and Sarah if you want to update it a bit. I think I would even settle for Heckel and Jeckel at this point! Kids deserve better than having their parents hand out idiotic names that will hamper them through life.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I'm still a newspaper guy

Who buys daily newspapers these days? A check of circulation of the major papers in the U.S. shows that most are down by anywhere from 4% to 10% with the Rocky Mountain News in Denver having a whopping 14% decrease in their Sunday edition sales. About the only paper to show an increase is USA Today which is basically a hard copy internet news piece.

Maybe that is why USA Today does so well: it copies the internet which is the medium that many have gone to for news, especially younger people. Most of the younger crowd I know have rarely ever read a newspaper. They claim they can browse all the news in the world right from their desktop and it is more current and less messy than a hard copy, ink smeared, newspaper. They say that a hard copy paper is "just a vehicle for ads, cartoons and sports scores anyway... They aren't ‘news-papers’."

Another factor in the decline of the newspaper is the cost. I received my bill from The Arizona Republic this week and it reflects another price increase. It now will cost me $37.10 for eight weeks to have the paper delivered to my door. For that amount I get to read news that happened the day before, a comic page that has deteriorated badly, and I am purchasing a product responsible for the destruction of millions of trees. However, I get to enjoy watching my efficient shopper wife gleefully cut out coupons that will more than pay for the cost of the paper, I have a great bird cage liner, and when I need some packing material my newspaper will always be there for me.

I admit that I check out the internet daily. It is a nice complement but, for me, it will never replace the newspaper. Maybe it is tradition since I grew up in the era of dependence on newspapers. Maybe I yearn for the sound of the corner newsboy shouting the latest headlines as cars pulled up to give him a nickel for his wares. Maybe it’s the remembrance of kids getting their first taste of work by delivering newspapers. Maybe its because I bought my first car from a classified ad in the newspaper. Or, maybe it’s because I cannot enjoy my morning coffee with out the newspaper as a companion.

Newspapers may have become to news what the Morse code became to modern communication but as long as there is a newspaper available, I will be a subscriber.

Oops! I have to go. I just heard my paper hit the driveway. I wonder what today’s headlines are!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

50 Reasons to love being 50+

When I turned 50 I still considered myself a young guy. Having been a distance runner for about 14 years at that time, I was still in great shape, had all my hair, very little of which was gray, and felt that the last thing I needed was to be a card carrying member of AARP.

However, I joined AARP and started receiving their regular publications, many of which have some interesting information. In the September-October edition there is a good article about "50 reasons to love being 50+." My first thought when seeing this was "50 reasons? This I have to see."

Here are a few of AARP’s 50 reasons about how great it is to be 50+:

#14: Because if Keith Richards can make it into his 60s there is hope for all of us. Here are a few episodes from Keith’s life: 1965: Knocked out by electric shock on stage after whacking microphone with guitar. 1974: Falls asleep in mid-sentence during live TV interview. 1980: Declares in interview, "I’ve been drunk for 27 years." 2006: Falls out of coconut tree in Fiji. 2008: Gives key to his longevity: "I’m doomed to live." Go, Keith, go!

#46: Because you grew up in era before video games: When we were kids, we played outside. Our bodies were hard breathing, little rainbows of energy and earth. We had sword fights and threw mud balls and loved every moment. Today’s kids are micromanaged and remote controlled and pale from spending most of their time indoors with electronic games and computers. THEN: Climbing trees, stickball, summer camp. NOW: Allergy tests, Xbox, fat camp.

#20: Because you experienced The Beatles: 1964 was a great year. It was the year of the British Invasion with The Beatles leading the way. Gone was the previous boring pop music, The Beatles started a movement in music that exists through today. There have been great concerts since but those groups owe it all to the original Fab Four.

#40: Because high school reunions don’t suck as much: No more one-upmanship or jealousies like during previous reunions. You can now enjoy those fleeting moments with your youth, but, in case you still can’t handle it, there will probably be an old classmate there who became a psychiatrist and will be glad to give you his card.

