Saturday, December 31, 2005

Roll On the New Year

Here's to a wonderful new year... and may you not be surrounded by folks acting like they're experiencing their first drunk. (Ah, I remember my first beer.)

I'm set to enjoy a nice black tie party... I had a manicure and pedicure, a massage, a haircut, I have a new tuxedo and vest, I have my old standby tuxedo shirt, my bow tie is ready to be knotted, we have reservations at a hotel in Saint Paul, Badda-Toddler is spending the night with my mother-in-law, and breakfast reservations for the following morning.

All I need is a good lunch, my bag packed, a stiff drink, and to prepare a toast.

Thursday some friends of mine played poker until about 2:00 am... I should have used the following toast:

A little whiskey now and then
Is relished by the best of men;
It surely drives away dull care,
And makes ace high look like two pair.

Happy New Year

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Crying at a Movie

Tracy at Anti-Strib mentioned tear-jerker films in a recent post. He got me thinking about some of the films where guys tear up or at least get a little emotional.

On some level I seem to resist the typical heart-string tugery that most folks experience... I didn't weep or cry during "The Passion of the Christ" (although I found it moving all the same), nor did cry at the death of Bambi's mother any time after the age of eight.

However, for some reason I will get a little tear in films... films that I expect would have produced a tear in maybe ten other folks.
  • "Braveheart": After William Wallace discovers Robert the Bruce has betrayed him (and Scotland) on the field of battle... the scene ends with a fairly long shot of the Bruce sitting alone and obviously experiencing shame and guilt.
  • "Tucker, A Man and His Dream": Near the end of the film during the trial, Tucker makes his closing statements to the jury... evoking the spirit of Americans.
  • "Regarding Henry": When Harrison Ford's character discovers how much of his former life he is disgusted by... he wants to start a new life and be closer with his wife and daughter.
  • "The Untouchables": Andy Garcia's character is shot in Canada and the bookish accountant with coke-bottle glasses grabs a gun and charges at the mobsters in revenge.

I also get a little emotional during...
  • "Life is Beautiful": Joshua tells his father Guido that people get turned into buttons and soap and that the camp guards will burn them in the ovens... Guido protects his son (and his innocence) by acting stunned that Joshua will believe anything all the while you know Guido is even more scared for the safety of his wife and son.

What do you get teary-eyed over?

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Music to My Ears, Part 2: Remembering Dean Martin

I vaguely remember watching Dean Martin's show as a kid. (See my first post regarding Dean Martin.) Perhaps some of the shtick went over my head. Now that I've got about 26 volumes of DVDs with highlights from his show I'm glad it went over my head. ;) However, I wish for that simpler time... and that I knew more about Dean while he was alive.

My adolescence occurred when Dean ruled television. (Perhaps you could say Dean was NBC's original Must See TV star.) His waning years coincided with my teens when I attempted to be cool (rarely succeeding). I might have appeared even more square if I would have been a fan of Dean in those days... then again, running counter to culture and respecting the class of the swing/crooner/Rat Pack crowd might have been just what I needed. (Then again, maybe not... you've either got it or you don't.)

Regardless, I never would have been able to see Dean or the other guys. I was simply born in the wrong decade. At least I was if I wanted to revel in the style (and the boorishness) of Frank's Summit and the King of Cool himself, Dean Martin. Even the reunion tour with Frank, Sammy, and Dean only lasted a week before Dean couldn't take it anymore. After Dean got out, Frank and Sammy went on to Bloomington, Minnesota... probably the Met. I was in high school. I could have seen them, but I wouldn't have seen Dino.

Ten years ago on Christmas night (3:30 am according to his obit) Dean Martin slipped away... finally able to see his boy Dean Paul after more than eight years. It is said that Dean never recovered from the death of Dino, who died in an airplane crash. (The crash happened in the same area where Frank Sinatra's mother died in a plane crash.) According to Paul Anka, after this tragedy Dean said he was, "just waiting to die."

A TV biography mentioned that the last couple of years of Dean's life included failing health and a public that mostly forgot him. He'd go to the same restaurant night after night to eat the same meal with a glass of Scotch (I believe)... if a fan recognized him and approached him Dean would be surprised that someone remembered him.

