Saturday, September 30, 2006

Eagles, Ducks soar

All's well in Perth, Western Australia, after the West Coast Eagles won the third Australian Football League Grand Final in the club's history. The Eagles edged last year's champions the Sydney Swans, 12.13 (85) to 12.12 (84), today for the first grand final to be decided by a single point since 1966 (the year I was born!), when St. Kilda famously defeated Collingwood.
The result was not nearly as close this afternoon, when my BELOVED Oregon Ducks traveled to the Valley of the Sun (where I went to high school!) and dismissed the Arizona State Sun Devils, 48-13. Dennis Dixon passed for 215 yards and three touchdowns -- including a pair to Jaison Williams. The Ducks' defense registered six sacks and limited ASU to 175 yards.
The game wasn't on TV here in Iowa, of course, so I read "The Rough Guide to Gangster Movies," sipped red wine and glanced up at the computer every so often to see that Oregon had scored again. I'm not complaining.

Friday, September 29, 2006

"This is the best concert I ever came to!"

Jill and Kerstin are out of town, so 7-year-old Annika and I enjoyed a father-daughter night out tonight.
After munching tacos for dinner, we attended a performance by the touring African Children's Choir.
It was fantastic.
The singing and dancing opened annexes eyes to a view of the world she had never before witnessed.
She sat in rapt attention, only leaning over to praise the greatness of the choir.
Souvenir proceeds benefit initiatives to assist AIDS orphans, and the choir program included a short video presentation on a devastated area of South Africa.
annoys purchased a turtle necklace before the program and an African Children's Choir CD at the conclusion of the show.
I think she has been converted to a kind of global joy.

FQ goes BOO!

Halloween is just about a month away and October is a great month for watching horror films, so this week ROUTE 1 asks the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
What is the scariest film you have seen?
Ellen B. -- "The Ring!"
Rick T. -- "Frankenstein," with Boris Karloff, when I was a kid.
Rob K. -- Ever since "Godzilla Eats Tokyo," I have stayed away from scary stuff. Real life is freaky enough.
Kerstin H. -- "Dracula," because of the sound effects.
Mike M. -- "The Hand." Oliver Stone, Michael Caine, 1981. "It lives. It crawls. And suddenly, it kills!" Inspired by Thing from Addams Family? Also, "Omen," with Gregory Peck, 1976, and "The Amityville Horror" with James Brolin, Margot Kidder and Rod Steiger, 1979.
Mike D. -- When I was about 10 years old, my dad would occasionally let me stay up late on Friday night to watch the weekly "Creature Feature." One week's film would give me nightmares. It was a 1966 British flick titled "Island of Terror." Research scientists trying to find a cure for cancer accidentally create "silicates" -- blob-like creatures with a single tentacle -- that dissolve the bones of their prey, leaving a mass of flesh. After the scream-filled demise of many islanders, residents are finally saved by the quick-thinking of a character played by monster-movie icon Peter Cushing. But only after he sacrifices his arm while tangling with a "bone-sucker," as we called them. Years ago, I bought the movie on VHS. It's a cult hit among our family.
Steve M. -- I was a young teen, staying up late at night alone at Gramma and Grampa's house, and I watched "Mr. Sardonicus." I crawled into bed at about 1 a.m. and prayed no sounds would emanate from the door to the spacious closet. God knows what was behind all that stuff.
Erik H. -- Writers have credited Dario Argento with "choreographing nightmares," and in his 1977 film "Suspiria" he comes the closest to that aim. I feel the vague sense of dread associated with nightmares for days after watching this tale of a young dance student who discovers that the dance academy's instructors are actually members of an ancient coven of witches.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Samurai meets Spaghetti Western

I watched Kihachi Okamoto's "Kiru! (Kill!)" on DVD again last night.
I should start listing this 1968 film starring Tatsuya Nakadai among my Top 10 movies, because it really is one of my favorites.
Okamoto pokes fun at the jidai geki -- "Japanese period film" -- in general and the chambara -- "sword fight" -- genre in particular.
He uses obviously stereotyped characters to great effect. Nakadai's character Genta, for example, is such a supreme fighter he can eliminate foes with an umbrella and disarm a master swordsman by swinging a rope.
Beyond Okamoto's satire, however, is just an entertaining film that draws much inspiration from Spaghetti Westerns. Which is ironic itself, because Spaghetti Western filmmakers such as Leone and Corbucci drew inspiration from the chambara of Kurosawa and other Japanese directors.
The who-influenced-whom puzzle can get rather complicated, so I usually just pay attention to the film. "Kiru! (Kill!)" never lets me down.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Great day for the Glimmer Twins

