Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Flying high

It's NEW YEAR'S EVE, and I could write about my favorite song from 2008 ("READY FOR THE FLOOR" by HOT CHIP) or about my predictions for the year ahead (more snow), but all I am really thinking about is last night's HOLIDAY BOWL.
Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli rushed for three touchdowns and threw for another as MY BELOVED OREGON DUCKS defeated OKLAHOMA STATE, 42-31, in San Diego. Trailing by 10 at halftime, the Ducks improved in the second half of the game and outscored the Cowboys, 35-14.
Masoli gained 106 yards on 16 carries and completed 18 of 32 passes for 258 yards -- starring for the Ducks a year after leading the CITY COLLEGE OF SAN FRANCISCO RAMS to a junior college championship.
Oregon’s Jeremiah Johnson ran 12 times for 119 yards, including a 76-yard TD in the first half.
We all watched the game on TV last night while munching popcorn -- in the Hogstrom house, at least, it all ended happily ever after.
In fact, I am so happy, I even hope the DANGED OL' BEAVERS beat Pitt today in their bowl game.

Monday, December 29, 2008

"He sounds to me like John Coltrane playing the trumpet"

I am sitting at home, listening to my jazz albums that feature trumpeter FREDDIE HUBBARD, who passed away today age 70.
He is absolutely fantastic on the OLIVER NELSON album "THE BLUES AND THE ABSTRACT TRUTH," one of my favorite albums of any genre.
It was Nelson who likened Hubbard to a trumpet-playing Coltrane.
I am also listening to Hubbard's work on the challenging masterpiece by ERIC DOLPHY, "OUT TO LUNCH."
Hubbard seemed to shine brightest in the company of others, although his "HUB-TONES" is one of the best albums of the early 1960s.
Ian Carr, in "JAZZ: THE ROUGH GUIDE," sums up Hubbard's unique place in jazz annals:
"Hubbard's debut in jazz was even more remarkable than the bald facts indicate. At only 22, he walked straight into the jazz history books. In December 1960, he participated in the Ornette Coleman double quartet album 'Free Jazz,' one of the seminal albums of the early 1960s avant-garde, and only two months later," again with Dolphy, Hubbard played an equally important part in another classic and influential recording -- Nelson's 'Blues and the Abstract Truth.' Even at that early stage, Hubbard's style was fully formed."
I lamented Hubbard's passing to a fellow jazz lover at work this afternoon. It breaks my heart to see these giants leave us.

What kind of a vampire doesn't turn into a bat?

I accompanied 13-year-old KERSTIN to a screening of Catherine Hardwicke's "TWILIGHT" last night, as a father-daughter outing.
Kerstin is among her many peers with an obsessive view of "Twilight," having read Stephenie Meyer's four-book series in a little under 72 hours.
Not having read any of the books, watching "Twilight" left me with several questions:
1. Is the film a faithful adaptation of the book? Kerstin says the film closely follows the book, although she lamented some of the novel's sections trimmed from the film.
2. Does Robert Pattinson accurately portray teenage vampire Edward Cullen? I used Kerstin as my gauge: Every time Pattinson appeared on screen, Kerstin was smiling widely in the seat beside me.
3. Where have I seen that guy before? "That guy," Billy Burke, plays Bella's father in the film. Burke has appeared in numerous television shows, including "Party of Five," "24," "Law & Order" and another one of Kerstin's obsessions, "Gilmore Girls."
4. What kind of a vampire doesn't turn into a bat? Edward can jump, run fast and read minds. He apparently doesn't turn into a bat. I thought every vampire turned into a bat! Edward also doesn't sleep in coffin during the daylight hours -- he doesn't even have a bed in his room, just a bunch of records and CDs. Not that there's anything wrong with that!
5. Is "Twilight" the type of film its fans will want to watch repeatedly? Dumb question! Kerstin is making my wife Jill take her to "Twilight" again on Friday.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Mel & Tim help mark the season's end

