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Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Chowing Down" at the movies

I used to love the holidays when I was in college or in the Air Force. While in the Air Force I usually took leave for the holidays and in college they were either during term break or between terms. Hence, it meant plenty of party times and debauchery. How well I remember the three for a dollar happy hour martinis at the Peacock Lounge in Cincinnati in the mid-60s! Whew! Enough of that; I get a headache just thinking about that cheap gin.

I watch a lot of classic films, especially during the holidays since many of my favorites are on Turner Classic Movies or in my own library. Since the holidays mean eating more than usual, I was thinking today about films with great eating scenes.

One of my favorites is from Animal House (1978) where Bluto (John Belushi) goes through the line in the college cafeteria stuffing his mouth and pockets with everything in sight.

If you’ve seen Blazing Saddles (1974), you have to remember the scene of the guys sitting around the campfire eating beans with the expected result.

Then there is Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke (1967) proving that yes, he can eat 50 hard boiled eggs in an hour in spite of George Kennedy saying it couldn’t be done.

Another favorite is the scene from Five Easy Pieces (1970) in the roadside restaurant with Jack Nicholson telling off a surly waitress after she will not allow any substitutes on his meal.

In 1931, James Cagney was becoming a star in films with his portrayal of Tom Powers in The Public Enemy. This is a famous scene at the breakfast table between Cagney and actress Mae Clarke. I haven’t been able to eat grapefruit since the first time I saw it!

Those are five of the best food related scenes I have seen in film. There are many more good ones and probably some that you think are better than those on my list. Although I love those five, I still have one that tops them all. At this moment you are probably thinking you know what it is since it is a real stand out. Click here to find out if you are right. (Clue: Think of Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan from 1989.)

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Some Christmas thoughts

Last night I dusted off my DVD of Miracle on 34th Street (1947) to give it its yearly viewing. Of the three greatest Christmas films I have seen, this one leads the way followed closely by The Bishop’s Wife (1947) and It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).

There are other great Christmas films and I would be amiss if I didn’t mention A Christmas Story (1983) which as always will be shown for twenty-four hours over Christmas on WTBS. We all have our favorites and it’s comforting to watch them every year during the holidays.

Miracle on 34th Street is a great example of Hollywood’s use of the fine character actors of the day to produce a fine, heartwarming film about Christmas. The stars are John Payne and a beautiful 27 year old Maureen O’Hara with nine year old Natalie Wood playing her daughter. Edmund Gwenn stole the show and won an Oscar for his role as Kris Kringle.

Probably the most important thing to remember when watching the classic films is to watch them in the form in which they were originally intended. That means that if they were filmed in black and white, that is the way to see them.

Years ago when Ted Turner bought the libraries of the MGM and Warner Brothers films, he thought colorization of the black and white classics would be a genius idea. It wasn’t. A good example of the failure of colorization is what it did to the Jimmy Cagney classic Yankee Doodle Dandy. Cagney won best actor in1942 for his portrayal of George M. Cohan and to see him dancing across the stage in a powder blue jacket that looked like a poor excuse for a leisure suit reject, was incredible. Fortunately, viewers agreed.

I guess I am old fashioned about Christmas. Like all kids, I loved everything about the Christmas holidays and there was never any dissension about the day just because it was a Christian holiday. We would have a tree in our grade school classrooms and the schools would always have a Christmas show. Any kids who weren’t Christian went along for the ride with no concern about the Christian aspect. I think they and their parents figured "What the hell." The one thing we all agreed upon was how great it was to get off school at noon on December 24 if it landed on a school day.

Today is December 21 which is my wife’s birthday. That means a celebratory trip to the casino with dinner at the Orange Sky restaurant on the roof of the Talking Stick Resort. The views there are incredible. After that we might make a late night of it by turning on the Christmas tree lights and watching The Bishop’s Wife.

That may sound corny to some but I can’t think of a better way to end the day.

                         Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn in Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sheriff Arpaio of Arizona and Scottsdale stuff

Scottsdale, Arizona Mayor Jim Lane commented recently about a new city ordinance concerning littering that could hit downtown violators with fines of $300 or more: “This is another tool to be used, and it gives the city a higher level of control. This is a sincere effort, not a soft and fuzzy one.”

I guess what he is saying between the lines is, “Hey, drunks! Quit urinating, barfing, and throwing beer and whiskey bottles in the neighbor’s yards that surround the downtown entertainment district.”

Times have changed from my partying days. We used to think we were really raising hell on Friday nights but compared to the twenty-somethings of today, we were amateurs. Today, a Friday night for many seems to involve fights like the ten person battle in the Galleria garage a few weeks ago and strolling into nearby residential areas to throw trash in people’s yards or throw up on the way to their illegally parked cars.

All we wanted to do was meet babes and cop a phone number for a future date. Looking back, it seems old fashioned to remember how girls would give a guy a deposit slip to her bank account with her phone number and address printed on it. With the nuts on the loose today, that’s not likely to happen anymore.

Since 1981, the Scottsdale Airport has had four restaurants fail in their main building. One was the Left Seat which Barb and I frequented and thought they did a good job.

I think one problem those places had was the location of the airport being hidden a few blocks east of Scottsdale Road. Once you found it, it was pleasant to eat there and watch the planes come and go. Plus, the terminal was fun to explore.