There is no sense in crying over spilled milk if you are over 50. You lived through some great times. I have listed four of them. AARP lists 46 more on their website. (http://www.aarpmagazine.org/people/50_reasons_to_love_being_50.html) Here is my own number 51: We get to live in Arizona.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Best Workers: Young or Old?

In the not too distant past, a person could go to work for a national company fresh out of college at age 21 or 22. They could work until 65, get the gold watch, retire, and go fishing. Times have changed. With companies merging, going out of business, or jobs being shipped overseas, it is not uncommon to see people out on the street at age 50+ wondering what to do next. Most of them have bills and need jobs but now they find that at age 50+ they are competing with the same 21 or 22 year olds they once were.

If you are an employer, this situation presents some decision making. Do you hire the older experienced worker or the young kid right out of college? Age discrimination is illegal but some companies fear the older worker because they are afraid they may lack the energy they demand in the job, will not work enough years before they retire and a new hire will be necessary, or, because of their experience, may demand more money.

On the other hand, younger workers are inexperienced and many times immature, have no track record, and can tend to have a "know it all" attitude. However, they usually will work for less money even though we know that you usually get what you pay for.

I know some of you like Desert Ghost own your own companies while some probably have thoughts on which group is the most desirable to employ. Here are a few opinions from others:

"Older workers don’t like to start anything new because they plan to retire at 62. Young people think 6 months to a year at an employer is plenty. Loyalty? Forget about it. They don’t believe in making a difference long-term, and they’re out the door at 5PM sharp … if not m-u-c-h earlier."

"Everything depends on the individual … there are good people and slackers at every age range."

"The over 50 crowd has been over the falls too many times in a barrel, and they aren’t that willing to bang the cult drum like the young folk."

"Give me the energy of the younger pros plus the experience and value system of the older ones and I’ve got a dream team."

What is your opinion? Who would be the best hire for you?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Palin Rocks Lebanon, Ohio

Sarah Palin is huge in Lebanon, Ohio, a small town in the Cincinnati area. She visited there on a recent rainy day and drew a large crowd of mostly women in rain ponchos according to Peter Bronson of the Cincinnati Enquirer. "SARAH, SARAH, SARAH," 7,000 of them chanted, waving signs that said "Read My Lipstick - Drill Now," and "Working Mom 4 Palin."(Best T-shirt: "Small-town Gun-toting Christian for McCain." That was a woman, too.)

Bronson says "the speeches were cut-and-paste leftovers." But, only the press seemed bored. When Palin said, "This is what America is all about - small-town America," the noise could be heard five blocks away.

Meanwhile, Obama refers to the McCain platform as "putting lipstick on a pig" while Biden says Palin is "a backward step for women." Those may not be the smartest comments in the world if the old adage of "every knock is a boost" means anything. It sounds like a bit of sour grapes as the polls are starting to swing in the direction of McPalin.

Rachel Hutzel, Warren County, Ohio prosecutor and mom, looks at Palin and sees her own career reflected. "A mother, a politician, a conservative - it's tremendous," Hutzel said. "I have had so many young mothers call and express their enthusiasm. I think the Democrats kind of think they have a lock on women in politics."

It looks like the Palin steamroller is having some success, especially among women voters. But, election day is fifty-two days away. Is she real or a novelty? It’s easy to make a lot of general statements initially after being added to the McCain ticket, but is there some substance behind them? For the momentum to continue, Palin will have to do more than just show up as a woman. She will have to come up with some concrete platform planks.

I like her. I think she is a breath of fresh air in a business usually associated with smoke filled rooms. McCain was McCain, until Sarah entered the scene. Like most Americans, she comes across as a real person: one who doesn’t carry a glossy Harvard degree and who may slip a double negative into a sentence occasionally.

One reader told me that she may be "Mrs. Smith goes to Washington." As I compare both campaigns at the present time, that doesn’t sound so bad.

Defending Sun City

Andrew Blechman is the author of a book titled Leisureville. In his book he is casting a critical eye at retirement communities like Sun City which he feels are eroding community values in the U. S. He doesn’t believe that senior citizens should live in an area of relaxation, play a lot of golf, enjoy a senior center, and generally drop out from the "rat race" world of the younger generations. He calls it "living in a world of exclusion."

