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Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

I saw Elvis Presley yesterday. At the Coco Palms Hotel on the Island of Kauai. That’s where the wedding scene at the conclusion of the 1961 movie Blue Hawaii was filmed.

My wife and I stayed at the Coco Palms for three days once upon a time. We weren’t there on a romantic sojourn. I happened to have a business conference in the Coco Palms and we decided that we’d spend some time looking around the island when no conference sessions were scheduled.

At check in, we were given a room on the second floor overlooking a moat and a grove of coconut palms. At first, I didn’t make a connection between the moat and the movie. I did mention to my wife that the place seemed oddly familiar, although I couldn’t imagine how I might have thought so. This was our first visit to Kauai and it was more than thirty-years after the movie was filmed.

I continued to worry about the moat’s familiarity until just by chance I opened a desk drawer beside the bed and saw a postcard with a picture of Elvis and his bride on a (for lack of a better description) moat boat surrounded by the wedding party, all dressed in the baroque wedding splendor of the times.

Fast forward to yesterday when the air and radio waves saturated us with stories about Elvis’s 75th birthday accompanied by many of his greatest musical hits. I had an immediate flashback to Elvis standing regally next to his soon-to-be-bride with his rendition of the Hawaiian Wedding Song playing as the moat boat glided softly to the end of the moat where the two embraced.

This may well have been one of the more romantic moments in film history. Certainly, it made the Hawaiian Wedding Song one of the more popular songs at weddings in Hawaii and beyond. And in my mind, it reinforced my perception of Elvis as one of the best singers of romantic ballads in American popular music. He may have been the King of Rock and Roll but the versatility of his voice was something to marvel at, and in no song was that versatility illustrated more prominently than in the Hawaiian Wedding Song.

I like Can’t Help Falling in Love (With You), too, which I used to sing in my raspy, atonal, tuneless voice to my wife.

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This may sound heartless, but I can’t seem to dredge up any pity for Roman Polanski. He was arrested recently in Switzerland and placed in jail pending a deportation hearing on a 32-year old warrant because he  failed to appear in court for sentencing on a charge of unlawful sex with a minor, a charge he pled guilty to. Instead, he fled the United States and has been living in Europe since.

Almost immediately after his arrest, the elites of France went berserk, accusing the United States of picking on this poor old seventy-some year old man. Then several of Hollywood’s biggest names jumped in on Polanski’s side.

Meanwhile, it turns out that a lot of ordinary French people and Americans as well have no sympathy for Polanski, either. He should come back and face the music, many argue. He committed a crime, he ought to do the time. After all, isn’t that what the bigwigs have told us for years and years?

So, suddenly, these same believers in the sanctity of the law want this guy who had sex with a 13-year old girl to escape justice because he spent his life after evading it making fine movies that are applauded by the elites of Europe and Hollywood. I wonder how these individuals would feel if Polanski’s 13-year old victim happened to be a daughter of one of them.

What about Polanski’s victim? For all of the years Polanski roamed as free as a bird, she’s been psychologically imprisoned by the vile acts committed by him on her body, damaged by thoughts of this man working over her, performing oral sex and sodomizing her mind and body.

Those who support Polanski argue that the judge was biased against him. If I were the judge I would have been biased against him, too. After all, he pled guilty to those acts.  He deserved prison time then and he deserves it now.

His supporters also contend that the judge violated a plea agreement that would have placed Polanski on probation without jail time. As a matter of law, judges do not negotiate pleas with defendants. The prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney work out an agreement and present it to the judge. The judge can accept or reject it.

Judges reject plea agreements every day somewhere in America. They also accept them. In the Polanski case, we actually don’t know how the judge would have decided since Polanski cut out before decision time. Now, the judge is dead and we will never know.

Every year there are over 3,000,000 (that’s three million) reported instances of child abuse in America. Not every case involves sexual abuse and not all reports are verified. But if only 10 percent of the reports were valid, that would still amount to a horrendous 300,000 incidents annually. That is one hell of a statistic for a country that purports to be a nation of laws, not of men.

