Thursday, August 31, 2006

Lose the narration!

Tonight after work I attended the Dubuque Film Society's showing of Stanley Kubrick's "The Killing" at the Carnegie-Stout Public Library.
It is an entertaining film noir from 1956 starring Sterling Hayden as the leader of an ad hoc criminal gang brought together to pull off a fantastic heist -- the theft of a racetrack's receipts.
Hayden is great and the cast also includes a veritable "who's who" of Fifties crime picks, including such where-have-I-seen-that-guy before actors like Jay C. Flippen and Timothy Carey. Elisha Cook Jr., the ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC character actor from San Francisco (199 roles at least, including Wilmer Cook in "The Maltese Falcon") also figures prominently in this film.
Kubrick pushed the envelope by hopscotching through time with his narrative structure (similar to "Reservoir Dogs"), but apparently the studio FREAKED at his dismissal of conventional narrative form. The studio officials demanded a narration overlay to the scenes, ala "Dragnet" or something like that.
The narration doesn't ruin the film, but it did cause many people in the Dubuque Film Society audience to wonder what the movie might have been like with the narration disregarded.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I'm better at runnin' than I am at robbin' banks

Peter Biskind's landmark "Easy Riders Raging Bulls" denotes "Bonnie and Clyde" as the film that kick started the American New Wave or "New Hollywood" movement.
I watched it on DVD tonight.
The director, Arthur Penn, was clearly influenced by the French Nouvelle Vague -- in particular the abrupt shifts from comedy to tragedy and the stylized depiction of violence. Clyde Barrow even wears a pair of sunglasses with a lens missing, in tribute to Jean-Paul Belmondo in "A Bout de Souffle."
The acting is superb as well.
Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway shine in this 1967 classic, rule-breaking American film.
Michael J. Pollard and Gene Hackman also perform notably. I could do without Estelle Parsons as Blanche, however. I equate her histrionics to the proverbial nails on the chalkboard.
Gene Wilder makes a memorable cameo, however, as the undertaker who reminds Bonnie that death is never far away.
Previous films cut away from violence, while "Bonnie and Clyde" emphasized the blood.
That approach, as well as the inclusion of Flatt and Scruggs on the soundtrack, will always mark "Bonnie and Clyde" as an entertaining, ground-breaking piece of cinema.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

OK... We get it... Dude's sad because school started... sheesh!

So, I am walking back home after the traditional walk to the FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL and I am trying to figure out why I feel so sad.
It's like this every year for me, but why, exactly?
Then it occurred to me that while the first day of school for Annika and Kerstin represents the opening of a new chapter, the first day of their school year for me represents yet another grain of sand slipping from the top half of the hourglass.
Am I being too morbid? Perhaps. I'll probably snap out of my funk as the day progresses.
Still, feeling that sadness welling up inside of me reminded me how emotionally charged even the simplest things can become.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Good day for reading... or fighting

I have the day off today and it is raining. The temperatures are more reminiscent of October than August, so it is an especially good day to read. Or fight.
The girls begin school tomorrow and the first bell cannot sound soon enough. At every opportunity today they have been at each other's throats, screaming at each other in a style best-described as "fiery histrionics." I imagine soap operas would center around this style of fighting, if soap operas primarily concerned themselves with who has to pick up the spilled beads in the bedroom or whether to watch Toon Disney or a design show on HGTV.
Apart from increasingly fraught episodes of refereeing the girls' fights, I have spent this day off sipping Famous Grouse and reading Peter Biskind's landmark history of the so-called "American New Wave" of filmmaking, "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls."
The brilliantly funny and informative "Film Snob's Dictionary" refers to "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls" as essential reading and dozens of pages into the text, I certainly agree.
I am currently reading about Warren Beatty's dogged efforts to convince Warner Bros. to make "Bonnie and Clyde," a film that changed Hollywood while highlighting the lessons of the Nouvelle Vague of France.
Of course, tomorrow I return to work and the sun will return to the sky. However, in all likelihood I will not have to listen to my daughters argue over who needs to pick up the Hello Kitty alarm clock, so it won't be all bad.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Oreos and samurai