Blechman thinks that seniors should embrace their younger neighbors outside of Sun City and not live in the world of age segregation. In other words, they should allow younger families to move into Sun City. He states that residents don’t like kids and schools but fails to mention they are paying Maricopa County property taxes, of which about 50% goes to schools. According to Blechman, places like Sun City represent "an acknowledgment of societal failure."

Andrew Blechman lives in Massachusetts, and from his photo, I would guess that he is 35 to 40 years old. I’m sure he worked hard researching his book, but, how can he be an authority on Sun City or its residents from his Eastern vantage point and looking through the eyes of one his age? I compare his opinion to that of a 16 year old girl who is convinced that her current boyfriend is the one she wants to marry NOW. In a few years she will laugh at such a notion as being the silly thought it was. The same applies to Blechman. He is viewing Sun City through the naive eyes of his youth. He has no way of knowing the feelings of its citizens and he has no idea what it is like to be 70 years old.

Blechman takes himself too seriously. Many Sun City residents work part time and are big into volunteering. Many also leave in the summer and plenty of Boomers who are now retiring say they are not going to quit working at all. This is not the selfish utopia that Blechman thinks it is. The residents simply want to live out their golden years in peace and quiet in a sane community devoid of children and crime. Besides, do younger families really WANT to live with the golden-agers next door? I don’t think so.

Although age wise I could live in Sun City, I prefer not to. However, I defend the rights of those who enjoy that lifestyle. Even Blechman admits that Sun City is "a powerful vision that has proved to be very appealing to a sizable segment of aging Americans."

That’s good enough for me.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's not a man's world anymore

When my wife and I decided in 1989 to move permanently to Scottsdale, it was a moment of joy combined with some apprehension. The joy was in knowing that I was finished with Mid-west winters; the apprehension was that it meant decorating a new house. If you are a guy, you know what I mean. We have our ideas of what a house should look like but so do our wives.

I subscribe to the code of Rick and Bubba which states that one’s wife will always respect his opinion on home decorating as long as it agrees with hers. Oh, sure, we go through the motions of selecting paint and upholstery samples, but it is an academic procedure. We are going to do what she wants although we will be told that "your opinion really matters."

For example, if our opinions mattered, wouldn’t we have a refrigerator full of beer next to the recliner? Also, what is the point of china cabinets? They cost about $2,000 and hold a lot of expensive dishes that no one uses. They are totally unnecessary and can be replaced by paper plates which cost about $2 and never have to be dusted or washed.

Another thing women waste money on is furniture. With men, a piece of furniture is for life. We don’t understand how furniture that our wives "couldn’t live without" in 1994 is suddenly ready for the Goodwill truck only 14 years later.

Another unnecessary item is curtains. What is the point? You just paid a bunch of extra money for a mountain view and you’re going to cover it with curtains? Dining rooms are also unnecessary. Who eats in the dining room when you can eat on TV trays in the living room, sit in your recliner next to the beer box, and watch all the sports you want on your large high definition TV? Don’t the women know the Diamondbacks are in the heat of a hot pennant race and the NFL games are just around the corner?

I know it is difficult, guys, but we must continue to try to educate our wives on what real living is all about and the importance of following the codes of Rick and Bubba. In the meantime, I have to get into the living room. My wife has a new show on the Home and Garden Network that she wants me to see. She says she wants my opinion on some decorating ideas. ARRRRGGGGHHHH!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

SLINGIN' SOME SLANG

Slang expressions that evolve through the years are always interesting. A few have succeeded in standing the test of time. One of my favorites is "cool." I remember that one as a kid in the 1950s and I still hear it said by younger people today. "Cool" has always been around but didn’t take its current meaning until sometime in the 1940s when it was picked up by jazz musicians to define their music as in "It’s really cool, man."

"Groovy" came around later but has pretty much disappeared now. Remember the hit song from Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders in 1966 called "Groovy Kind of Love."? It’s history, man, and you are not cool if you use groovy now. The same goes for "far out."