For the sake of our children, men like Polanmski need to feel the heat of prison. If only one incipient predator gets the message and decides to drive on by instead of abducting a child on the way to school, then Polanski’s incarceration will at least have served a socially redeeming purpose.

If Roman Polanski were an ordinary citizen, his victim would be just another statistic, lost in a bureaucratic spreadsheet. But the publicity surrounding Polanski ultimately resulted in the self-revelation of her identity. Samantha Gailey Geimer, now 45 years old, has decided that she will no longer permit the incident that happened so many years ago to imprison her mind. A revelation like that takes courage.

If Polanski had her courage, if he were any kind of man, he’d voluntarily return to the United States and take his medicine. Then, his supporters might have something to commend him for.

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We parked on Valencia just around the corner from 24th Street. The four of us walked across 24th for a bite of lunch in a corner café, which was almost empty at that time of the afternoon. The waitress was a nice young girl who seated us promptly and then left us to review the menu of exotic goodies ala San Francisco.

I opted for the 24 hour breakfast…two eggs, scrambled, crispy bacon, like, snap, sourdough toast, and coffee. It was good, the best the city had to offer.

My companions ordered…what?…I don’t remember. But they all raved about the food and complimented the waitress who beamed.

Following our meal, my buddy and I stepped outside while the women fought each other over the check. I leaned against the door jamb and watched a female police officer walk across the street toward us and get in an SFPD patrol car. She eyed me up and down and I smiled at her.

Across the street, we spotted a place called Holey Bagel. It turned out to be a bagel shop. We reversed our course and walked back toward Valencia. On the other side of the intersection, we spotted a guy unloading beer and booze from a truck. We decided to check it out. Turns out the guy was stocking the Dubliner in preparation for the evening’s usual festivities.

By now, the girls had settled the bill and left a chintzy tip. We decided to head for the Marin Headlands and after that, finish our day with a drive across the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge.

My buddy unlocked the car doors and like the gentlemen we are, we opened the doors for the women and saw them safely ensconced before we took our own seats.

Just then, I spotted a woman walking toward us. She was tall and had a haughty air about her. But she was beautiful. San Francisco beautiful. Not one of your stringy haired bottle blondes, but a dark-haired beauty with long legs carrying her confidently past us and onto 24th Street. I had visions of the Maltese Falcon strapped to one of those legs.

Before I closed the car door, I did a double take. My head swiveled around in an effort to check out her…um…aspects. She was perfectly proportioned all around. I followed her with my eyes until she disappeared and I thought about jumping out and asking her if she could direct us to the zoo or something.

By now, my buddy had noticed my body facing forward and my head to the rear. He began to chuckle and didn’t let up for the balance of our tour.

A couple of weeks have passed and I still can’t get 24th Street out of my mind. I intend to return as soon as I can and spend more time there.

Those were the best damned scrambled eggs I’ve ever tasted.

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This past Saturday, we drove from Annapolis to Philadelphia to scout out Philly’s historic locations, snap a few photos, snack a little bit, and get sunburned a lot. And, we walked our buns off.

Philly’s primary historical landmarks are concentrated amid lots of tall buildings without historical significance at the moment, but though the historic area may be small in size, it seems larger when you just sort of meander around.

And that’s what we did. We meandered through the Liberty Bell exhibit, the Philadelphia Mint, and the final resting place of Benjamin Franklin and a host of other Colonial personalities instrumental in developing the Declaration of Independence and later the Constitution of the United States. The sense of history and of the times made our meandering worthwhile.

However, we weren’t able to tour Independence Hall. Tickets are required for entry, but by the time we arrived, the day’s ticket quota was gone. According to the National Park Service, tickets are used as a means of spreading the visitor flow throughout the day. Sounds reasonable to me, but I was irked nevertheless. I wanted to see where those Colonial firebrands stood and condemned the British to hell, a tradition that still lives when the subject of universal health care arises.