Kerstin discovered the world of samurai action films last night.
My 11-year-old daughter and I enjoyed hearing our friend Matt play a gig at a local wine bar/coffee house during the early evening hours. We came home with the air-conditioned house to ourselves, since my wife Jill and 7-year-old daughter Annika were sweating -- sorry, they call it "camping" -- at a local county park with Jill's aunt and uncle.
Kerstin and I decided to watch the 1968 film "Kiru!" on DVD while munching Oreo cookies.
"Kiru" is brilliant.
Director Kihachi Okamoto homages Spaghetti Westerns -- complete with windswept, deserted villages, extreme closeups, comic interludes and violent action. The joke, of course, is that Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci endlessly (shamelessly?) homaged early samurai films when concocting their Spaghetti Westerns.
Kerstin couldn't care less about the film historian's ironic view of "Kiru." She happily dipped Oreos in milk, listened to me reading subtitles and fell asleep on the couch before the climactic battle scene.
I don't remember my first samurai film experience, but I am guessing Kerstin will remember hers.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

That guy looks so... familiar

As well he should!
Japanese actor Yoshio Tsuchiya has appeared in more than 80 films during a four-decade career, so it should come as no surprise that I recognized him while watching our latest DVD acquisition last night.
I was watching Kihachi Okamoto's 1968 film "Kiru (Kill)," and in particular clan official Matsuo Shiroku, when I felt quite certain that I had seen him somewhere before.
I checked the cast list and sure enough, it said "Yoshio Tsuchiya."
Tsuchiya made a stunning debut as the fiery farmer Rikichi in "Shichinin no Samurai (Seven Samurai)," a film I have watched repeatedly. Tsuchiya brings a burning intensity to every role I have ever seen him play, including that of Dr. Otani in "Kaiju Soshingeki (Destroy All Monsters)." In that role, he almost breathes as much fire into the film as his slightly larger co-star... a certain actor named Godzilla.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Too cool for school? Too cool for anything else?

Click! Click! Click! Click!
That's the sound of finger snapping here at Route 1, where this week's FRIDAY QUESTION asked readers: Who is the coolest person you have ever seen on the screen -- TV or film?
Inger H. -- I'd have to say Jean Paul Belmondo... especially in "A Bout de Souffle (Breathless)." The cool, laid-back demeanor, the cigarette smoking, the absent-minded lip scratch, the Frenchness... Ya can't get much cooler than that.
Annika H. -- Cosmo from "Fairly Oddparents."
Mike D. -- I guess that would be Fonzie.
Scout S. -- Duh. Robert Mitchum. Anybody tells you anything different can go screw.
Rob K. -- Lauren Bacall, wife of Humphrey Bogart, who would be up there, too. Such a classic. Always seemed to be in control, a thought ahead of everybody else. And those eyes... Now, at the other end of the spectrum -- least cool -- my vote goes to Carrot Top. Finger nails on a blackboard is cooler.
Laura C. -- Hands down, it's Johnny Cash. I saw a clip of him as a young man, playing on some TV variety hour, and he was the most intense, electric presence I've ever seen. He was behaving himself, since it was family television, but there was a glint of mischief in his eye that told you he was just barely keeping it on the rails... so subversive, and so very cool.
Dave B. -- Clint Eastwood in any of his westerns. The dude oozed coolness with his cigar and poncho.
Rick T. -- Elvis of course! He was the coolest of all. No one will ever beat him in cool. When you say the name "Elvis," everyone knows who you're talking about.
Steve M. -- I'll try Sean Connery as James Bond for now. Steve McQueen rates up there as well. That is a tough one.
Erik H. -- I was watching "Kurutta Kajitsu (Crazed Fruit)" the other night and I couldn't take my eyes off the finger-snapping, Amerasian character of Frank Hirosawa (pictured), played by Japanese-Danish actor Masumi Okada.
He was always in control. His presence lit up a room. Girls and guys both flocked to him because of his magnetism. He always said the right thing.
Then I realized: I had seen all of these ULTRA COOL attributes in another character that I have been watching for decades.
That's why my answer must be Bugs Bunny.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I didn't break my neck!!!