The sun is shining and The Rolling Stones are blaring from my car speakers as I drive around today.
Listening to these timeless rock classics got me thinking about "The Glimmer Twins," the nickname often given to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
Where did the term come from?
According to legend, Jagger and Richards took a cruise to Brazil in 1969. During meals, the rockers and their girlfriends shared a table with an older couple who kept inquiring as to the identity of the famous pair.
"Just give us a glimmer!" the oldsters would say, begging for a hint to Jagger and Richards' true identities.
The rockers loved the term so much, the legend states, they began using it as a production credit in the 1970s.

Monday, September 25, 2006

"I was trapped in a whirlpool that kept sucking me in deeper and deeper."

I watched Jess Franco's "Venus in Furs" last night.
This 1969 cult classic is one of those films that makes less sense with each successive viewing. Yet, "Venus in Furs" is not necessarily a bad film. With its gorgeous visuals and hallucinatory plotting, it seems more like a FEVER DREAM than a conventional film.
Perhaps that's why "Venus in Furs" has legions of fans.
You probably remember having a fever dream: Things seem hyperreal until you wake up (in a sweat), remembering a series of bizarre events strung like pearls through your unconscious. Well, imagine a film constructed in a similar fashion!
Japan's Seijun Suzuki also made what I consider FEVER DREAM FILMS. His film studio even fired him because of them. I think they are great fun.
As I watched "Venus in Furs," I noted at least 12 ingredients necessary to craft an effective FEVER DREAM FILM:
1) Incongruous plot elements.
2) Slow-motion action for no apparent reason.
3) Gratuitous nudity (Probably keeps 85 percent of the viewers remaining in the cinema).
4) Bright colors.
5) Extreme camera angles.
6) Baroque sets.
7) Dodgy dialogue.
8) Quizzical editing decisions.
9) Jazzy soundtrack.
10) Shots featuring mirrors.
11) Meandering voice-over narration, often by protagonist.
12) Extreme close-ups.
Add these together, and you might craft your own FEVER DREAM FILM!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Comedy of the everyday

If you have spent any considerable time reading this blog, first, you have my sympathy. Second, you know that I have been slowly introducing my daughters (age 7 and 11) to great cinema. I am horrified that they will be trapped like their peers, with an opinion of visual entertainment informed entirely by The Disney Channel and NickToons. There is a wonderful world of movies, I tell them, and then I let them see for themselves.
Last night, I introduced them to the genius of Harold Lloyd.
Charlie Chaplin had his tramp character and Buster Keaton had great physical strength and the deadest of deadpan looks.
Lloyd had... well... what did he have, exactly?
As the girls laughed their heads off at Lloyd in "I Do," in which he attempts to calm a baby while a toddler runs amok and in "Number Please," in which he attempts to win back a girl from a rival, Lloyd acts like the guy next door.
Lloyd's comedy, I decided, was the comedy of the EVERYMAN.
He places himself in situations and then works his way through them as we all might. Then, in his "climbing comedies" such as "Never Weaken" or "Safety Last," Lloyd places his EVERYMAN character in extreme situations, but approaches these obstacles in the same, everyday manner of his other films.
I'm probably over-analyzing (after two cups of coffee on a Sunday morning). The girls certainly couldn't care less about the philosophical approach of Harold Lloyd's comedic genius. They just howled when Lloyd -- in the backseat of a rollercoaster -- unwittingly collected all the hats (and even a toupee) blown off from the passengers in the front cars.
It was funny. It was classic. It was everyday.

Friday, September 22, 2006

FRIDAY QUESTION: What is your favorite album cover?

Mike D. -- Even if there weren't good songs on the album, which there are ("Any Way You Want It," "Good Morning Girl/Stay Awhile"), Journey's "Departure" is worth owning just for the cover art. It's suitable for framing.

Brian C. -- "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." I was only 12 in the Summer of '67, when the album was released, and I didn't know all the celebrities depicted posing with the Beatles. But the cover was nearly as interesting as the music inside.
However, for an adolescent boy in the mid-1960s, nothing beat Herb Alpert's "Whipped Cream & Other Delights." (See it here.)