Interestingly, as we waited in a rather long line to enter the Liberty Bell exhibit, a group of people stood near the line and handed out pamphlets about the Falun Gong. This is a religious group whose members have been persecuted in China, and on this day, the group’s message and writings were aimed at those who in appearance were probably Asian. At least, they overlooked us and others who resembled us, probably assuming, and correctly so, that the number of non-Asians fluent in the Chinese language would range from nil to nada to zilch.

Before I reached a point of utter exhaustion, we decided to survey real history. With our trusty GPS activated, we headed cross-town to the Philadelphia Museum of Art where Rocky ran up about a million steps and then, at the top, gyrated around, finally assuming that triumphant pose now enshrined in a statue at the bottom of the steps.

We, along with a few thousand others in line, stood in front of the statue when out turn came, emulating Rocky’s pose for our own personal pictorial posterity. Like the fool I can sometimes be, I stumbled on the damned pedestal and almost fell, much to the delight of the smirking crowd. I didn’t blame them. Hell, I would have smirked, too. But I recovered nicely and pranced around with arms raised just like Sylvester Stallone did in 1976, 200 years after those rugged firebrands of 1776 may have pranced inside Independence Hall. I think George and Thomas would understand Rocky’s triumph if they were around today.

After the picture-taking session, we walked to the flight of concrete steps Rocky had enshrined in modern American cultural lore so many years ago. Four of us ran up them just as Rocky before us. One of us had better sense and sat down nearby, watching the other members of our party run up and then back down. One female member ran back up and down again, and I was surprised that she wasn’t winded in the slightest when she returned.

By now, the hours we had set aside for our sightseeing were about over. We headed back, taking a route through New Jersey and Delaware and onto US-301into Maryland. As we drove, I noted when we left one state and entered another and thought about the differences. Aside from the obvious—Welcome to Maryland, e.g.—are the people different? Do they look different? Do they speak different languages, New Jerseyese, for example? Do they think differently?

These are philosophical questions for another time. For the moment, suffice to say we had a good time and enjoyed learning a little bit about Philly. As my blogging cohort, Alexandra Jones, a native of Philly, might say, “Go Phillies!” In honor of her devotion to her team, I shouted those words as we passed the Phillies stadium on our way out of town.

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We watched the Emmys…uh…Grammys last night, which was a boring pastime, but what can a man do when he doesn’t control the clicker. Usually, I don’t pay attention to what’s happening on stage, preferring instead to scan the audience for faces I might recognize.

At one point, I glanced at the performers and did a double take. Walking right into the camera was Natalie Cole. Ordinarily, this would be no big deal. But Natalie is special.

I met her in person once and we chatted. Holy Smoke! What a physical presence. She was magnificent. Our meeting happened one night as I was sitting in my office above a sports arena.

My office was almost as magnificent as Natalie–spacious and well furnished, the kind of an office we expect executives to relax in while their flunkies do the work.

In my case, however, the real execs gave me this huge space because they paid me no money at all, hardly. It was a figurehead office and I was a figurehead exec.

Anyway, I was sitting in the office around eight p.m., polishing off some late work when in walked Natalie and a little guy who, it turned out, was her manager.

He said, “Can Natalie wait here until her show starts?”

Well, what the hell am I supposed to say? “Sorry, this office is reserved for really important people?”

Besides, her physical presence overawed me. I stood and in a rather unpolished display of amateur kowtowing, said, “Why, certainly. Nothing is too good for Natalie Cole.”

With that, I pointed them to a plush couch in the corner and invited them to sit. Then, I returned to my desk.

We spent the next ten minutes looking at each other and shifting nervously in our seats. At one point, the manager said, “Nice weather,” and I responded, “Certainly is.”

After about ten minutes of chatting, a guy stuck his head in the door and called, “Time, Miss Cole.”

And that was how I met Natalie Cole.

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I watched Must Love Dogs starring Diane Lane last evening. I first saw her in Lonesome Dove in the role of a hooker with a heart of gold. That was 1989, twenty-one years ago when she was a youthful twenty-three. In Must Love Dogs, she was thirty-nine and still retained her basic beauty.