I try not to dance while walking on the treadmill.
I have a recurring sense of dread that I will be dancing and my feet will become tangled and my sweaty hands will lose the grip of the support bars and I will fall face down on the revolving treadmill track without having time to pull the emergency "stop" key.
The end result of this sense of dread is a broken neck and the invariable embarrassment that would follow:
"You broke your neck... dancing... on a... treadmill?"
So I generally don't dance on the treadmill.
Until this morning.
I couldn't help myself!
I was listening to my "pop_reggae" playlist on the iPod and Harry J Allstars' brilliant "The Liquidator" flowed through the ear buds.
This classic instrumental reached No. 9 on the UK charts in October 1969 and was adopted as a theme for football clubs to blare out of their PAs before matches. West Bromwich Albion supporters probably hear this song in their sleep, as it was played continuously at the Baggies' matches.
Although credited to Harry J Allstars, producer Harry Johnson (for he is "Harry J") mostly just turned over the reins to Jamaican keyboard whiz Winston Wright.
Wright turns in a virtuoso performance, one that had me absent-mindedly dancing away on the treadmill this morning.
At the song's conclusion I realized my folly. I nervously glanced around to make sure I was still upright and my neck had not snapped in two.
I might play the song again while driving around today for work. I wonder if I can dance while driving a car?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Great songs rock me down the road

I just completed a three-and-a-half hour, round-trip drive from Dubuque to Williamsburg, Iowa to pick up the girls.
They had been staying in Grimes, Iowa (on the other side of Des Moines) and Williamsburg is the approximate half-way point.
For the drive down I rolled down the windows and cranked up the tunes.
It has been too long since I enjoyed "Five Guys Walk Into a Bar...," the four-disc box set by The Faces.
By the third song I heard -- "You Can Make Me Dance Sing or Anything" -- I was once again reminded of the greatness of The Faces.
Rod Stewart in his youth was a powerful vocalist, so well suited for bluesy rock.
Ron Wood was electrifying on guitar, too. Throw in Ian McLagan, Ronnie Lane and Kenney Jones from the Small Faces, and The Faces were a supergroup in everything but success.
Still, their lone hit, "Stay With Me," remains one of the greatest-sounding rock songs I have ever heard. A true classic.
After I had picked up the girls, their conversation passed the time en route home. For the solitary drive down, The Faces rocked me down the road.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

No country, no radio, big problem.


I am not a fan of contemporary country music, but that didn't stop me protesting the loss of country on the radio in the city where more country music is sold than anywhere else in America.
Late last week, Los Angeles lost its last country music broadcaster when KZLA-FM (93.9), self-billed as "America's most listened-to country station," dropped twang for R&B and dance tunes.
I find it intolerable that the city that spawned Wynn Stewart, the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Eagles, to name but a few legends, would not have any country music on the radio dial.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the change reflects continuing demographic changes in Southern California.
"Because of their size and loyalty," the Times reported, "minority audiences are becoming more coveted by radio companies than white listeners -- at least in ethnically diverse metropolitan areas."
The *REAL* reason for this change in radio approach could derive from changing technologies, rather than demographics, as the Times reported later in the article:
"iPods and satellite radio are now drawing listeners looking for specialized playlists or genres disappearing from the dial."
To me, it represents a "Catch 22" situation that could endanger many of America's beloved radio stations: As more listeners abandon radio for music they want to hear, radio stations abandon that very music the listeners seek.