Scout S. -- The Replacements' "Let it Be."

Mike M. -- "Hot Women Singers From the Torrid Regions of the World." Compiled by R. Crumb, cover art by R. Crumb.

Dave B. -- Triumph's "Never Surrender." The first time I saw this album cover as a 16-year-old Motorhead wannabe, I could not get over how cool it looked. The eyes, there is something about the eyes. I thought this album cover was so cool, I painted it on my bedroom wall against my parents' wishes. Kelly, my little sister, would not enter my room for fear that the eyes would do something bad to her.

Kerstin H. -- Keith Urban's "Golden Road." I just like looking at his face!

Madelin F. -- My favorite album cover is a painting by Edward Hopper used by Bruce Hornsby on his album which he entitled "Harbor Lights." The name of the Hopper painting is "Rooms by the Sea." Funny thing is, it was the album cover which led me to Hopper's art. Now, I am a fan of both. I have the "Rooms by the Sea" print in my home.

Steve M. -- Savoy Brown's "Looking In."

Bob H. -- Jefferson Airplane's 1967 "After Bathing at Baxter's" epitomizes the psychedelic musical scene of San Francisco near the end of its golden musical decade.

Cindy D. -- KISS' "Destroyer." I have always been fascinated with the KISS "Destroyer" album cover. Probably because I have a 200-piece jigsaw puzzle of the same image, dating back to 1976, when I was 8. After seeing KISS perform in 1996, I bought a T-shirt with the same artwork on it.

Erik H. -- The painting on the cover of New Order's 1983 breakthrough album "Power, Corruption and Lies" was made by French artist Henri Fantin-Latour. Factory Records art director used a color-coded alphabet to spell out the band's name and the album title with colors, rather than words. I love how the album cover hints at the beauty of the album without giving away ANY particulars. Intrigued by the cover? You'll have to listen to unlock the mystery.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

I need a Brontosaurus-sized nap

I have been working since Sunday, with four consecutive night shifts -- something unaccustomed to this relatively early bird.
Unfortunately, I have a pair of stories to write when I get to the newspaper in about two hours.
I wish I could just sleep!
I am guzzling coffee now, but it will surely only have a limited effect.
I had better to listen to AMERICAN GARAGE ROCK of the mid-60s. That should help me wake up!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Godzilla as you have never seen him

After years of watching men in rubber suits kick over obviously fake buildings, it is difficult to conceive of the Godzilla concept as anything other than campy diversion.
That's why you should watch "Gojira."
I watched "Gojira," the 1954 Japanese original film, on DVD last night. A real sense of dread permeates the black-and-white, flickering images. The dialogue -- in subtitles -- reveals the resonance of war.
Think of it: Just nine years after atomic destruction laid waste to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japanese cinema-goers saw Tokyo -- the heart of Japan -- suffering the same fate.
In the B-movie version most Americans have seen -- "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" -- Raymond Burr and wooden actors from Los Angeles' Little Tokyo were grafted into the film and most of the scenes that relate the monster to Hiroshima and war were excised.
There is a scene in "Gojira" where a woman -- presumably a war widow -- clutches her small daughters as buildings crumble upon them. She reassures her screaming children that they will soon be reunited with their dead father in the next world. You would never see an emotionally wrought scene like that in just any monster movie.
No, "Gojira" means more than a man in a rubber suit walking over balsa-wood models, and that is why I recommend it to everyone.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Comfort music for uncomfortable times

"Topsy turvy" best sums up my week thus far.
I had to work on Sunday and I have had to work night shifts yesterday and today. My altered routine means I don't see the kids before they go to school and I haven't been able to tuck them in at night, either.
So my schedule has me feeling all out of sorts -- somewhat disengaged from reality.
That's where songs such as "Time Brings About Changes" comes in. I listened to it today for the first time in ages. It was released as a single by an OAKLAND (birthplace alert!) band called the Numonics in 1980, but most people who heard it probably listened to "Rollin'," the band's 1982 album.
The song is seven minutes of old-school, sweet-soul music featuring this type of lyric:
"Time, brings about changes, and I wish I could pick up where I left off with you."
The song begins, however, with this lengthy, spoken-word intro in which the band members celebrate being back home in Oakland after being gone for so long.
It's one of the most comforting songs I know, providing a sort of balm for my usual comfort level, damaged by the jagged alteration of my schedule.
Oh yeah... Did I mention I also have to go to the dentist today? Bring on more Numonics!