Here we are at the final Sunday of the regular season for the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE.
The playoff fate of nearly a dozen teams rests on today's results, but I am mostly interested in the scene at Candlestick Park -- if the SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS defeat the Redskins, the Niners will finish the season 7-9 and improve to 5-4 under interim coach MIKE SINGLETARY.
Today also marks the final day in the radio booth for Niners' announcer JOE STARKEY, as he retires to concentrate on calling Cal football games. His enthusiastic calls will be missed.
I am marking the big occasion this morning by listening to some songs by MEL & TIM, including their timeless classic "BACKFIELD IN MOTION."
Mel Hardin and Tim McPherson were cousins from Holly Springs, Miss., who were discovered by Gene Chandler in Chicago.
Hardin's mother and McPherson's aunt, Yolanda Hardin, was once a singer herself. She signed the sweet-singing the duo to a recording contract with her Bamboo Records record label.
The resulting single, "Backfield in Motion," reached No. 3 on Billboard's R&B chart and No. 10 on the pop chart in 1969.
I also love the duo's next single, also from 1969 -- "GOOD GUYS ONLY WIN IN THE MOVIES."
I am hoping the good-guy Niners can win on the football field, too
POSTSCRIPT -- Joe Nedney's game-ending field goal lifted the Niners to a 27-24 victory over the Redskins. San Francisco team officials announced after the game that Mike Singletary will be retained as coach. Hooray!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Toe-tapping for a rainy day

It seems like a timeless formula for good music: Take a college student studying creative writing and combine quickly strummed guitars.
Among the latest bands to follow that course are Manchester's THE COURTEENERS, fronted by the scholarly Liam Fray.
I am listening to their song "Not 19 Forever" while at work just now.
(You can check out the video by clicking here.)
Their toe-tapping songs are helping to take my mind off today's persistent rain -- which threatens to become an ICE STORM once the temperatures dip below freezing later today.
MORRISSEY has championed this band from his hometown, claiming "every song is very strong and full of hooks and full of dynamics."
Based on The Courtneeners songs I have heard, the former Smiths front man is right on target.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Yuletide Rider Pride

It was an unusual CHRISTMAS gift exchange for me this year.
For the first time in years, I did not receive a book, DVD or CD (although I plan to purchase at least one of those with a gift card).
I received mostly clothing items -- perfect, actually -- because my wardrobe has been slipping into the mundane recently.
Among the items were a University of San Francisco hoodie, a Canadiens tuque and a SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS Grey Cup Championship sweatshirt.
I only began following the CANADIAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE exploits of the Riders a few years ago, after becoming friends with fellow music fan, Saskatchewan resident and blogger KERI M., author of the EVERYDAY MATHESON blog included in the ROUTE 1 links. There is a lot to like about the team.
The Riders boast a passionate following and have won the GREY CUP three times -- the magical year of 1966, 1989 and 2007.
The club have a memorable history. Quarterback Ron Lancaster led the club to 11 straight appearances in the Western Conference Finals, 1966-76, which remains a CFL record.
I'll be able to show my own "Rider Pride" thanks to my new sweatshirt. I think I will wear it to work today.
Long live Piffles Taylor!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It never snows in Stockton, Calif.

It never snows in STOCKTON, CALIF.?
That's not technically true: In a chart of 41 years of climate data (check it out here), the San Joaquin County seat received 0.3 inches of snow in February 1976.
What I should have said is that it never snows in Stockton like it snows here in Dubuque.
We have already received 23 inches this season and it is snowing again today, just like it will snow tomorrow.
I am frankly sick of it, so I am attempting to take my mind off the white stuff by listening to Stockton's favorite indie sons, PAVEMENT, while sipping coffee and avoiding the scene outside the window.
I just burned a CD of some Pavement tunes. I combined the four songs of the "PACIFIC TRIM" EP of 1996 with six songs from compilations -- "It's a Hectic World," from the Descendents tribute album, "Homage;" "Nail Clinic" from "Hey Drag City;" "Sensitive Euro Man" from the "I Shot Andy Warhol" soundtrack; "No More Kings" from "Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks;" "Painted Soldiers" from the "Brain Candy" soundtrack and "Unseen Power of the Picket Fence" from "No Alternative."
They are some great songs, making me smile on a snowy day.
Oh, and now that I have written about Stockton never getting any snow, it will probably snow like crazy this year. Sorry.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dec. 22: A recent history