Friday, August 18, 2006

FQ: Dreamy summer edition

Route 1 dreamt Midnight Oil's Peter Garrett had tattoos about economics.
What Route 1 really wanted to know was the answer to a simple FRIDAY QUESTION:
What song best sums up this summer?
-- or, in case you wish to follow the crazed logic of my dream --
What is the weirdest tattoo you can imagine on a retired rock star?
Dave B. -- "The Iowa Fight Song." The summer is done and college football begins. Bring on the Big Ten.
-- or --
A $100 bill being flushed down the toilet. Because 75 percent of rockers have no money left when they "retire." They have to go on these lame a$$ tours to make money just to survive. Them and their walkers strolling out on the stage for the rush of 50 drunk people cheering them on. Sad.
Rick T. -- The song "See You in September" by the Happenings.
-- or --
To me, all tattoos are weird.
Erik H. -- Freddie McKay's reggae classic "Love is a Treasure" sums up my summer. I purchased it on a CD in San Francisco and listened to it while driving through central California to Reno, Nev., where I played it on "repeat" one entire day. I have been humming along ever since.
-- or --
I'll stick to the subject of my dream. I dreamt Peter Garrett, former Midnight Oil vocalist and current Australian Member of Parliament had tattoos on both arms representing the changes in Gross Domestic Product for a South Pacific island nation. When I woke up, I checked the Internet for photos of Garrett in sleeveless attire. I found no tattoos, economic-related or otherwise.
It must have been something I ate.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Taiyozoku trouble

Yesterday I polished off an 10-hour day at work, then relaxed with a great film.
Ko Nakahira's "Kurutta Kajitsu (Crazed Fruit)" could be called the Japanese equivalent to "Rebel Without a Cause." The youngsters in the 1956 film rebel by lounging around all day, drinking and hanging out with girls. These antics seem tame to us, but for a Japan tirelessly recreating itself into a post-war economic giant, these members of the taiyozoku -- the "Sun Tribe" of juvenile delinquents -- would have seemed like a plague.
Aside from a sociological study of mid-1950s Japan, the film presents a gripping story of a love triangle involving young and shy Haruji (Masahiko Tsugawa), his older brother Natsuhisa (50s icon Yujiro Ishihara) and the girl they both covet, Eri (the mesmerizing Mie Kitahara).
Add in the charismatic, Amerasian leader of the local "gang" of jalopy-riding thrill-seekers, Frank (scene-stealing, Japanese-Danish actor Masumi Okada), and you have the elements for a real spellbinding flick from the 1950s that not many people over here in the States even know about.
I would highly recommend it, however, especially if you need to wind down from a long day at work.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Route 1 in my dreams

Truth is stranger than fiction?
Not this time.
Last night I dreamt about the Route 1 FRIDAY QUESTION feature -- the first time my blog has featured so prominently in my subconscious mind.
The question concerned weird tattoos on rock stars, and in my dream I remember typing my answer. I wrote about Peter Garrett, the retired lead singer of Midnight Oil, and tattoos on his arms that had something to do with the Gross Domestic Product of a South Pacific Island chain. That's fiction. It's also a very strange dream!
In reality, Garrett is now a Labor Party Member of Parliament for the Australian House of Representatives. Garrett serves in the Opposition as the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Reconciliation and the Arts. His Maroubra, NSW-based electorate, Kingsford Smith, includes Botany Bay -- one of the most historic places in all of Australia.
That truth is rather surprising, but it can't hold a candle to the fiction cooked up in my dreams last night.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Happy Thoroughly English Monday

At every possible opportunity to read this morning -- sipping my first cup of coffee, walking on the treadmill, taking a bath (?!), getting dressed, eating breakfast -- I have been enjoying a Premier League preview guide published by today's Guardian newspaper that I printed off the computer.
It avoids traditional preview methods and instead compares each club to types of candy, details the plot of a pretend film about each club and lists which member of the team's WAGS -- wives and girlfriends -- would be most likely to grab tabloid headlines.
In other words, the preview is thoroughly English, in an irreverent, ironic way.
I plan to celebrate this thorough Englishness in song, by listening to the Happy Mondays and their blighty-centric take on dance pop. "24 Hour Party People," "Mad Cyril," and "Bob's Yer Uncle" all present and accounted for.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Sure sign of summer's end... but so what?