Monday, September 18, 2006

What, no Vics?

I'm listening to Melbourne's Skyhooks on iTunes while contemplating the FOOTBALL IDENTITY CRISIS unfolding in Victoria.
Sydney plays Fremantle on Friday and Adelaide plays West Coast on Saturday in a first for the Australian Football League: There are no Victorian teams in the final four of the finals.
We Americans can't really grasp the significance of this historic quartet.
In Victoria, newspaper columnists and talk-show hosts are calling for a full-scale investigation. The home of the sport has no teams in the final four to reach the Grand Final, always held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Victoria.
Since college, I have followed the Grand Final: I have listened to the big match on shortwave radio, watched it on cable television and followed along online. It's no small feat, since the time difference between here and Down Under means the Australian equivalent of the Super Bowl begins about 2:30 a.m. Iowa time. Whew!
This year's Toyota AFL Grand Final will be held Saturday, Sept. 30... with no Victorian teams in sight.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Near-doppelganger wins Swedish election

If I shaved my beard, wore simple sweaters and stood around pretending to read Swedish newspapers, I could almost pass for Sweden's new prime minister!
Just check out that hairline! Is that suddenly fashionable now? FINALLY!!!
A center-right alliance led by Moderate Party leader Fredrik Reinfeldt (pictured) won power in the home of my grandparents Sunday, ousting the Social Democrats.
The Social Democrats had held a virtual stranglehold on Swedish government, ruling the nation for all but 10 of the past 89 years.
Reinfeldt is only ONE YEAR OLDER THAN ME, which is a bit deflating.
He is running the COOLEST, HIPPEST country in Scandinavia and I am a lowly health reporter for a newspaper in a town most people outside of a 100-mile radius cannot properly pronounce.
Oh well... Who wants to run a country while wearing simple sweaters and standing around pretending to read Swedish newspapers, anyway?

Rumbles, Rockers and Rebels

In an example of perfect synchronicity, I am reading Lawrence Frascella and Al Weisel's "Live Fast, Die Young: The Wild Ride of Making 'Rebel Without a Cause,'" I am listening to my 1950s-early 1960s rock-n-roll playlists on the iPod (I just heard Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen" followed by one of my all-time favorites, Johnny Burnette's "You're Sixteen") and I watched the aforementioned "Rebel Without a Cause" on DVD with the girls last night.
All three mediums -- book, music and film -- give a sense of how exciting and frightening it must have been for the teenagers of the 1950s.
The girls, not surprisingly, loved the wardrobes present in "Rebel." They loved the girls' sweaters and capris and the boys' rolled jeans and white T-shirts with jackets.
I have to work today, and I plan to continue listening to the early rock-n-roll classics as I drive around, walk to collect information from the police reports and as I head for home tonight. It will be fun to immerse myself in the turbulent (for good and bad) times of a half century ago.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


The FIVE COOL THINGS I did today:
1) I watched today's Premiership match between Bolton and Middlesbrough at the Reebok Stadium. It ended goalless, but both clubs had chances.
2) I listened to 50s ROCK-N-ROLL while cleaning the bathroom. They just don't write 'em like that anymore.
3) I sipped J&B Rare with club soda. Mmmm...
4) I mowed the lawn.
5) I read more of Lawrence Frascella and Al Weisel's "Live Fast, Die Young," an account of the making of Nicholas Ray's "Rebel Without a Cause."

Friday, September 15, 2006

...then I gagged on my popcorn!