He lived alone. He was found by his housekeeper. One of America's greatest entertainers. An American icon. A performer loved around the world. He died alone... on Christmas. A man with so much talent, a man who made millions laugh and cheer, a man with seven children, a man so cool that even cool guys like Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley wanted to emulate Dino.

No man like that should die alone, let alone on Christmas of all days.

Hopefully in the past ten years his spirit has found peace and the love of fans new and old. He's with Sammy and Frank, President Reagan, Johnny Carson, Bing and Bob, and his son Dean Paul. I can only imagine what it must be like.

I hope he still does the drunk act.

If you liked good ol' Dean, please raise a glass in his honor sometime between now and New Year's Eve. If you're abstaining from booze you should still take part... Dean often drank apple juice on stage in lieu of a glass of scotch. ;)

Why give so much attention to a guy from the old school of song, film, and television... and who has been dead for ten years? He reminds me of another great American whom I respect. President Ronald W. Reagan.

Recently, I finished reading Peter Robinson's book How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life. (He's the guy who wrote the "Tear Down This Wall" speech.) A fun read with some nice anecdotes about President Reagan (including a wonderful Italian joke that sent me rolling with laughter for more than ten minutes). If I am to believe what I've read of Ronald Reagan in various books, I see a lot of Reagan in Dean. Perhaps I should say that the two men share some characteristics.

Both seemed to love telling jokes. They came from humble beginnings. Both seemed to have the great ability to charm an audience and put them at ease. Unfortunately, it also seems that neither man gave enough to their children. Both loved their families dearly, but apparently they didn't connect in the way some fathers do. Dean kept many folks at bay, never letting most folks see the real Dean. Reagan seemed to lack many close personal relationships (certainly not with Nancy, though).

A couple of similar qualities and a couple of similar flaws. Big deal, huh? I'm certainly not making my case with just a couple of lines about these two. Maybe I am making something out of nothing, but I doubt it. We won't see men of their like for some time. It isn't a tragedy, but it is unfortunate.

Perhaps something else to write about in future.


Some of the books I've read on Dean and Reagan (with more books on Reagan on my to-read list):

Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams
By Nick Tosches

That's Amore : A Son Remembers Dean Martin
By Ricci Martin

Rat Pack Confidential : Frank, Dean, Sammy, Peter, Joey and the Last Great Show Biz Party
By Shawn Levy

All or Nothing at All: A Life of Frank Sinatra
By Donald Clarke

How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life
By Peter Robinson

By Dinesh D'Souza

Saturday, December 24, 2005

On the Eve of Christmas!

Mulled cider, hot chocolate (made with real milk heated on the stove), maybe some tea or coffee (with additional Christmas spirits, if you know what I mean)... whatever tastes right.

Fresh cinnamon rolls, hot toast, English muffins, bagels (my son's current favorite for which he calls by name), maybe eggs, possibly Belgian waffles, or even hot oatmeal... whatever you crave.

The morning glow through the window coupled with the glow of Christmas lights on your tree... or maybe that's just the blur from your half-opened eyes (that are begging for just another thirty minutes of sleep).

Wearing comfy pajamas while walking barefoot through the house or covered in a robe, a blanket, two pairs of socks, slippers, thermal underwear, and sweatpants to take the chill off (in which case more Christmas spirit might be in order)... depending on how cold it is and if the heat works. Regardless of the temperature, a nice roaring fire glowing in the fireplace (where else) sets the mood for Christmas.

I hope you enjoy the miracle of Christmas whether you are a strict adherent, a casual observer, fallen away, a non-believer, or a terrible sinner like Scrooge. In fact, I hope the true spirit of Christmas visits all non-believers and all black-hearted bastards. We've got a lot of good folks who are non-believers, and maybe the spirit of Christmas will eventually melt the hearts of the terrible Scrooges for the sake of their own redemption.

We live in hope. Perhaps at least one theft, one assult, one bombing, one slander, or one something can be averted with the miracle of Christmas. As I say, we live in hope... I'm not going to put down any money on specific liars, bounders, and cads.

In any case, may you all have a Merry Christmas tomorrow!

(By the way, tomorrow I will post my Dean Martin scribbling to remember the tenth anniversary of his death.)

Presidential Address on Christmas Eve

The good folks at Anti-Strib posted part of FDR's speech from December 24th, 1943. They found it in the December 22nd, 2005 Washington Times op-ed page... Let Freedom Ring placed it as an ad in the paper.