I woke up early to watch the FA Community Shield live on Fox Soccer Channel.
The traditional season-opening fixture between last season's champions -- Chelsea -- and FA Cup winners -- Liverpool -- is a sure sign of summer's end.
I am not complaining, though. I (practically) live for the English football season, so today's match served as a welcome reminder that the post-World Cup void will be filled in less than a week.
That sounds like I live a sad-sack life, I know, but I don't care. I make no apologies for my soccer obsessiveness.
Now then, onto the match:
John Arne Riise and Peter Crouch scored to give Liverpool a 2-1 victory over Chelsea. New signing Andriy Shevchenko scored for Chelsea.
My beloved Sheffield Wednesday have failed to win in three matches in the second-tier Championship, so I will probably need a competitive Premiership season to keep me going this year!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

I knew the bride when she used to...

...dance to some inventive tunes at her wedding reception.
I worked today, listening to dub reggae as I drove to Galena, Ill. for the unveiling of a statue of Julia Dent Grant, the first lady of President Ulysses S. Grant. With an enormous head like a Peanuts character (think: Lucy Van Pelt, age 60), the statue's unveiling sent a chilling shudder down my spine.
The second, chilling shudder down my spine came tonight, when I accompanied Jill to a wedding of two people I don't know.
Jill knew the bride, at least. I had no idea who ANYBODY was, apart from Jill's relatives sitting at two of the three dozen or so tables.
Then, the so-called "wedding reception DJ" got to "work."
He played EVERY clich├ęd song from EVERY Dubuque County wedding reception (except, oddly, Sweet's "Little Willy," which he must have forgotten at his home -- in his parent's basement).
Sorry if I sound unusually bitter, but the DJ's lack of creativity was not only APPALLING, it was ALARMING.
A robot could have thrust a CD of all those songs into a stereo and achieved the same result. Or one of our cats. People only danced when they became too drunk to care. That's not a true party. Not where I come from.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Ultimate getaway place

This week, ROUTE 1 took a detour by asking the following FRIDAY QUESTION --
Where in the world would you like to go to GET AWAY FROM IT ALL?
Scout S. -- Easter Island.
Bob H. -- Akamal, Quintana Roo, Mexico. The water is warm, clear and turquoise blue with sparkling white beaches shaded with coconut palms. The snorkeling is as good as it gets in fresh water lagoons and crystal clear bays with coral growing to the water's surface. The little hotel with ceiling fans is laid-back and has an excellent bar and a five-star restaurant at two-star prices. It doesn't get any better than Akamal.

Dave B. -- Switzerland. I am pretty sure there would be no "police actions" in that country. Plus, it has the most beautiful landscape in the world.
Kerstin H. -- Tahiti, because it is a tropical wonderland.
Rick T. -- Panama City Beach, Florida. I love PC!
Mike D. -- In a boat on a smooth-as-glass Northwoods lake with the early morning mist just starting to rise; the only sounds I hear are an occasional loon and the ker-plunk of my lure after a long cast. THAT is heaven.
Annika H. -- The North Pole. Because it is very very quiet and you can tell Santa what you want for Christmas.
Diane H. -- I've been obsessed with going to Greece since seeing an IMAX movie about it a few months ago. History, beaches, hot guys... What's not to like!
Inger H. -- All of a sudden today I was taken by the idea of going to Australia. I want to drive around in the hot, dusty outback, see some nice rainforest up in Queensland and drink beer in Sydney. Sounds like a perfect summer holiday!
Erik H. -- People call them "The Secret of the South Pacific" and the Maori who live there call it "Kuki Airani." We know them as the Cook Islands, a democracy in free association with New Zealand.
That is where I would go to get away from it all.
Here is how Lonely Planet describes the Cook Islands:
"Wafer-thin cays and farflung atolls, white-sand beaches and lush, green volcanic mountains, a slow pace, friendly people, dancing -- what's not to like about the Cook Islands? If that's not enough, they also have excellent hiking, snorkeling, caving and lazing."