ROUTE 1 helps separate the wheat from the chaff of cinematic history by focusing on the worst of the chaff by asking the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
What is THE WORST film you have ever seen?
Rick T. -- "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes." Dumb! Dumb! Dumb!
Inger H. -- The most recent worst film that comes to mind is the ill-conceived and sprawling "Dancer in the Dark," starring Bjork. You know it is a bad movie if you find yourself getting up from the sofa in the midst of the film, wondering... "hmmm, maybe I should check my e-mail"... I was not disappointed. I think I had a spam e-mail from the gap or something.
Matt K. -- "Little Man" (link here).
Mike M. -- With apologies to a colleague who recommended it, John Sayles' "Return of the Secaucus 7" (1980) is just plain bad, much worse than, say, Sandra Dee's "Tammy and the Doctor" (1963), or the ridiculous ending of "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" (2003): "SAM is SOBBING... MERRY and PIPPIN are DISTRAUGHT... there is GREAT SADNESS... MERRY SNIFFLES LOUDLY."
Gary D. -- "Field of Dreams." A boring movie with the worst actor of all time, Kevin Costner.
Dave B. -- I have spent two days trying to name the worst film ever made and I cannot find it so I need the help of a professional. All I remember is the name of the movie had "The Butcher, (some name) and the Baker." It was a movie made roughly in the early 90s. It was a movie about the Baker's wife having an affair with the Butcher and at the end the Baker kills the Butcher. The stupidest movie I have ever seen. My next choice would be "Dirty Dancing." I watched 13 minutes of that movie and saw 12 minutes too much.
Mike D. -- Certainly among the worst is "They Live," a 1988 flick starring wrestler "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. As if that wasn't telling enough, here's the plot summary: "Nada, a down-on-his-luck construction worker, discovers a pair of special sunglasses. Wearing them, he is able to see the world as it really is -- people being bombarded by media and government with messages like "Stay Asleep," "No Imagination," "Submit to Authority." Even scarier is that he is able to see that some usually normal-looking people are in fact ugly aliens in charge of the massive campaign to keep humans subdued. Thankfully, I only saw it on video. That SOMEONE ELSE rented!
Erik H. -- I expected Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson to shine in Todd Phillips' 2004 remake of "Starsky and Hutch." I expected wrong. I marveled at their comic chemistry in "Meet the Parents," "The Royal Tenenbaums" and even "Zoolander." I also love Phillips' "Old School." So what made me turn off the DVD of "Starsky and Hutch" before the chapters reached double digits? It just wasn't funny.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Three cheers for Franco Nero

I watched Sergio Corbucci's "Django" last night. It is one of the most entertaining films I know. Dark-clothed stranger ambles into war-struck town, dragging a coffin. That opening image is iconic in the history of Spaghetti Westerns and the influence of "Django" is everywhere -- just watch the ear-cutting scene in Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" for proof.
Following the film, I watched a DVD special feature -- a present-day interview with "Django" star Franco Nero.
In perfectly flawless English, he recalled shortening his name from Francesco Sparanero and the joy of making "Django" with Corbucci.
Nero is one of my favorite actors.
He played Lancelot in "Camelot" from 1967, where he met his longtime partner Vanessa Redgrave. Her father, Sir Michael Redgrave, convinced Nero to play as many different types of roles as possible. Redgrave told Nero he could lengthen his career by following that path.
Well, it's 2006 and Nero keeps making films (he has played about 200 roles), so the advice apparently took.
"Django" will be the opening movie in a three-film "festival" I am planning for this fall. I'm hoping some people can see it for the first time. The initial viewing of this film is always memorable.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Good Rockin' Today

I sang along to some classic R&B tunes from the 1940s and 50s en route to an interview this morning.
One of my iPod playlists includes a string of R&B songs later covered by Elvis Presley.
It starts with Big Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog," then continues with "Good Rockin' Tonight" by Wynonie Harris (pictured), "Baby Let's Play House" by Arthur Gunter and concludes with "Mystery Train" by Little Junior's Blue Flames.
It must have taken courage and inventiveness for Elvis to cover these gems, given the racism of the times.
Still, he always said he sang what he liked, whether it was a sappy love song or a killer tune like "Good Rockin' Tonight."
These four songs are each killer tunes, made indelible not only by the verve of the originals, but also by the passion Elvis brought to the cover versions.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Dolemite's my name, and f***ing up muthaf*ckas is my game!