While dawn breaks in DUBUQUE with an air temperature of minus-12 Fahrenheit, I am reminded that this time last year I was enjoying ENCHILADAS MINERAS (cheese enchiladas with potatoes, carrots and red sauce) under the sunny skies of GUANAJUATO, MEXICO (pictured).
2006 -- We opened some Christmas gifts in Dubuque. One I received was the first season of "Ultraman" on DVD.
2005 -- My sister Inger arrived in Dubuque at 10 p.m., for a Christmas visit.
2004 -- The girls danced around while decorating the Christmas tree during a visit to Reno, Nev.
2003 -- Inger arrived in Iowa tonight. She brought me some CDs, including "Too Far to Care" by The Old 97's.
2002 -- We enjoyed a quiet day of listening to jazz albums in Farley, Iowa.
2001 -- Visiting Inger and I introduced the girls to The Beatles' "Yellow Submarine" cartoon film.
2000 -- Dubuque County's schools were closed because of extremely cold temperatures. Dubuque's daytime high was 1 degree Fahrenheit.
1999 -- After I misspelled another name in a newspaper article, the executive editor called me into his office to offer some advice: After writing a person's name in the reporter's notebook, have the person look at the written name to review the spelling. I have been doing it ever since.
1998 -- I interviewed a podiatrist about winter foot care, for a newspaper article.
1997 -- Freezing rain snarled traffic and closed schools throughout Iowa.
1996 -- I struggled to complete laying out the week's newspaper in Lakeview, Ore.
1995 -- With infant Kerstin, Jill and I drove from our Oregon home to my mom and stepdad's house in Sebastopol, Calif.
1994 -- I watched highlights of a Premier League match on television. Nottingham Forest defeated Manchester United, 2-1.
1993 -- I helped lay out the pages of the Christmas week newspaper in Lakeview, Ore.
1992 -- I covered a high school girls basketball game after helping to lay out the pages at the weekly newspaper in Lakeview, Ore.
1991 -- Jill and I attended a work Christmas party at the Casino Belle, a (now departed) riverboat gambling facility in Dubuque. Fans of the Green Bay Packers were talking about that day's firing of coach Lindy Infante.
1990 -- The daytime high temperature in Dubuque only managed to reach 0 Fahrenheit.
1989 -- I watched Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life" in its entirety for the first time, after a busy day at work in Bel Marin Keys, Calif.
1988 -- Spent the day at a college apartment in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, listening to news reports about the previous day's mid-air explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 above Lockerbie, Scotland.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

"Staring at the sea, staring at the sand"

I am cringing at the weather outside (a wind-chill reading of minus-38 as I type these words) and listening to THE CURE this morning.
The band released its debut single, "KILLING AN ARAB," in limited quantities in Britain on this date 30 years ago today.
People who mistakenly thought the song referred to, well, killing Arabs, obviously never listened to the lyrics -- based if not entirely lifted -- from "L'ÉTRANGER" by ALBERT CAMUS:
"I'm alive, I'm dead, I'm the stranger, killing an Arab."
I am afraid I will need to venture outside at some point today to shovel away some of the snow being blown around by the blizzard conditions.
I wish I could just stay inside and listen to The Cure all day!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

More snow? I'll watch more soccer

Here comes the SNOW again.
It always seems to be snowing these days.
I only noticed it now, glancing out of the window after watching a live Premier League match on FOX SOCCER CHANNEL.
Visiting ASTON VILLA beat WEST HAM, 1-0, to move into third place in the league.
It was an interesting match, with plenty of missed scoring chances.
Villa got their goal in unlikely fashion: James Milner sent in a cross that took a deflection off Lucas Neill and floated into the net.
Now, I am gearing up for more nasty weather.
Forecasters have issued a BLIZZARD WATCH for tonight and tomorrow.
A west wind of 15-25 mph could gust as high as 35 mph, blowing snow and driving wind-chill readings down to around minus-15.
That's as good a reason as any to remain inside and watch more soccer.
Well, not that I ever really need to find a reason to stay in and watch soccer!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Musical moments of the year