Now, there is a catering company in the terminal called “Ciao Baby” that is going to re-open the restaurant und the name of the “Zulu Caffe”. Their idea is to offer Southwestern dishes, the ever popular “wood fired” pizzas and other dessert and salad items plus a happy hour.

They are getting the place for only $800 per month rent which seems cheap for that large space. If I was a rich and single swinger, I would have taken it, put up some partitions, and lived in the place. With that amount of square feet and the runway views, it would have been a natural.

A quick note about Sheriff Arpaio: Within the last few days, The Republic, with their usual crew of Sheriff Joe haters like Montini, Benson, and others, is going after the sheriff again. Even Eric Holder, who has plenty of problems of his own, has joined in. Holder ought to clean up his own backyard before he sticks his nose into Maricopa County. At the same time, maybe he should explain his laissez-faire attitude toward sanctuary city sheriffs.

Those of you who know me know I like Sheriff Joe and have voted for him every time he has run. I will continue to do so as one of my enjoyments in life is to hear the whining when those who run against him go down to defeat.

                         Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona and me.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The virtue of thrift

Robert Robb of the Arizona Republic newspaper wrote an interesting column on December 9. He quoted Obama’s usual oration about how the middle class is threatened by greedy and irresponsible rich people and how it is up to the government to save them from those who dare to become successful.

Robb points out activities like globalization and the destruction of free markets as a couple of economic reasons that the middle class lifestyle has become “more volatile and less secure” and that “traditional pathways to the middle class for those without a college education, such as manufacturing and construction, have been eroded.” There is no question that income inequality exists more today but is it the fault of those who are successful?

In spite of Obama’s doomsday status of the middle class, Robb points out that they are living better than ever compared to a generation ago. Houses are bigger, more and newer cars are owned, there are flat screen TVs throughout homes, most family members have access to the Internet everywhere they go via iPhones or Droids, and families eat out a lot more.

Robb then points out an internal factor that leads to increased middle-class insecurity: “the abandonment of the virtue of thrift.” Wow, do I ever agree with that!

Does anyone follow the old adage anymore about saving for a rainy day? It looks like those rainy days are here for a lot of people and as much as Obama wants to use the rich as a scapegoat, maybe many of the problems of the middle class are their own fault.

I grew up in the middle class during the 1950s. Both of my parents worked and I worked after school in a grocery store. We saved a portion of our income every week and when we wanted something special, we paid for it in cash. There were no MasterCards to max out and pay down at 24% interest per month. We didn’t have a new car every year with the latest bells and whistles. We also had a cushion for intangibles like the furnace needing to be replaced or a bad economy.

Today, people want to have everything NOW! It’s so easy to pull out a plastic card to buy that new luxury while considering how to pay for it is a minor detail. In Scottsdale I see young families with a couple kids, two SUVs in the driveway, and one income. I wonder how they can possibly stay ahead of the curve.

If the number of BMWs, Mercedes, and other luxury cars I see with expired license plates is any indication, there has to be a problem. After all, renewing your car registration isn’t near as important as paying for mom’s gym membership is it?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

"TEARS" of the USS ARIZONA still flow

On December 8, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt addressed Congress: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941–a date which will live in infamy–the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the empire of Japan."

With that statement describing the attack on the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, this nation was thrust into World War II. The first wave of Japanese aircraft attacked at 7:53 a.m. and by the end of the second wave at 9:45 a.m., the U.S. had suffered casualties of 2,335 servicemen and 68 civilians, while 1,178 were wounded.

Of the dead, 1,177 were men stationed on the USS Arizona, which was destroyed when a bomb hit the forward magazine, starting a series of explosions. Eight Arizona residents were listed among the dead on the battleship, which was moored near Ford Island on that dreadful morning 65 years ago.

Today the remains of the Arizona still lie in the same shallow water where she sat helpless during the attack. In 1962, the ship was declared a national shrine and a memorial was built across her remains. A room within the shrine lists the names of the dead crew members, and regular memorial services are performed to respect their memory. A new U.S. flag is raised each day above the site, and at the end of the day is folded and given to various dignitaries.

Time has taken its toll on the memorial and in September, 2005, Governor Janet Napolitano toured the site and pledged Arizona’s help in raising $34 million to build a new visitors’s center. ("Napolitano to help raise $34 million for USS Arizona," The Arizona Republic, Oct. 20, 2005).

"It’s Arizona’s battleship," she said in the article. "When it was commissioned (1916), they broke not just a bottle of champagne over its bow, but a bottle of water that had just come from the newly created Roosevelt Dam. We’ve always had a close connection with the USS Arizona."

Napolitano also declared 2006 as the "Year of the USS Arizona Memorial."

Many of the dead from the Arizona are still entombed within its hulk. Oil still seeps from the wreckage after 65 years and is sometimes referred to as "the tears of the Arizona." Each year the number of survivors decreases and many of them have made arrangements to be cremated with their ashes placed by their fallen shipmates at the site. Many of these men believe that the oil will continue to leak until the last survivor dies.

                                         The New Pearl Harbor Museum Opened on 12-7-2010
Every president since Franklin Roosevelt, and every emperor since Hirohito, has visited the site. All ships of the U.S. Merchant Marine, Navy, and Coast Guard show their respect by the tradition of "manning the rails." All personnel stand in silence at their ship’s guardrails and salute the Arizona Memorial as they enter Pearl Harbor.

It’s a fitting tribute to a bunch of brave guys who fought to defend their country.