Remember "beatniks" in the 1950s? They were "bohemians" in the 1920s and became "hippies" in the 1960s. They have retained that nomenclature through the present day.

The 70s had some good slang like "gross" for something not pleasant (used mainly by young females), "out of it" meant you were not cool and could possibly be "square," a 50s term for "dorky." A person who came on strong was "too much" and someone who was not too sharp mentally was "lame."

The 1950s probably had the best slang of any decade. If something was unusual it was "unreal." Clothes were "threads" and a well build female was "stacked." If you had a good time, you had a "blast." However, you would need "bread" which was the word for money. A "cat" was a "hip" person ("hip" is another slang word that has survived the test of time and is also synonymous with "cool").

If you were angry, you were "frosted," if you called the "heat," you were calling the police. To "dig"was to understand, to "split" was to leave, and you were no fun if you were a "party pooper." If you were happy you were on "cloud 9." If you were upset, someone must have "rattled your cage."

In summation, I now have to "cut out" (leave). I hope you enjoyed these older slang terms. If you did, I’ll feel like I have it "made in the shade" (guaranteed success). One caution, though: You may want to leave these terms at home if you intend to get lucky on a Friday night with the beautiful people of downtown Scottsdale. You may get some odd looks otherwise.

Monday, September 08, 2008

LET'S TALK MOVIES

Are there movies that you never get tired of watching? I know of several that belong in that category. Most of you know that my favorite era for movies is 1930-1950, the true golden age of Hollywood. In that 20 year period there were movies covering the Depression, wonderful musicals, screwball comedy, film noir, World War II, and the postwar era.

Some of my favorites from then include Since You Went Away (1944) which deals with life on the home front during World War II, The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) which is about the lives of three servicemen returning home after World War II, and High Sierra (1941), a film noir favorite that was Humphrey Bogart’s last role where he didn’t receive top billing.

Later faves include The African Queen(1951) starring Bogart in an Oscar winning role with Katharine Hepburn and Teacher’s Pet (1958) starring Clark Gable, in one of his last roles, with Doris Day. Charley Varrick from 1973 with Walter Matthau is a nice little crime caper, Tootsie (1982) with Dustin Hoffman is still one of the funniest movies I have seen and the Coen Brothers outdid themselves in 2000 with O Brother, Where Art Thou starring George Clooney.

One of my favorite scenes in a movie is the restaurant sequence with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in The Odd Couple (1968). It’s the one where Lemmon goes through all sorts of gyrations and noises complaining about how the air conditioning is bothering his ears and sinuses.

There are a lot of great movies in most eras and, as good as they are, we tend to get tired of some. I used to love It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) but eventually tired of it. The same holds true for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). It’s a great movie but enough is enough.

Now that you know some of my favorites, let me know yours. Remember, your selections have to be movies that you feel you never get tired of. I’m sure you have some good ones too.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Scottsdale Fashion Square Clerks Bare It


Remember Meredith Willson’s smash Broadway and Hollywood hit The Music Man? In that show, con man Professor Harold Hill warns the good folks of River City, Iowa of the dangers of a pool table being allowed in the town: "There’s trouble in River City, with a capital T that rhymes with P and it stands for pool!"

That pool table must seem minor compared to the shock some customers received this week at Fashion Square in Scottsdale. From noon until one on Wednesday, the four young female clerks at Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics waited on customers naked except for an apron which covered their fronts but exposed their bare backs. Their reasoning for this eye popping exhibition was to promote the store’s environment friendly products as reported by Republic columnist Nathan Gonzalez.

Clerk Laura Fielding explained that "66% of the products in our store are unpackaged....or naked." Because of this, customers can save the packaging cost and help the environment by saving some of the 79.6 tons of packaging that is thrown away yearly. Interesting, huh? I know what you are thinking if you are a guy: What about the naked girls? Well, they figure that the best way to get the idea of non-packaged cosmetics across to customers is to present them while naked. Clerk Shawna Thompson says "Sex is definitely going to bring people in."