ROUTE 1 originally planned to take a two-week break for the holidays, now, it might take us that long just to dig out from these relentless snow storms.
Ah well... ROUTE 1 readers close out 2008 by answering this year's final FRIDAY QUESTION:
MIKE M. -- My favorite musical moment of the year was in March, when I heard "Tangled Up in Blue" by Bob Dylan on a PA system during a break at a library conference in Minneapolis. I bought the CD "Blood on the Tracks" the same day, and later learned that Dylan actually recorded much of the album in Minneapolis.
RICK T. -- Seeing Ray Price in concert -- 83 years old and that man still has it.

LAURA C. -- The sparkling new Bellyachers' Christmas tune. (You can hear it here.)
KERI M. -- Britney's comeback, or... at least that's the only one I can think of. Good for her for getting her stuff together.

MIKE D. -- Top Musical Moments of 2008
5. Hearing Kid Rock's "All Summer Long" all summer long. I'm not a fan of
the artist and the song was a bit overplayed, but I thought it was a catchy
tune, especially the Warren Zevon intro.
4. Rediscovering Extreme's "Pornografitti."
3. Hearing Julien's Bluff play their penultimate gig at Pitstop in the
spring after seven years of rocking the tri-states with their acoustical
2. Hearing my two older sons play the piano at their Northeast Iowa School of Music recitals.
1. Hearing my 3-year-old sing. He's funny... and good!
Least Favorite Musical Moment
1. Hearing co-worker Gary D. sing Sheena Easton's "Morning Train" repeatedly
over the course of several weeks in an attempt to drive me crazy. It worked.
KERSTIN H. -- "Lies" by McFly. They sooo need to come to America it's not even funny.
ERIK H. -- We took ROUTE 1 JUNIOR APPRENTICE ANNIKA to this fall's elementary school orchestra night. Fourth-grade students were given the opportunity to try the instrument of her choice. Annika tried percussion, trumpet and flute -- she had the perfect pouting lips. It was when she picked up the bow and the teacher said: "Look! She has the perfect bow hand," that we knew she would choose to play the violin.
ROUTE 1's FRIDAY QUESTION returns in 2008. Keep checking ROUTE 1 for the news and views you won't find anywhere else... because well... nobody really cares about a lot of this stuff except for me.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Vegas baby, Vegas!

I know "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," but I have a feeling the WINTER STORM that dumped the most SNOW on LAS VEGAS in more than 30 years will probably affect a few other areas before it is finished.
Las Vegas officially received 3.6 inches of snow.
Here in DUBUQUE, we are awaiting a winter storm that could drop as much as 9 inches of the white stuff. We have already received 9.8 inches this season, and winter hasn't even officially begun.
Ill-equipped to handle snow, officials in southern Nevada grounded flights at the airport and closed major highways and schools for today.
That's highly unusual for them. We could face the same situation tonight and tomorrow. That's becoming all too usual for us.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

If you can't have hot weather, at least have hot music

"TURNING POINT," the 1968 soul jazz album by organist DR. LONNIE SMITH, has kept me sonically warm during several days of BONE-CHILLING WINTER WEATHER.
I especially appreciate the WARM TENOR SAX SOLO
by BENNIE MAUPIN on the cover version of "ELEANOR RIGBY." His solo helps take my mind off a weather forecast that includes snow, ice and single-digit temperatures.
Smith's version of this song is one of the best covers of a much-covered song.
Trumpeter LEE MORGAN is one of my favorites, and he does a great job on this album, too.
If I can't have 75 degrees and sunny, at least I can have the enjoyment of hearing this album.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The genius of the everyday detail