I first read about Rudy Ray Moore's 1975 blaxploitation film "Dolemite" in "The Film Snob's Dictionary."
The authors described the title character as a "lady killer in pimp attire who annihilated his nemeses with kung fu moves and withering jive."
Hmmm... I was intrigued.
Then I read a Los Angeles Times story about the "Dolemite" phenomenon, headlined "A movie so bad it's great."
"Dolemite" influenced filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino and rap artists such as Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg.
Then I began to read online reviews. Invariably, they contained variations of the description "so badly made it's mesmerizing."
"The boom mic plays a starring role," read one such review.
I was hooked. I ordered "Dolemite" from Amazon. It arrived yesterday, and I watched it last night.
Yes, the boom mic sneaks into far too many shots.
Yes, Moore's kung-fu kicks come NOWHERE NEAR their target.
Yes, every other word out of his mouth is "muthaf*cka(s)."
Yes, the plot makes little sense.
However, this film is as entertaining as it is over the top and I laughed throughout at the unintentional and intentional humor (Moore was a standup comic).
I can see why "Dolemite" has achieved cult status.
I will henceforth venerate it in part because of the following exchange, when crooked, white cop Mitchell attempts to taunt Dolemite during yet another frame-up attempt...
MITCHELL: "Now, I know you think you're smart, see, 'cause you got all them flashy clothes, that big car there. You got all them black b*tches workin' for you."
DOLEMITE: "You forgot about the white ones."

Monday, September 11, 2006

I will do all I can to be worthy

What should I listen to on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks?
I was never in doubt.
I listened to John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" while walking on the treadmill just now, and I will listen to it as I drive to work this morning, too.
I was never going to listen to those country music songs recorded after the attacks. Few of those songs turned to God for help. Most turned to hatred to fuel a rage.
Coltrane turns to God for an entire album. That's the connection I need to make on this day.
Ashley Kahn, in his remarkable book, "A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album," writes of Coltrane's poem included in the liner notes to the 1965 classic recording:
"Coltrane's 'A Love Supreme' delivers a litany of devotional oaths (to God) and spiritual counsel (to the reader)."
The music on the album serves the same purpose, and that is the type of message I needed on the 9/11 anniversary.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Yell O, Fake Field Goals and lashing rain

I'm still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes on a rainy day in Iowa.
That (me rubbing the sleep out, not the rainy bit) is because I was up until 1:35 a.m. cheering on my BELOVED OREGON DUCKS.
Huh? What is a proud, Bay Area Expatriate doing cheering for the Oregon Ducks?
It's a long story involving multiple factors, including my dad's birthplace, where my cousins live, the five-year-and-a-half years we lived in Oregon, Kerstin's birthplace and that black day when Cal-Berkeley rejected my grad-school application.
Simply put, I am dyed in the wool fan of my BELOVED OREGON DUCKS.
Last night, they traveled to Fresno State and beat the Bulldogs in nail-biting fashion, 31-24. Oregon scored the winning touchdown on a fake field goal. It was one of those games -- crazy.
Now, I am considering purchasing a "Yell O" U of O spirit T-shirt (proceeds benefit the U of O Band and the U of O cheerleaders while rain lashes the window.
Rain lashes the window? That's perfect.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The fruit of five syllables, and more fun from the "classroom"

OK... It's Saturday and the girls are playing "school."
I can never figure that out. That would be like me coming home from a long day at work and then pretending to call people and interview them and write stories and worry about making a mistake that leads to a correction. I'd rather watch a movie or something.
Why on Earth would kids play school on a Saturday?
If you think that's a difficult question to answer, try this one:
"Can you name the fruit of five syllables?"
That's what 11-year-old "teacher" Kerstin just asked 7-year-old "pupil" Annika. Then Kerstin started a kitchen timer.
That question was part of a TIMED TEST? On a Saturday?!?!
Let's see...
"Ba-na-na?" No, of course not.
"Boy-sen-ber-ry?" No... but getting closer.
"Huck-le-ber-ry?" No. Is that even a real fruit?
I gave up. I finally Googled it.
I have never heard of it before. It is apparently some sort of plum or something.
How did Kerstin know it?
Maybe I should sit in on her "class" on a Saturday.