As (recently added commentator) Shark Bait from Anti-Strib says:
"It is a slightly abbreviated version of President Roosevelt's address to the troops and the nation on Christmas Eve, 1943. Its message is oddly pertinent today."

Address of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Broadcast from Hyde Park, New York
Christmas Eve, 1943

My Friends:

…Some of our men overseas are now spending their third Christmas far from home. To them and to all others overseas or soon to go overseas, I can give assurance that it is the purpose of their Government to win this war and to bring them home at the earliest possible date.

The American people … know that this is a tough and destructive war. War entails that. There is no easy road to victory.

I think I see a tendency in some of our people here to assume a quick ending of the war… And, perhaps as a result of this false reasoning, I think I discern an effort to resume or even encourage an outbreak of partisan thinking and talking. I hope I am wrong…

Tonight, on Christmas Eve, all men and women everywhere who love Christmas are thinking of that ancient town and of the star of faith that shone there more than nineteen centuries ago.

On behalf of the American people … I send this Christmas message to you who are in our armed forces:
In our hearts are prayers for you and for all your comrades in arms who fight to rid the world of evil.

God bless all of you who fight our battles on this Christmas Eve. God bless us all. Keep us strong in our faith that we fight for a better day for human kind – here and everywhere.

Presented in the Public Interest and Paid for by:

Let Freedom Ring
603 Fairway Drive
West Chester , PA 19382
John M. Templeton, Jr., M.D., Chairman

Friday, December 23, 2005

Blogus Interputus: Back Soon

The rush of the week killed my blogging... and I developed a cold. I'm hardly laid up in bed, but as you know it's just a pain in the ass. The headaches, the mild fevers, the sore throat, the cough, the phlegm, the running nose, the disorienting feeling of various concoctions from the medicine cabinet, and the disorienting feeling of various concoctions from the booze cabinet.

I wanted to look at both sides of the wiretap concern as well as Intelligent Design... however, neither subject motivated me. Perhaps I should say both sides of the wiretapping issue motivate me equally (and I certainly can't provide any additional insight either way) and Intelligent Design theory never seemed to rule out Evolutionary theory. Why bother then? I might post a couple of links to folks who talk about it later this month... but then again I might lose what little interest I have.

I will post this weekend. A couple of subjects are safely stored away in the hopper.

Now, get out there and shovel... you don't want to give up space on your driveway to ice and snow. Before Monday I'll have the walkway and driveway completely clear. To me, that sight is beautiful... like a well mowed lawn. (Well mowed? Well mown?)

Christmas related viewing:
  • I've already watched the 1951 "Scrooge" with Alistair Simm... highly recommended to me by a dear friend, and now I see why.
  • The Dutiful and Beautiful Mrs. Badda-Blogger started the 1964 Rankin-Bass "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" with Badda-Toddler.
  • She also watched "A Charlie Brown Christmas" from 1965.
  • We hope to get to Rowan Atkinson's Mr. Bean series and Blackadder series including "Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean" and "Blackadder's Christmas Carol"... both fond favorites (especially the scene with Mr. Bean playing with Nativity figures and Blackadder playing charades with the Prince and Baldrick).
  • D&B Mrs. B wants to get to "Scrooged" with Bill Murray... however I might not get the chance (although I would like to at least see a couple of great scenes).
  • Both of us would like to watch an episode of Bless Me, Father (with Arthur Lowe) called "The Season of Goodwill". I believe Mitchell from Our Word has seen this and will vouch for the series... it's about a priest and his currate in suburban Catholic parrish in 1950s London, which sounds a little light on great comedy, but it is (surprisingly) very funny and (as you can imagine) quite quaint, too.
  • I want to rewatch an episode of the new series of Doctor Who called "The Unquiet Dead"... it takes place in Victorian Wales during Christmas Eve or Christmas night and features Charles Dickens.
  • Speaking of Doctor Who, I'll catch the new Christmas episode ("The Christmas Invasion") on Christmas evening... and color me geek, but I'm excited.

Take care in traffic and in shopping lines.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Have You No Shame 2: Louts on Airplanes

I'm not sure I'd have the courage (or more accurately, the resolve) to attempt sex in a plane. Considering the state (and size) of most airline toilets courage (and resolve) might be the least of concerns.