YASUJIRO OZU was a filmmaking genius for many reasons, including his impeccable eye for everyday detail.
I watched Ozu's classic silent film "TOKYO NO KORASU (TOKYO CHORUS)" on DVD last night.
Although the film was set and filmed in 1931, Ozu's details of family life -- bickering children, pained looks passed among parents with oblivious children nearby and parental doting over a child battling illness -- could have been lifted from any contemporary home.
Charismatic but ill-fated leading man TOKIHIKO OKADA plays Shinki Okajima, a wage-earning dad who loses his job, then scrambles for the employment necessary to support his growing family.
Okada radiates positive cheerfulness in the role. Tragically, Okada died of tuberculosis nearly three years after this film's release and just shy of his 31st birthday.
"Tokyo No Korasu" is also a treat for showing the emerging elements of Ozu's style, including the low camera angles, the side-by-side composition of people conversing and the use of seemingly random location shots (of building facades, sunflowers, etc.) to establish a change of scene.
It is a fantastic film to experience.

Monday, December 15, 2008

"You love nature, don't you?"

I listened to the singles of DEXY'S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS while driving around in today's BITTERLY COLD TEMPERATURES (we endured a daytime high of 8 Fahrenheit today).
The final song on the CD was the final U.K. charting single of the band, "BECAUSE OF YOU," the theme to the BBC-TV sitcom "BRUSH STROKES."
The song is a marvelous, lilting ballad, far removed from the frenetic Celtic pop of "Come on Eileen" or the horn-driven euphoria of "Geno."
I enjoyed hearing it, but every time Kevin Rowland sang the repeated line "you love nature, don't you?" I responded with an emphatic "no!"
No I don't love nature -- not when it serves up a wind-chill reading of minus-21.
Ask me again the next time it is 75 and sunny.
Check out a video for "Because of You" by clicking here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Topping the charts... the Norwegian charts

Yesterday's GUARDIAN newspaper listed the year's best singles (you can find the list here).
Topping the list was "KIDS" by Brooklyn duo MGMT.
The newspaper described it as:
"A jubilant mix of New Order, Prince and Beach Boys that expressed the pure joy of childhood and the melancholy of growing up via a psychedelic kaleidoscope."
So, why on Earth did this great song only manage to reach No. 116 on the U.S. charts? I didn't even know the charts went down that far!
"Kids" managed a not-much-more-respectable No. 92 in Canada, while rising to No. 25 in Britain. The song topped the charts in Norway, of all places.
Check out the video here, to see what all the Norwegian hub-bub is about.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

"Cut! That was perfect!"

Give TIM BURTON credit: He could make a "feel-good" film about a man perceived as "THE WORST MOVIE DIRECTOR IN CINEMA HISTORY."
I watched "ED WOOD" on DVD last night.
As portrayed by JOHNNY DEPP -- possibly the most courageous actor of my generation -- Wood isn't really the worst movie director, but he might be the NICEST. Too nice, in fact, to make the decisions that could have improved his films and too loyal to abandon his friends for more talented actors.
"Ed Wood" is also about the importance of following your muse.
As an ORSON WELLES fan, I cheered the advice Welles gives to Wood:
"Visions are worth fighting for. Why spend your life making someone else's dreams?"
That advice might not work for most people in the practical world, but the arts have rarely been practical.

I also love this scene from the filming of "PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE:"
Edward D. Wood, Jr.: And cut! Print. We're moving on. That was perfect.
Ed Reynolds: Perfect? Mr. Wood, do you know anything about the art of film production?
Wood: Well, I like to think so.
Reynolds: That cardboard headstone tipped over. This graveyard is obviously phony.

Wood: Nobody will ever notice that. Filmmaking is not about the tiny details. It's about the big picture.
Reynolds: The big picture?
Wood: Yes.

Reynolds: Then how 'bout when the policemen arrived in daylight, but now it's suddenly night?

Wood: What do you know? Haven't you heard of suspension of disbelief?
My thoughts exactly.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Films that packed a whole lot of "funny"

You can't be serious!
Well, not all the time, as ROUTE 1 readers demonstrate by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What was the funniest film you saw this year -- either theatrical release or DVD?"
MIKE D. -- I never saw the whole movie, but Ben Stiller's bathroom scene in "Along Came
Polly" had me cracking up.
BEKAH P. -- "Tropic Thunder." Robert Downey Jr., had me cracking up the whole time. Of course, that film could also be called the stupidest film I have seen all year.
KERSTIN H. -- "Juno" is awesome, so that would have to be my choice.
ELLEN B. -- "Heartbreak Kid" with Ben Stiller in it!
BRIAN M. -- "Juno." I couldn't help but be reminded of "Napoleon Dynamite" when I watched "Juno." Knowing full well that no girl that age is glib, ironic or savvy, particularly through such a life-changing experience as pregnancy, it offered the same sort of "vignette of absurdity" in an otherwise "real" world that "Napoleon" offered. And, naturally, I saw "Juno" a year after almost everyone else.