Some female customers weren’t in agreement with that and a couple of elderly ladies seemed in a state of shock. At this time there are no reports of any men complaining about beautiful 20 year old naked clerks.

I think they have a great thing going there. Imagine: One of Lush’s 2 ounce shampoo bars lasts as long as three 8 ounce bottles of shampoo. That’s astounding but I think I need to go to the store tomorrow at noon to see Ms. Fielding for a demonstration of the (ahem!) product.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Overt Texters Lack Common Sense

You have heard me complain about the self important cell phone and Bluetooth users before, but, I haven’t made much mention of the texters of the world.

The text messaging fools are probably the most irritating of all. You have seen them weaving down the road as they furiously punch in their messages to whoever. I feel sorry for anyone in the bike lane on Pima Road, or anywhere else in Scottsdale, when these guys come charging up their backside as they make that "must message" that simply can’t wait.

Recently Valerie Jarrett, an adviser to Barack Obama, fell off a curb in Chicago and twisted her ankle according to the AP. She fell because her thumbs were flying over the keys of her Blackberry and she was not looking where she was going. She admits she was not paying attention and promises to be more careful in the future. That’s baloney, she isn’t going to change, those people never do. They are caught up in the world of multi-tasking and aren’t about to change.

The American College of Emergency Physicians warns of the dangers of more serious accidents that may be caused by texters. Remember, these are people who don’t care about watching the road while they drive which brings up all kinds of possible accidents involving them with pedestrians, bicycles, in-line skaters, and other motorists. This doesn’t include injuries that these fools may incur while walking into lampposts or walls or tripping over curbs like Ms Jarrett did. Two people have already been killed in California this year when they stepped in front of vehicles while texting.

Is it worth it? I guess they think so as these incidences keep occurring. Most texters admit they are taking chances but will continue to text while walking or driving "because it saves time." One guy says that "There are a lot of things you shouldn’t do. This is another one on my list." So much for common sense.

Of course, just because one is being rude and ill mannered doesn’t enter the equation. Since when do manners matter in our current society? Ask any woman who is pushed aside by a man entering an elevator.

Welcome to the 21st century.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

DUI Ads Make Good Point

Have you seen the new ads from the Department of Transportation relating to DUI? They are over the top and hilarious. One shows a guy being stopped by a cop and when he rolls his window down, beer pours out like water through Hoover Dam. The cop says, "Sir, have you been drinking tonight?" Check it out: http://www.break.com/nhtsa/sir-have-you-been-drinking-tonight.html

Funny stuff, but it re-enforces the dangers of drinking and driving. It’s hard to believe that at one time, drunk driving and drunks were considered funny. I remember a cartoon where a guy is stopped by a cop for drunk driving and he says, "I had to drive, I couldn’t walk." Then there was the character actor in movies of the 1930s who made a career out of playing "funny" drunks. I’m sure many of you also know Foster Brooks who made a career out of playing drunks. Ironically, Brooks did not drink in real life.

The debate over the drinking age being 18 or 21 continues to rage but what difference does it make? I have seen 18 year olds who are more mature than 25 year olds when it comes to drinking, especially in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. When I was 18 in Ohio, the state allowed those between 18 and 21 to drink 3.2% beer while you had to be 21 to drink 6% beer or whiskey. That worked pretty well as beer is primarily what the 18 year olds wanted anyway.

What about those who serve in the armed services? With the national drinking age now being 21, should those in the military under that age be exempt? I think so. If you are old enough to fight for your country you certainly should be allowed to have a beer.

There will always be a problem with enforcement of drinking laws. College kids under 21 are going to have "keggers." They have their ways of getting the stuff and couldn’t care less about the drinking laws. This applies to adults also. From 1919 until 1933 the U.S. had "Prohibition" which meant that it was illegal for ANYBODY to drink. That amendment was one of the biggest failures of all time as people probably drank more during that era. Have you ever wondered why they were called "The Roaring Twenties"?

People like to drink and are going to do it regardless of Sunday or age prohibitions. We can only hope that most do it responsibly. TV spots like those from the DOT are funny and meaningful. We can only hope they are effective.