Friday, September 08, 2006

FQ Literary Supplement

This week, ROUTE 1 unearths the bookworm in all of us by asking the following FRIDAY QUESTION: What was the most memorable book you have read during the past few months?
Jim S. -- "Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig." by Jonathan Eig. This well-written biography would appeal to even non-sports fans, but for fans of baseball, it would be tough to beat. The extremely introverted Gehrig always played in the shadow of Babe Ruth. This book explains why. It also covers in detail his battle with the disease that carries his name. Great read.
Ellen B. -- "I... 2... 3... Magic!"
Mary N.-P. -- "The Glass Castle" by Jeanette Walls. It is the most amazing memoir of life in an eccentric, nearly dysfunctional family. Everyone I give it to, puts down whatever they're doing and finishes it in one sitting.
Ken. B. -- "Thomas the Tank Engine's ABC's."
Laura C. -- "Plainsong" by Ken Haruf. In spare, lovely prose, he sketches a small, rural town and populates it with characters that resonate powerfully. In a world full of slick, snarky, self-indulgent writers, Haruf is a master of quiet, impeccable craftsmanship.
Roseanne H. -- "Powerful" is the only word to describe "Night" by Elie Wiesel. It is about a boy held in a concentration camp during World War 2. This is a little book but one you will never forget.
Madelin F. -- The book is called "Beware, Princess Elizabeth" and details the rise to the throne of Henry VIII's daughter, Elizabeth, daughter of Ann Boleyn, who succeeded her Catholic sister Queen Mary to become Elizabeth I and restored the Protestant faith to the throne in England. The turbulence leading up to her ascension demanded patience, but her reign was long. She is remembered fondly. The book is written for young adults and breaks down the politics in a first-person account through the eyes of the Queen-to-be. Interesting and a nice, easy lesson in a time in English history that is widely written about, but often times tough to grasp.
Inger H. -- Probably "Cold Beer and Crocodiles." Roff Smith's lyrical descriptions of the vast empty spaces in the Australian outback, coupled with the hard slogging of riding his bike in the heat and dust were equal parts compelling and repulsive. Let's go to Australia! Let's ride a bike through spinifex! Oh wait, maybe not.
Brian C. -- "Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life," by Richard Ben Cramer. Though "hero" is part of the title, this is no hero-worship biography. On the contrary, Cramer reveals the obsessive, greedy side of a man known as (and required to be introduced as such at his public appearances) The Greatest Living Ballplayer. On the field, DiMaggio was a superstar. Off the field, according to Cramer's intricately researched book, DiMaggio was anything but.
Steve M. -- "Flame Trees of Thika" by Elspeth Huxley.
Kerstin H. -- "The Tale of Despereaux." I read all of it at least five times.
Mike D. -- About seven years ago, I started reading Al Stump's biography of Ty Cobb. Then, along came the first of my three children. My bookmark is still tucked firmly in between the pages, but not my reading material includes authors like Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle and Norman Bridwell. This week, we read the memorable "Road Builders" by B. G. Hennessy and Simms Taback. Memorable, that is, because I learned the difference between a power shovel and a backhoe.
Erik H. -- Roff Smith did the unthinkable: He rode his bike around Australia. By himself. He set out each day with only a vague idea about his destination. He rode through suburbs populated by sprawling housing developments, rainforests populated by hippies, swamps populated by saltwater crocodiles, barren plains populated by spinifex (the Aussie equivalent of sagebrush) and vast stretches of highway populated by hurtling "road train" trucks. Then he wrote about his journey in "Cold Beer and Crocodiles."

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Singing along with Shirl

Graham "Shirl" Strachan passed away five years and about a week ago.
Even in Australia, where the Skyhooks were 1970s rock legends, news of his death in a helicopter crash would be eclipsed by the worldwide horror of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
I have been marking the anniversary of this great rock vocalist's death by listening to the Skyhooks while driving around the past couple of days.
Strachan possessed one of those great rock voices -- a soaring, sweeping and sometimes screeching voice that seems like a template for the 80s heavy metal wave.
None of those hair bands had Greg Macainsh songs to sing, though. Strachan took those songs -- such as "Balwyn Calling," "Toorak Cowboy" and "Livin' in the Seventies" -- and made them sound like instant classics... even to American ears.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Book Nerd League: Prepare your bookmarks

The first book suggested for BOOK NERD LEAGUE members dishes the dirt and educates in equal measure.
"Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-And-Rock n' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood" traces Hollywood's late-60s, early-70s rejuvenation beginning with "Bonnie and Clyde," the Arthur Penn-directed, star-making vehicle for Warren Beatty.
Author Peter Biskind paints vivid portraits of Dennis Hopper, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Billy Friedkin and other ground-breaking filmmakers.
Biskind knows how to keep readers turning the page: There is plenty of spice liberally included among the film history.
"The Film Snob's Dictionary" calls "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls" a "landmark history of the co-called American New Wave," profiling "the denimy, sideburned mavericks who bucked the crumbling, top-heavy studio system by making inexpensive, idiosyncratic films.
If you wish to participate in this initial BOOK NERD LEAGUE recommended reading exercise, simply find the book -- ISBN 0-684-80996-6 -- read it, and drop us a line to share your thoughts.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