ROSEANNE H. -- We liked the DVD movie "Sex in the City."
RICK T. -- "Wild Hogs."
BOB H. -- The funniest (maybe silliest is a better description) isn't a film, but the BBC series available on DVD, "Absolutely Fabulous." The funniest film is not so funny, but more sentimental; the romantic comedy, "Shirley Valentine." We waited for years, after seeing it in the theater, for it to be released on DVD. The 1989 film was finally available late last year.
KERI M. -- A tie between "Tropic Thunder," "Juno" and "Love Guru."
ERIK H. -- It seems like only yesterday, but it was Monday, Feb. 18 and Dubuque was in the throes of a record-setting snowy winter and I was at my absolute limit.
I placed Woody Allen's "Annie Hall" into the DVD player, though, and for several hours my laughter provided a much-needed respite from the outside world.
The joke was on me: Winter would hang on for more than a month after that mid-February date. Still, for a night, I experienced the healing effects of great comedy.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Maybe there is a beast....maybe it's only us"

You can keep your ghosts, demons and monsters.
They don't scare me half as much as the savages who emerge in the PETER BROOK film adaptation of "LORD OF THE FLIES."
I watched the 1963 film on DVD this morning.
I shuddered as JACK used fear to control his "tribe," how the weak were under constant threat and how order and good manners slipped away into an anarchy that could kill -- twice.
"Kill the pig! Cut his throat! Bash him in!"
The biggest danger in the world is the danger that lives within us, the film (and the WILLIAM GOLDING book, of course) suggests.
That premise chills me more than any "creature feature."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It's a simple dream: A house among the eucalyptus

"Today: Sunny, with a high near 75. East wind between 5 and 10 mph."
I blame the WEATHER. I have dreamt we were back in CALIFORNIA for the past two nights.
Just now, I dreamt I was traveling home down the freeway in some indeterminate (but definitely warmer) city. I turned up a hill into a quiet neighborhood and parked the car along a house nestled among EUCALYPTUS trees.
I stepped into the house, said hello to a cat, walked toward the sound of my family's voices -- and woke up to the alarm going off.
We are listening to KNX online this morning while checking local news Web sites. The girls are disappointed that school has not been delayed by yesterday's snowstorm. I am disappointed that the lingering images of my dream are slowly starting to fade.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

My music video of the year

You know those art projects made by the REALLY SMART KIDS? The ones that seem to drip with self-knowing cleverness?
That's the first impression I had after watching the colorful video for "READY FOR THE FLOOR," the GRAMMY-nominated single by Britain's HOT CHIP.
By my second viewing, I was completely won over by the video, directed by NIMA NOURIZADEH.
Lead vocalist Alexis Taylor dons a "Joker" disguise, then appears as half-Joker, paint splatters to form female forms out of the darkness and band members dodge stakes that appear out of the walls.
It is a highly inventive video -- you can see it here -- probably my favorite music video of the year.
The song itself sounds like a lost synth-pop classic from the 80s.
Given all the missteps in this year's Grammy nominations, it cheers me to know they got a few right -- like Hot Chip.