That said, if you thought you had the perfect opportunity and tried it... but were caught by air stewards, wouldn't you be just a little embarrassed? If not, would you have the gall to get angry? If so, how could you justify verbal insults to and spitting on airline employees?

Perhaps you could if you were a pair of boorish jackasses. (The story appeared on Saturday.)

Have you no shame?!?!?! (Perhaps the lack of shame and the excess abuse were in part due to the couple's intoxicated state... still no excuse, though.) Again, if I attempted this I would be completely embarassed. I wouldn't be able to look the airline staff in the eye. For that matter, if I was merely acting like a drunken lout I wouldn't be able to look the staff in the eye.

The story says the couple face charges of air rage... which is a term I can't stand. Regardless of whether it is on the roadway or in a plane the folks appear to be disruptive, intoxicated, and to have assaulted others.

The pilot decided he needed to divert the plane... and the couple may end up having to pay the costs for it, which runs £20,000... or more than $58,000. Another article sets the cost at £34,000.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Music to My Ears: Dean Martin

What luck! I just popped into a music shop downtown on the off chance that they have some Dean Martin recordings I don't already own. (Not that I have a lot, I just try to find some good live shows of his... and not many are available.)

Guess what? Two appeared right before my eyes. One turned out to be one I already own (The Essential Dean Martin), but this version (the two-disk Special Platinum Edition) includes a show in Tahoe from July 27, 1962. The other, also a two-disk collection (Cocktail Hour), features a couple of live tracks (such as "Takes Two to Tango") as well as some studio tracks I don't have (such as "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby") and a song with Jerry Lewis (The Money Song).

I hope to write more later this month for the anniversary of Dean's death... ten years ago this Christmas.

If you don't know much about Dean, whether you are young or old, I hope to give you what little insight I have. He should be remembered by folks who never even grew up with him... he was a true talent.

In the meanwhile, find one or two great songs from Dean (like Ain't That a Kick in the Head, June in January, or You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You... maybe even a Christmas tune) and remember his contagious good humor.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Cult of Che - Patron Saint of Murderers and Thugs

The fact that some kids (of all ages) like the Che image and his message should say a lot about ignorance.

Che's cool? How?!?!?! Please, someone come up with some book or documentary I can check out from a library (so I don't have to pay any money) so I can better learn how great this murdering thug was and how his message means anything.

As soon as I saw the shirt parodying the Che icon using the image of President Reagan and the words "Viva La Reagan Revolucion!" I gladly bought three... one for me, one for a friend, and one for my young, budding conservative cousin who lives out of state.

NRO editor Kathryn Jean Lopez writes about the continuing trend of Che (and a little bit about the counter-Che revolution). She includes several links to other pieces about Che such as one from writer Anthony Daniels (at The New Critereon). I rather enjoyed what he said regarding the response of students learning of Che's death... crying and taking the news very personal.

"Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. No doubt the students would angrily have disavowed any lingering influence of Christianity upon their thought."

KJL also provides a link to where you can get your anti-Che shirts.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Pioneer Press: Smoking Ban Study

Hey look! The Pioneer Press doesn't factor personal freedom in their new study. Go figure.

Smoking ban fears prove unfounded

Nearly nine months after restrictions took effect in the bars and restaurants of the Twin Cities, a Pioneer Press study finds that the local hospitality industry is doing just fine.
Pioneer Press

Smoking bans in the Twin Cities do not appear to be the economic disaster many predicted
Apparently, governments may whittle away the personal freedoms of property owners providing it doesn’t result in an economic disaster.

Overall, the hospitality industry continues to grow despite claims that bans are hurting individual bars and restaurants. Sales throughout the metro area, including Hennepin County, increased during the second quarter of 2005 over the year before, according to a Pioneer Press analysis of taxable sales reported to the Minnesota Department of Revenue.
If a restaurant or bar owner closes his business due to declining business the Pioneer Press sees that as a mere claim of failure, but when they put together a study they PROVE the ban is harmless. This reminds me of an exchange between the affable James Hacker in “Yes, Prime Minister” debating with Sir Humphrey Applebee (the head of the Civil Service) over statistics. (Regarding smoking, if I remember correctly, in an episode called The Smoke Screen... although, it might be from another episode.)

Statistics? Prime Minister, you can prove anything with statistics.”
However, when Hacker later confronts Humphrey’s government study asking where he found this information Humphrey almost slips...
“They’re sta… they’re facts.”

