Friday, April 11, 2008

Save the pika!
The pika is quite possibly the cutest thing ever. So cute that it looks like Japanese animation. But there's bad news on the pika front.

A state panel has rejected a petiton to list the pika as a species threatened by global climate change.

Not sure what we, as pika lovers, can do. But I did want to give them some love. And share this really cute picture.
How's your classic movie scorecard?
I adore old movies. Give me Bogart and Bacall or Katharine Hepburn, a bowl of popcorn, and no commercials, and I'm in heaven. TCM is my friend. I would much rather watch anything from the 30s or 40s than most movies made in the last ten years. I'm not sure how your own classic movie viewing history is, or even if you care, but being in a sharing mood I thought I'd share with you my all-time favorite top ten must-see classic movies. They aren't really in order, since narrowing it down to ten was hard enough -- ranking them (and, oh my God!, choosing an absolute favorite) is just too hard. But I hope if there are some on this list that you haven't seen, that you check them out. Each and every one is a part of history that you must put into your life.

1. The Philadelphia Story. Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart. Need I say more? One of the funniest movies ever. (Ever!) Sparkling script, top-notch performances from everyone. (Virgina Weidler as Kate's little sister steals every scene she's in.) The chemistry between the three stars is magical and keeps you rivited to the screen.
Favorite moment: James Stewart in a drunken staring contest with a mounted fox head.

2. Casablanca. The ultimate classic. Can anything beat the romance of Rick and Ilsa at the airport? Or the patriotism of Victor Laszlo leading the crowd in a rousing version of La Marseillaise? It sums up in one film the nobility that people who fought WWII felt about their cause. Nasty Nazis, comic refugees, and a cast of extras that are each unforgettable. We'll always have Paris.
Favorite moment: "Round up the usual suspects."

3. Singing in the Rain. Could this be the best movie musical ever? Several classic numbers, including Donald O'Connor breaking the laws of physics in "Make 'em Laugh," Donald and Gene Kelly twisting their tongues over "Moses Supposes," and of course, the iconic title song -- all conspire to make even the most dour of souls smile. Debbie Reynolds is extra cute, Jean Hagan hilarious as Lina Lamont, and Cyd Charisse has the most breathtaking legs ever. You'll be humming the score for days.
Favorite moment: Lina Lamont making more money than Calvin Coolidge, put together!

4. To Have and Have Not. Based (loosely) on a Hemingway novel, this is the movie that launched Lauren Bacall into stardom. And from her first line it's clear why. Her sultry, sexy, "anybody got a match" line with the patented "head down, eyes up" look is a moment from film history. It's where Bogart met Bacall (and fell in love) and he's so darned tough as a cynical boat owner who finds he has a conscience after all.
Favorite moment: Hoagy Charmichael singing "Hong Kong Blues."

5. Gone with the Wind. I am not one of those "I love Scarlet O'Hara" types. Nor do I think this is the greatest movie ever. It's never made me cry, long for the old south, or want to be a belle. But for sheer spectacle, it's right up there with Ben Hur. The performances are wonderful (and I don't usually like Clark Gable) and the scope of the film is so ambitious you wonder how they ever had the nerve to start. It's not for everyone, this movie, but if you haven't seen it at least once you really need to cross it off your list.
Favorite moment: Scarlet in the shocking red ball gown.

6. The Big Sleep. I've seen this movie probably a dozen times and I still don't understand it. Never mind, just go with it. It's Bogart and Bacall again, this time in a Raymond Chandler novel (with screenplay by William Faulkner) and a mystery so convoluted that you'll barely keep the characters straight, let alone follow all the plot twists. So why watch it if it's so confusing? Because it's a great film. The crackling dialogue, the sparks flying between the leads, the wonderful character actors, and the total immersion into film noir combine to make for a truly rewarding classic movie experience.
Favorite moment: Bogart flirting with the lady bookstore clerk.

7. The Thin Man. The first "Nick and Nora" film is still the best. Watch it just for the two leads. I want a marriage like these two. Rich, sophisticated, smart and sassy. And, of course, Asta -- the cutest movie dog ever. (Screw you, Benji!) The mystery is the exact opposite of The Big Sleep, you'll probably figure it out fairly soon. But it's just a tremendous amount of fun getting there.
Favorite moment: Nora ordering seven martinis.

8. The Women. An all-female cast (there aren't even any photos of men in this movie), with a tagline of "It's all about men!" The glowing Norma Shearer leads a cast that includes Paulette Goddard, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, and Joan Fontaine in a comedy/drama about gossip, infidelity, friendship, and more gossip. In many ways, the original "chick flick."
Favorite moment: The opening credits.

9. On the Town. Another gorgeous Gene Kelly musical, this time with Frank Sinatra, Jules Munshin, Ann Miller, Vera-Ellen, and Betty Garrett. A fun romp through New York city, complete with "cooch dancers," Miss Turnstiles, and the worst museum ever. A delicious Betty Comden/Adolph Green screenplay that captures the frantic excitement of sailors on a 24-hour pass. The "romances" are true old movie innocence with a sweet boy and girl next door kind of air. This one never fails to put me in a good mood.
Favorite moment: "The Hippodrome?!?"

10. Every other movie I don't have room for, including (but not limited to): The Maltese Falcon, Rebecca, Vertigo, Rear Window, (hell, anything by Hitchcock) Top Hat, African Queen, Key Largo, Sunset Boulevard....oh God, there's just too many to mention!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

And I thought my family gave bad gifts
OK, they do. But I'm not alone in my misery. Check out the hilarious Bad Gift Emporium for a dose of "I can't believe they make that crap! Some of it is even for sale. (I SO want the guinea pig paperweight!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

I can't even watch
Coverage of the embarrassing and sad "torch relay" (it can't really be called a relay now, can it), currently on local TV. It's just too upsetting.