Monday, December 08, 2008

L.A.'s best on silver screen

Earlier this year, the LOS ANGELES TIMES selected the BEST 25 FILMS ABOUT THE CITY IN THE PAST 25 YEARS.
I watched the No. 1 film on that list, Curtis Hanson's "L.A. CONFIDENTIAL," today during a rare Monday off work.
The Times singled out Kim Basinger's character in citing the film as the best to capture the essence of the City of Angels:
"She is as fitting a metaphor for the city as anything ever hatched by Hollywood: Kim Basinger’s high-class call girl Lynn Bracken in the neo-noir potboiler 'L.A. Confidential.' Tragic yet glamorous, she’s a cipher for intense desire and empty idol worship."
Hanson himself described Basinger's Lynn as "a natural beauty with a phony image," apt as a description of the city itself.
Watching the film today, I was reminded about the greatness of the cast, and laughing at the notion that principals Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce were considered "unknowns" in America at the time -- 1997.
Hanson's direction is also marvelous.
The Times' list (you can find it here), includes a number of films that represent L.A. in all its (sometimes sordid) glory, including "Boyz N The Hood," "The Player," the hilarious "Swingers" and my own personal Southland favorite, "Repo Man."
After watching "L.A. Confidential" today, it is hard to argue with its place on top of the L.A. heap.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

They only wanna be with me

First, congratulations to ROUTE 1 reader LAURA C. Her brother garnered a GRAMMY NOMINATION!
Laura's brother Matt is a mastering engineer, and he and his crew have been nominated for the Grammy for "BEST HISTORICAL ALBUM," for their work on "Classic Columbia, OKeh And Vocalion Lester Young With Count Basie (1936-1940)," from
Mosaic Records.
Second, I wish my family would come home!
My wife and kids are visiting my newest nephew -- BABY FINN -- and the emptiness of our home has created the three clingiest pets you can imagine.
The puppy and the two cats refuse my side -- which is too bad for them -- as I must leave for work in about 40 minutes.
Last night, the puppy was nestled, whimpering, by my side under the covers while the white cat purred by my ear and the black cat licked my head. Yecch!
I have tried to recover my sanity this morning by watching some classic DUSTY SPRINGFIELD clips on YouTube.
She was great, as you can see for yourself here, here and here.
Now then, when is my family coming home? Soon? Please?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

"Cera Una Volta il West"... with nap!

Today's headline was going to be "SERGIO LEONE MOVIES ALWAYS MAKE ME THIRSTY," until the pets and I took a TWO-HOUR NAP in the middle of watching "CERA UNA VOLTA IL WEST (ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST)" on DVD this afternoon.
I usually remain wide awake during movies starring CLAUDIA CARDINALE, but I endured a long week at work and spent most of the morning cleaning the kitchen.
By the afternoon hours, I was so tired I couldn't keep my eyes open.
I finished watching Leone's 1968 film this evening.
HENRY FONDA is mesmerizing as the villain Frank, particularly if you have only seen him in "good guy" roles.
"People scare better when they're dying" is just one of Frank's memorable lines.
My favorite of his quotes though, is the following:
"How can you trust a man who wears both suspenders and a belt? The man can't even trust his own pants."
That's a line worth waking up to hear.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Route 1 readers would spare Grandma from reindeer

Some might argue there is no cause-and-effect evident here, but the ROUTE 1 WORLD HEADQUARTERS currently boasts no fewer than SEVEN CHRISTMAS TREES this season, and we are hearing more CHRISTMAS MUSIC than you could ever imagine. Well, perhaps you could imagine it, but I never imagined there could be this much Christmas music.
Some of it is not exactly good, either, a sad fact illustrated by readers who answered the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What is your least favorite Christmas song?"
DAVE B. -- "Grandma Got Ran Over by a Reindeer"
MARY N.-P. -- No question: It is "Blue Christmas" by Elvis - While I really like Elvis's
upbeat rock-and-roll stuff, this is a droopy, whiney song. Also I HATE the color blue for Christmas décor - What the...?
LAURA C. -- "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer"... followed closely by any modern/R&B/jazzy version of any traditional song... EXCEPT Bruce's "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town," which rawks.
MIKE M. -- My least favorite is "Do You Hear What I Hear?" which was written in response to the Cuban Mistletoe Crisis. "A revolution is not a group of hemiparasitic plants!"
ANNIKA H. -- My least favorite X-mas song is "I Saw Three Ships." My favorite is "Jingle Bells."
JIM S. -- Any Christmas song by Michael Bolton or Mariah Carey.