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hooks provide passport to rockin' past

The treadmill provided a welcomed respite from the news this morning -- terror plots to blow up airlines -- and Skyhooks provided a perfect passage to the past.
Ask 100 U.S. rock fans about Skyhooks and you might get 99 blank stares. Ask 100 Australian rock fans about Skyhooks, and most would probably tell you they helped trigger the Down Under explosion that flung AC/DC onto our shores.
Skyhooks' singles topped the Aussie charts three times and their 1970s albums racked up unprecedented sales.
However, America already had a rock band that painted their faces (although Skyhooks beat KISS to that gimmick) and a musician who dangled his long tongue in front of an audience (again, Red Symons edged Gene Simmons on that one).
So us Yanks mostly missed out on Australia's biggest band of the 70s.
Skyhooks performed on the first day of color TV transmission down under and their delightfully smutty anthem "You Just Like Me Cos I'm Good in Bed" was the first song played by 2JJ -- later known as Triple J -- the national pop music radio station.
In Greg Macainsh they had a songwriter who could pen odes to the Melbourne suburbs (as opposed to Aussie rockers who were still singing about Memphis and other less-than-local subjects) and in Graeme "Shirley" Strachan they boasted a singer with one of rock's great, distinctive vocals.
So I immersed myself in Skyhooks this morning, at least until it was time to return to the present world of carry-on luggage limitations, official announcements of heightened alerts and an increasing loss of innocence.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Tonga: Never fully colonized!

Tonga's Kao Island is a volcano that rises 3,400 feet out of the ocean, offering one of the most dramatic sights in the South Pacific.
I learned this fact and other nuggets of knowledge from "A Traveler's History of New Zealand & South Pacific Islands."
There are chapters on geology and the amazing migration of the Polynesians (how *DID* they get to Easter Island, I would like to know!). There is a section on the Maori arriving in New Zealand (the last place on Earth to be populated) and finding snow (they called it "fuka" or "foam") and giant birds called Moa, which they eventually hunted to extinction.
The section on Ferdinand Magellan was particularly enlightening. We all know he was the great Portuguese navigator who became the first European to enter the Pacific. Did you know that he believed his voyage to the Indies (Indonesia) would take a week or two? He had no concept of the Pacific's immensity (how could he? he was the first European there) and almost four months later he and his malnourished crew finally landed in the Philippines.
I have been learning a lot about Tonga, Fiji, the Cook Islands and Samoa -- places I previously only knew because they play good rugby.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Shimura offers respite through film

I am having a "bad day" at the office -- I have to write an obituary story for Sister Michelle Nemmers, a person I had profiled in 2001, shortly after her retirement as head of the local Alzheimer's Association.
Lunch provided an opportunity to briefly escape the sad news of the day. I watched some of Kurosawa's "Shichinin No Samurai (Seven Samurai)" on DVD.
Although Toshiro Mifune is the actor best-remembered from this greatest of films, my favorite has always been Takashi Shimura.
He plays the patriarchal leader of the samurai with such effortless grace, it is difficult to remember that he is only an actor, playing a role.
The girls and I watched Shimura in action this weekend, too, in a much different role. He plays the eminent scientist Kyohei Yamane-hakase in the original "Gojira (Godzilla: King of the Monsters)." Shimura is such a great actor, he makes that role believable, too.
It turns out Shimura is regarded in Japan as one of the greatest actors of the 20th Century. He played more than 20 roles for Kurosawa and appeared in an average of more than six films per year for Toho film studios for four decades. Shimura passed away in 1982.

His work helped me escape from sad reality today, and for that, I am grateful.

Monday, August 07, 2006

"They don't know what they're doing!"

Annika shouted today's headline as she bounced up and down in her seat and squeezed my hand during *THAT* car chase in the incomparable Steve McQueen classic "Bullitt."
We watched the 1968 film on DVD this morning. The film is an engaging cop thriller on its own merits, with a supporting cast that included Robert Vaughn, Jacqueline Bisset, Robert Duvall and Normal Fell.
But it is *THAT* car chase that people remember. No soundtrack. No words. Just squealing tires (and a squealing Annika) as Bullitt uses a dark-green 1968 Ford Mustang GT-390 to chase a pair of hit men driving a black 1968 Dodge Charger R/T through the hilly streets of San Francisco.
The chase equals pure cinematic exhilaration, and provided a good way for me to celebrate a rare Monday day off from work.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Typical Sunday Morning