Only last night, on my 46-inch high definition television, a few lines and tiny sags were visible. And that set me to wondering if the advent of hi def will have an effect on romance on the tube. I mean, here we have these aging but still beautiful women and handsome men filling the room with every pore magnified. How will that play with an American audience that demands perfection, either natural or artificial?

The future is unpredictable, but one thought popped into my mind. Hollywood’s make-up artists may have to develop new ways of hiding blemishes from those umpteen million pixels that record with accurate detail everything withing range. That may be a tall order.

But, then again, if we begin to see these icons of physical perfection as ordinary mortals like us, perhaps our standards of beauty will become more realistic. Is that possible? Can we accept two average-looking people engaged in hot romantic scenes?

I look for digital enhancement rather than makeup as a solution. Romance demands illusion, and I am sure Hollywood stands ready to honor our desires.

What are your thoughts on this Earth shaking development?

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One of my favorite television shows is Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader? Adult contestants are asked questions ranging in difficulty from grades one through five on a variety of subjects such as math, geography, social studies, etc. If a contestant is stumped, he or she can turn to a 5th grade classmate for the answer or to an adult “coach” of his or her choice for hints.

I should be surprised at the low level of knowledge of the adults on this show but I’m not. To illustrate, one of the questions last night was “What current U.S. state did Ponce de Leon discover on Columbus’ second voyage to the New World?” To the contestant’s credit, he eventually settled on the right answer but he agonized first. Before he locked in his answer, he consulted his “coach,” which in his case was his mother in law. Her response was Massachusetts. Wisely, he decided to go with his own intuition and locked in the correct answer, Florida.

This is just one example. Adults routinely have no idea of anything remotely connected with geography, U.S. history and society, or even some elementary arithmetic. I’m reminded of one example of adult ignorance from my own experience unconnected to this show.

A class of adult college students was stumped when asked to name the last state admitted to the Union and the year it was admitted. Their answers ranged across almost all of the states and an equally varied range of years. The answer that intrigued me the most was “California 1946.” The correct answer, as any fool knows (since I know the answer, I must be a fool) is contained in the title of a once-popular television show, Hawaii Five-0, a show arising out of the admission of Hawaii as the 50th state in 1959.

Of course, Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader is all in fun, and we often suspect that the celebrity contestants may know more than they reveal but, still—the Ponce de Leon thing? Come on, yaw.

I may laugh and joke and ridicule, but I’m the first to confess that some of these questions stump me. I suspected Florida, but Massachusetts was within my geographic range as well. It’s that element of uncertainty that makes competing with 5th graders a fun spectator sport. And it can also be educational.

Take last night’s program for example. One question was this: “The 48 states are divided into four time zones. Three of them are the Eastern Time Zone, the Central Time Zone, and the Pacific Time Zone. Name the missing time zone.”  I actually had to stop and think about this one. Took several seconds of searching the U.S. map in my mind before the answer came to me, Mountain Time Zone.

But I had a hunch there was more to time zones than meets the eye The answer to the question as phrased is correct, but just for the heck of it, I checked The U.S. Naval Observatory’s site from which I learned that in the United States as a whole, there are six time zones. In addition to the ETZ, CTZ, MTZ, and PTZ, there are the Hawaii-Aleutian Time Zone (HTZ) and the Alaska Time Zone. I vaguely recall the Alaska thing but I was unaware that a part of Alaska, the Aleutian Islands chain, is in the Hawaii Time Zone. The rest of Alaska is in its own time zone. Maybe that accounts for the unique outlook of Sarah Palin.

There are other interesting angles to the subject of time zones in the U.S., but one question always pops up in my mind. Time zone maps seem to follow straight lines. How would a person handle the situation if he or she lived in one time zone and worked in another? They’d probably need a clock set for the job site time zone to make it to the job on time and another clock set in the residential time zone for getting the kids to school and to other activities. Challenging.

By the way, when I said “Come on yaw” earlier in this post. I wanted to draw everyone’s attention to the proper pronunciation of “You all.” Jeff Foxworthy, host of Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader ought to know this. He’s a good ole boy who speaks Southern.

By the way, how many Dialect Zones are there in America? Think about it.

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