KERI M. -- "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," specifically done by The Pointer Sisters. Or one that used to play at Shoppers all the time when I worked there.
BOB H. -- By a long mile, "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer!" I don't listen to any music stations or go to the mall for fear I will hear it. Auuuhg!
RICK T. -- "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer!"
MIKE D. -- "Santa Baby," with its ditzy, squeaky vocals, makes my skin crawl.

KERSTIN H. -- It's a tie between "Jingle Bells" and "Silent Night." To me, both are overly played.
BRIAN C. -- "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer." Hard to believe, I can do without this song celebrating the season. All together now: "When we found her Christmas mornin' at the scene of the attack, she had hoof prints on her forehead and incriminatin' Claus marks on her back."
BRIAN M. -- After a while, almost ALL of the Christmas songs (which I differentiate from the hymns about Christ's birth) make you want to gouge out your eyes with candy cane... "Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow," "Winter Wonderland," "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," but the all-time disfavored Christmas song to me is Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime." The lyrics AND music both give you the notion it took him all of five minutes to write and arrange the song, with about as much inspiration afforded.
ERIK H. -- "Santa Baby," specifically Madonna's version on "A Very Special Christmas" is akin to nails on the chalkboard to me. Hearing that song makes me want to smash things.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

What is this world coming to?

Up north, a coalition attempts to oust the recently elected government in a parliamentary crisis.
Down here, a financial crisis threatens to sweep established names from the nation's business roster, while making it more difficult for families to hold onto their homes.
Then, there is this *REALLY* worrying development:
The JONAS BROTHERS have been nominated for BEST NEW ARTIST in the latest round of GRAMMY NOMINATIONS.
I must be showing my age (and refined musical taste), because I am cringing at the announcement.
I don't begrudge the NICKELODEON and DISNEY CHANNEL generation their musical heroes, I just doubt that they belong on the same ballot as Adele, Duffy, Lady Antebellum and Jazmine Sullivan.
I can only hope Robert Plant and Alison Krauss sweep their awards. That will show there's some hope for this world yet.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

"The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement"

She influenced a generation of folk singers, including the young BOB DYLAN and JOAN BAEZ, and became known as "The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement."
ODETTA HOLMES, who sang under her first name, has died age 77.
Odetta was touring with the show "Finian's Rainbow" when she "fell in with an enthusiastic group of young balladeers in SAN FRANCISCO."
She had been performing the songs of
workingmen and slaves, farmers and miners ever since.
We have a few Odetta songs scattered across various folk compilations. I'll be listening to them today.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Don't rock my jukebox

Surprising or not, ALAN JACKSON probably put it best:
"Don't rock the jukebox, I wanna hear some Jones. 'Cause my heart ain't ready for the Rolling Stones."
The arrival of an IOWA WINTER always makes me a bit sad -- blame it on my CALIFORNIA ROOTS.
Nobody sang a sad song quite like GEORGE JONES, which probably explains why I have been listening to nothing but Jones for the past two days.
I have never been a big fan of the overly polished "Nashville Sound," so I prefer early Jones -- songs such as "She Thinks I Still Care" from 1962, "Color of the Blues" from 1958 and the song THE BYRDS covered on "Sweetheart of the Rodeo," "You're Still on My Mind" from 1962.
Jones boasts one of the most expressive voices in music, regardless of genre.
It fits my snowy sadness like a glove.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Thriller fuels book reading on cold days

SNOWY, COLD WEATHER gives me a good excuse to curl up with a book.
The nature of the psychological thriller I am reading makes the book difficult to put down.
I am reading "I MARRIED A DEAD MAN," written by CORNELL WOOLRICH under the pen name "William Irish."
It follows the story of a poor, lonely pregnant girl who, through a case of mistaken identity, is taken in by a wealthy family and treated as family.
The girls' fear of being discovered as an impostor becomes an obsession that dominates her life.
Published by Lippincott in 1948, "I Married a Dead Man" has been filmed several times.
The book reads like a great film noir, so I am not surprised it has been transformed to the screen.
More snow is apparently heading our way by the middle of this week. My perfect "book-reading conditions" will continue.