Actual cases of establishments closing are mere claims. Of course, we can’t trust the individual to make an honest and factual statement regarding his economic failure. Better leave it to the press… journalists would NEVER mislead or falsify a news report. Just ask Dan Rather and Mary Mapes.

The data provide one of the first hard looks at the economic effects of smoking bans in the area's bars and restaurants, a debate often fueled more by rhetoric and anecdotal accounts on both sides than by fact. Among the newspaper's findings
• Fears that a patchwork of regulations would lead customers to seek smoker-friendly bars and restaurants appear to be largely unfounded. There was no significant decline in food and liquor sales in any of the counties or cities where smoking is restricted.
Any research into the likelihood that patrons would seek smoker-friendly homes or other private locations to smoke and drink?

Also, the study shows no significant decline in food and liquor sales… how does the study define significant? What’s more, is this information measured in a change in percentages, units sold, or dollars?
• Several popular destinations, including downtown Minneapolis, Uptown, Dinkytown and parts of St. Paul, did better after the ban went into effect than the year before.
Just to be snarky, what did you expect from Uptown and Dinkytown?
• Despite claims of widespread bar and restaurant closures in Minneapolis since the ban, there now are more liquor establishments in the city than when it took effect
Sounds like a fairly naked statement… please expand on this. Please tell us the number of liquor establishments that existed before the ban, the number that folded since the ban, the number that started up since the ban, and the current total as of the time of the study. Also, what constitutes a liquor establishment? Is it a wine bar? A trendy bistro that serves port? A 7-11 that sells 3.2 beer?
• Food and liquor sales in suburbs and counties without smoking restrictions are strong, but that trend existed even before the bans went into effect.

Nearly nine months after the restrictions took effect, communities are still grappling with their ramifications. Bar owners maintain that smoke-free laws are wiping out their bottom lines, while public health advocates push to further eradicate smoking in public workplaces.
Here’s a novel idea… let the business owners decide for themselves.

On Wednesday the St. Paul City Council will hear testimony on whether to enact a total smoking ban, and next week the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on whether to roll back that county's ban.

The question is, will those decisions stifle or spur the economic growth of the area?Based on the newspaper's analysis, they may not matter much at all.
Again, the personal rights of property owners apparently don’t matter much at all either.

UPDATE: 12:15 PM
Bob from the ALA (a frequent reader at Anti-Strib) dropped in and provided the link to some details at the Pioneer Press website. However, they don't seem to help with some of my questions.

Again, I'm willing to say the study was done in good faith, but the story was poorly written in terms of not defining terms... and (more importantly) simply ignores the rights of private property owners.

I should post a link to my inaugural post, which focuses on the smoking ban.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Naming a Beer

One of my friends brews. This summer one of three entries earned him first prize at a State Fair beer competition. (Remarkably, it wasn't his stout, which tastes wonderful.) Years ago he provided a couple of his own beers for his own graduation party. (Now that I think of it, this happened several years ago... we're getting old.) This man knows brewing, beer history, ingredients, and taste.

Belgian beers hold a special place in his brew hobby. As I understand it, we owe the Belgians much when it comes to beer... and they make very many varieties.

Some beer drinkers may think me a girl for drinking lambic, a type of beer using fruit, but the Belgians have been doing this for some time and the taste of peach lambic really works... to say nothing of the high alcohol content. If anyone still presses me for proving my manhood where beer is concerned I drink Newcastle Brown Ale (a personal favorite), Summit (the local brew), and I used to regularly enjoy Watney's Cream Stout when the company was still doing business.

On to my personal triumph. ;)

Last night, Brewing J (as I'll call him for now) and his Brewing Cousin mentioned their newest development... some Belgian beer that sounded something like a say-zon... but I can't quite remember. Brewing J noted that it was a troublesome Belgian. I lept at the chance to point out that Troublesome Belgian sounds like a great beer name. The Brewing Cousin looked up and said something like, "That's a good name, actually." Brewing J agreed... and I hope to have a bottle (and perhaps a label) from him eventually.

There's nothing better than knowing a good brewer who demands beer with an enjoyable flavor... I just drop Brewing J a couple of bucks everytime I'm thirsty and I can usually take from his vast stock. If I had the time I'd do it myself... but until then (if that day ever comes) I'll content myself with drinking and naming.