We are sitting here listening to a "smooth soul" playlist on iTunes (The Spinners' classic "Could it be I'm Falling in Love" is spilling out of the speakers right now).
Annika is using a tape measure to accurately gauge the length of her foot, Kerstin is designing a floor plan for a six-bedroom, three-bath house around the Baker Beach area of San Francisco with graph paper, pens and watercolors and I am reading about the rugby union teams participating in the Air New Zealand Cup and the second-division competition, the Heartland Championship.
Why?
Who knows. I am reading "A Traveler's History of New Zealand" and we listened to Radio New Zealand International online earlier this morning and I heard that Auckland crushed the Tasman Makos, 46-6, in the cup.
I started surfing the net and found some information on all of the clubs.
I think my favorite is Wairarapa-Bush (Fijian Tomasi Kedrabuka, pictured). They are the union based at Masterton, northeast of Wellington on the southern tip of North Island. I am not sure why they are my favorite, except that "Wairarapa-Bush" is so fun to say.
The Heartland Championship opens Aug. 19 with Wairarapa-Bush taking on Buller in the first round. Stay tuned for more details!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Mork calling Orson... Come in, Orson...

We went to the library today and one of the things my daughter Kerstin checked out was the first season of "Mork and Mindy" on DVD.
Both girls have been howling with laughter as Mork from Ork wears earthling clothes backwards, answers the telephone by picking up the toaster and drinking orange juice with his finger.
It seems odd that they have never seen "Mork and Mindy" before, but then again, they weren't around in 1978 when the show started and haven't been interested in old sitcoms until recently.
I am enjoying watching Robin Williams at work. He was so manic during those early days and his word association ad libs visibly take Pam Dawber by surprise.
Now that he is a film star, it's easy to forget when Robin Williams breathed new life into television. Watching these early episodes reminds me.
Nanu! Nanu!

Friday, August 04, 2006

More sad music news

We live in an age when we should expect to lose some musical icons of the 1960s.
Still, I was shocked to learn of Arthur Lee's death at the age of 61 from complications of leukemia.
Memphis, Tenn. native Lee formed the revolutionary band Love in 1965, in his adopted city Los Angeles. Their 1968 classic album "Forever Changes" remains a work I return to time and again.
Arthur Lee will be missed.

I write the songs that make the young girls sing

This week, Route 1 tears a page out of Paste Magazine by asking the following FRIDAY QUESTION...
Who is the greatest living songwriter?
Rick T. -- Willie Nelson. His list of No. 1 songs that he has written is endless!
Dave B. -- This may make some people think that I need to be admitted into a mental institution. I would have to say the greatest living songwriter of my time would have to be Prince. If you think about it, he has the greatest soundtrack of all time. He has produced countless Top 40 hits for both himself and others as well.
Steve M. -- That's so tough. Paul McCartney. Maybe Paul Anka. How about Brian Wilson? I guess I'll go with Paul McCartney.
Shannon H. -- No question. Bob Dylan. With Lucinda Williams as a runner up. Then P. J. Harvey, and back before her music became awful, Liz Phair. Then maybe Jay-Z and Kanye West. Hmmm... Maybe there are lots of questions.
Rob K. -- Elton John, unless you want to count Herb Schlitz, a guy that used to live in an apartment down the hall from me years ago who used to sing in the shower a lot. His primary gift was volume rather than quality lyrics, however.
Kerstin H. -- Keith Urban!
Gary D. -- There is quite a duo, who have been writing great songs for many years -- Nanker Phelge. Great lyrics, great tunes, great in concert. Enough said.
Mike D. -- Not that he's cranked out anything memorable in recent years, but my vote goes to Paul McCartney. His string of hits with The Beatles and Wings showed plenty of imagination, and his versatility with instruments and lyrics makes him a complete player. Honorable mention to Elton John.
Erik H. -- Bob Dylan is rock's greatest poet, but I have never been compelled to dance around the living room to "All Along the Watchtower." Paul McCartney wrote classic songs for The Beatles, but had a tendency to sounding schmaltzy -- "Martha My Dear" always makes me cringe a little. Perhaps I'm just not a "dog person."
The girls and I were driving the other day with the windows rolled down and the sunshine streaming in and a Beach Boys tape on the car stereo. Track after track of the catchiest songs poured forth, interspersed with ballads of sublime introspection. The girls couldn't believe all of these instantly catchy songs had come from the pen of one songwriter. Neither could I. Thanks Brian Wilson.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

OK, which of you kaiju moms claims this kid?