I think the London Times said it admirably with their headline US Olympic torch relay descends into farce.

My favorite quote from the story "We just want to let the world know that we're an occupied country," said Lobsang Tsering, a 35-year-old Tibetan who works at the company in Salt Lake City that makes the Olympic medals. "We keep asking people to remember the Dalai Lama's peaceful message. We don't want violence and we don't hate the Chinese. They're just human beings like the rest of us. All we ask is for them to free our country."

Yeah, you get that folks? "The Dalai Lama's peaceful message." I'm sure His Holiness who, after all, has a lot more at stake than some US college student, would not advocate attacking a group of people who just wanted the chance to be part of the Olympic spirit.

What I find sad is that the local torch bearers won an essay contest for the privilege. No doubt they were thrilled to have won, now this is probably going down as one of the worst days of their lives. Except perhaps for this guy. Looks like he's had his share of bad days. He's a 75-year old Holocaust survivor. Yeah, he needs a lesson in intolerance. Way to go, folks, let's try to snatch the torch out of the hands of an elderly man who no doubt lost most of his family to Nazi hatred. That'll show China!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Watch your metres
Check out this wonderful collection of British Public Information films. Great stuff!
The rise and fall of the perfect X
The perfect....robe, slippers, sweater, you name it.

Every so often, if you are very lucky, it comes along. The perfect X. The pair of jeans that fits like a glove. (If you wore gloves on your thighs.) The perfectly soft, perfectly comfy pair of jammies. The most comfortable boots ever. And you rejoice.

"At last!" you cry in exultation (after all, your life isn't really that thrilling, is it?). "I have found it. The most wonderful X ever!" And you wear it with joy, comfort, and pride. It's the article of clothing you reach for when you need to feel good. Or the one you wear more often than other, less perfect examples of the ilk. And you love it.

And then, alas, the time comes when the perfect X wears out. The sleeves start to fray. The leather gets too scuffed to be repaired. You discover a hole in a spot where there shouldn't be one.

When that time comes, it's the end of an era. You can never duplicate that perfect X. You may search but you really never do find anything nearly as good. Good enough, but not perfect. It can be a traumatic event. You mourn the loss of the perfect X. Sometimes you might not even be able to bring yourself to throw it away. It will be put out to pasture in the bottom of your closet because it deserves a more dignified ending than being turned into a car wash rag.

So today I urge you to take a moment to treasure your own perfect X. Long may it wave. And let me say, just for the record, that it looks fabulous on you.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Do what we want or we'll whine!
So today, Pro-Tibet protesters climbed the Golden Gate Bridge and hung banners from the cables. Sigh....

I'm all in favor of changing the world and working to right wrongs, but acts like this just kind of amuse and bemuse me. In most cases all that happens is the protesters manage to alienate people who might have supported their cause but were so inconvenienced that they are now more likely to turn against freedom because they were 45-minutes late for work.

I recall in college (and I'm dating myself here) there was a big anti-apartheid protest. The organizers wanted a university-wide class boycott. I failed to see how my missing Latin class was going to achieve racial equality in South Africa. After years of lobbying and protests from Presidents and pundits, the South African government was going to say "what's this? San Francisco State students are skipping classes because they disagree with our policies of inequality? Then it must be wrong!"

That's kind of like today's actions. I sincerely doubt that the Chinese government is going to alter their policies because traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge was disrupted.

In related news, Olympic torch relays are being disrupted for the same reasons. And I completely disagree with this. The Olympics are the only global event with even a touch of unity. It tries its hardest to keep politics out of things. It doesn't always success, but it tries. And here are people mucking it up again.

I'm not saying that crimes are being committed against Tibet. But there are better ways to bring about change than ruining people's days and tarnishing something that is actually one of the few good things the world has going for it. Fight, by all means, but pick your battles and make them work. And don't fight bad decisions with yet more bad decisions.

As Husband would say, "end of soapbox."

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Gee honey, you smell swell!
I've already admitted that I don't do fashion. Well I don't do cosmetics, either. And I definitely do not do perfume. Have you noticed how everything now has a fragrance? Why? Why would I want my laundry to smell like lavender? Worse, so many of these products mix scents. Why have just lavender when you can have lavender and vanilla? That's it, I want to smell like a flower and a kitchen. The mix of scents crack me up, in many ways it's just another symptom of the over-consumptive disease that has gripped America. Why have one thing when you can have two? If lemon scented cleanser is good than surely lemon and ginger is better.

Or what about those fragrances where you have no idea what they smell like? What, for god's sake, does "mountain mist" smell like? Or "mountain fresh?" Personally I never thought mountains were all that smell-worthy, but apparently contemporary marketing executives feel that the word "mountain" conveys a certain natural freshness that all good hausfraus want associated with their McMansions. Oh, how I long for the day when my friends walk into my house and say "gee, your house smells like a mountain!" But alas, no such comment is forthcoming. Perhaps it's because we have a cat.

This over-abundance of fragrances can also been seen in flavors as well. At the grocery store today I saw some chocolates that were "French Vanilla Velvet Cremes." OK, so maybe that's just one flavor, but it's far more name than it needs. "French Vanilla" is fine. "Velvet Creme"...pretentious, but OK. But "French Vanilla Velvet Cremes" is just silly. And why would I want to eat velvet? Wouldn't that just make my tongue fuzzy?

What's wrong with good old-fashioned moderation? One flavor. One scent. Stop giving me New and Improved Tangerine Kiwi Mint Shampoo. I don't want to smell like a Kiwi. Or a Tangerine. Or like mint. I just want clean. And I don't need laundry detergent that makes my cat sneeze or my eyes water. Unscented is my favorite scent.