We all know this statement to be true.
Here at Route 1, we are going to relish the NERDINESS of dropping everything to read a COOL BOOK with the launch of... get ready for it.... here it comes...
Every month, BOOK NERD LEAGUE captains from around the world will choose a book to read and discuss.
It will be just like the Oprah Book Club, only our books won't SUCK. They will ROCK!
The books could be fiction... could be non-fiction... heck, they can even be out-dated cookbooks as long as they keep us turning the pages.
We don't need bookworms -- people who stick their noses in a book and never make any social contact.
No, our LEAGUE members will stick their noses in a book and ALWAYS ENDLESSLY HARANGUE passersby about the book's (sometimes arcane) subject matter. Won't it be great?
Here is how it will work:
1) Route 1's crack team of BOOK NERDS will select that month's tome, post the book's title, author and a brief description, along with the ISBN number (just to show we really are BOOK NERDS).
2) People read the book.
3) Discuss this book with EVERYONE you see... preferably people in grocery stores and on street corners.
4) Drop us a line and we will compile comments about the book.
5) Rinse. Repeat.
It's just that easy!
We here at Route 1 have grand plans for the BOOK NERD LEAGUE. Along with fostering a snobbish attitude toward certain authors, we would like to get some of those zippered, corduroy jackets suitable for sewing on patches. We could get some really colorful BOOK NERD LEAGUE patches. Maybe colored stripes for the number of books read.
Hey! Why should those FFA cow-raisers have ALL the fun?!?!
Stay tuned for this month's book selection!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Talkin' 'bout their Ge-Ge-Generation

Route 1 reader Dave B. provided this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:
What do you consider to be *THE* song of your generation?
Dave B. -- As a true 80's obsessive music lover, I think the song that best describes my generation would be "Fight for your Right" by the Beastie Boys. Party hard and defy your parents and society as a whole.
Diane H. -- "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana. It came out when I was a freshman in college and I can still remember the first time we saw the video while sitting around in a dorm room drinking beer. That was back when MTV still played videos.
Scout S. -- Much as I am loathe to admit it, I think it has to be "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Not because I don't like the song -- it's a great song. It's just that I know this choice falls squarely into the preconceived notion the media has created about my generation. It also hurts because the song is FIFTEEN YEARS OLD, which means that *I* am officially old. Stupid kids; get off my lawn.
Mike D. -- Anthem-wise, "Another Brick in the Wall" was probably a fitting song for the tail-end of the baby boom generation and its cog-in-the-machine mentality. Party-wise, "My Sharona" was a fun tune, heralding the passing of disco and ushering in the New Wave genre of the early 80s.
Bob H. -- I think *THE SONG* of my generation (now known as traditionalists) must be "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and His Comets. Although, it was one of my favorite rock and dance tunes in high school, I was more into jazz and traditional music, like Johnny Mathis' "Chances Are" or "Misty." Or like Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" and MJQ's "Django" or "Fontessa." Oh, for the good old days.
Clint A. -- Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." The song totally moved grunge to the mainstream and helped define the music scene of both Generation X as well as Gen Y.
Rick T. -- "My Way" by Frank Sinatra and Elvis.
Brian C. -- It's too hard to come up with just one song, and me "my generation" spanned significantly different eras. I'd say "She Loves You," which started the pop/Beatlemania/British Invasion in the U.S. and "Purple Haze" by Jimi Hendrix. So different -- and yet they became popular just three-plus years apart (1964-67).
Rob K. -- "Satisfaction" by the Stones, "Daydream Believer" by the Monkees and "In A Gadda Da Vida" by Iron Butterfly. No particular reason. These were the first three that came to mind, what's left of it.
Erik H. -- When "Don't You (Forget About Me)" by Simple Minds swelled up out of the cinema speakers to open "The Breakfast Club," the moment became a touchstone for my generation. The song had that written-for-the-movies feel too it, so by itself it wasn't particularly special (and marked, for me, the beginning of the Glasgow group's creative decline). However, wedded to the film and its representational 80s suburban-teenage characters, the song became for me *THE* song of my generation.