I just ordered a DVD of the 1968 kaiju eiga (monster movie) classic "Kaiju Soshingeki (Destroy All Monsters)" from Amazon.com.
Arguably the greatest of all kaiju eiga, "Kaiju Soshingeki" features all of the classic kaiju -- Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra (in caterpillar form), three-headed King Ghidorah and even Minya, the son of Godzilla.
For all of you breathlessly awaiting a plot synopsis, it goes something like this:
Aliens manipulate all of the world's monsters, causing them to attack Earth's major cities. Godzilla leads the monsters in an uprising against the aliens' top monster (the aforementioned King Ghidorah) and all ends happily ever after.
I was explaining this to Kerstin and Annika just now, and they marveled at the fact that Godzilla has a son.
"Who is the mom?" Annika asked.
Good question.
Whenever I watched "Destroy All Monsters" as a kid, I was always hopelessly feverish with an ear infection. I never did figure out the mother of the son of Godzilla.
I am hoping that question is finally answered when the DVD arrives from Amazon.com.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sweatin' and Singin' Along

The recent heat wave prompted me to restrict my daily, half-hour treadmill time to the morning hours. This morning I scrolled the iPod to a soul and R&B playlist and found myself singing along.
The playlist opens with James Brown's incendiary "Get on the Good Foot," one of the funkiest songs I know.
Archie Bell & The Drells contribute "Tighten Up" (a great treadmill-walking song) and Junior Walker's "Shotgun" and Banbarra's 1975 classic scorcher "Shackup" follow.
By the eighth song, the playlist was cooking and so was I. It's still pretty humid in the mornings, so I had to close my eyes to keep out the salty beads of sweat.
I kept singing along, though, to a real sing-along classic. The eighth song is the marvelous "He Was Really Sayin' Somethin'" by the Velvelettes (pictured).
By the time Little Stevie Wonder was blowing through his harmonica during "Fingertips, Part 1," the half hour had come to a close and I could return to the air-conditioned ground floor, capping a physical -- and vocal -- workout.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

He won three Sandovers!

Whatever those are!
Actually, thanks to a great, ridiculously comprehensive Web site called Full Points Footy, located here, I know that the Sandover is the award for the fairest and best player in the Western Australia Football League and that Aussie Rules legend Barry Cable won a trio (1964, 1968 and 1973) while playing for Perth.
I learned that Cable moved to the then-VFL to play for North Melbourne and won premierships with the Kangaroos in 1975 and 1977. Cable was named to the all-century team for the 'Roos in 2003.
I also learned that Australian Rules Football has trading cards, which unfortunately sometimes pose the players in front of what appear to be massive storage tanks in nondescript industrial areas of suburban Melbourne. Pity.
No matter. I am listening to the Hoodoo Gurus and perusing Full Points Footy. It is packed full of (probably) more information than anyone would ever need concerning Australian Rules Football.
Here are three more things you didn't need to know about footy:
1) Hawthorn beat Claremont, 12.3 (75) to 4.3 (27) to win the Rothmans Channel 7 Cup, a 1971 carnival (tournament) held to celebrate the career of Graham "Polly" Farmer.
2) Micky Conlan kicked four goals as Fitzroy beat Sydney, 13.16 (94) to 13.11 (89) in the 1986 VFL First Semifinal. It was Fitzroy's last win in the finals. By 1996 the club had merged with Brisbane.
3) Left Half Forward Flank John "Bubba" Tye is a member of the Northern Territory Football Hall of Fame. He famously chose to remain in Darwin to pursue his favorite pastime, fishing, rather than pursue footy riches in the South Australia National Football League or the Victorian Football League. Silly bugger.