Monday, April 17, 2006


This is one of those posts where I feel compelled to write something simply to keep things fresh, but in truth have nothing to say. So, let the weekend travelogue commence.

Since last Easter was spent with my family in Kentucky, this Easter was with Laurie’s up in Dyer. Now I realize that what I’m about to say may sound a bit off, but I actually feel very relaxed when I visit her folks. We really don’t do much but sit around and eat Donna’s cooking/baking and hang out with the nieces and nephews if they come over. None the less, I’m never bored. I just feel really at home.

Against our better judgment (and the HobbyZone manual’s ample warnings) her dad and I took his Firebird Commander out on Saturday. That’s one of the ways he and I bond now. I’ll bring down a Stryker or something and we’ll head to the local park to do some flying. We haven’t done a lot lately because he’s had to work just about every Saturday I’ve been there. So, we decided to make the most of his day off, even if it was a tad breezy.

Long story short we quickly had the Commander blown about ½ mile downwind of us and couldn’t get it back. I finally gave up and simply let it come down in a field. We found it in perfect shape resting under one of those giant irrigation gantries. I had to walk a good 100 yards into the field to retrieve it, and the entire time I was listening for the sound of water flooding the pipes. Thankfully, the sprinklers had the day off too.

I told Larry not to say anything. That Laurie and her mother would never let us hear the end of it. We had the plane and it was in one piece. There was nothing to see here and nobody needed to know. He told them anyway. Now I can expect to get razzed every time we go flying. I can just hear it now, “So which one of you is going to fly and which is going to drive the retrieval truck?”

Sunday we went to church. It was my first time in the church since our wedding day. Larry, who is one of the elders there, told me they were thinking about moving to another location in a few years. It made me kinda sad to think about it. Not only is this the church where Laurie became my wife, but if I’m not mistaken it’s also the one in which she was baptized as a baby. Sure, God’s house is wherever He wants it, but that building is a landmark in my life. At the very least, I hope it never gets torn down should her family’s church find another home.

Sunday dinner was awesome. Since it was Larry’s birthday, I let him relax and I carved the ham. The electric knife they have is fantastic. Laurie says we have the exact same knife that we received as a wedding gift. I almost want to cook a turkey just so we can break it out. In addition to the delicious ham, there was corn, mashed taters, green been casserole with the Funyon-like crumbles on top and homemade beef and noodles. I washed it all down with Donna’s delectable iced tea then piled on with a nice sized piece of turtle cake with ice cream. I’m still feeling the effects tonight.

On the way home we drove through the backside of the super cell that blew threw yesterday. Didn’t see anything too scary, but the Saturn’s anti-skid was working overtime. Its tires are a tad worn so we were drifting a touch in some of the turns. I wasn’t driving real fast either. There was just a lot of standing water on the back roads we were on. We took a different route back than we usually do. It runs down 1 through Beecher and Grant Park, then heads west on 17 at Momence, paralleling the Kankakee River for a few miles. It’s actually sort of scenic and shortens the amount of time we have to spend I-57.

Oh man, I’m talking about travel routes. Clearly I’m becoming my father. I remember my father and his friends talking ad infinitum about the quickest way to Chicago or Louisville or Indy. As a child there are few worse things than having to sit at the table and listen to adults discuss the merits of the 465 bypass vs. taking 74 straight through to 65. I couldn’t fathom how boring adulthood was going to be if this was all there was going to be to talk about. Farts, girl cooties and King Kong were much more interesting. With the exception of girls having cooties, I maintain they still are.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Elia and Andy

I've always suspected Andy Griffith was far more gifted than his television show ever allowed him to let on. Sheriff Andy Taylor was nothing more than a straight man for the likes of Barney, Gomer and Floyd. But before being consumed by Mayberry, Griffith did a movie in 1957 called "A Face In the Crowd". In that film you will see what has to be one of the most fascinating and disturbing portrayals of an addict ever filmed. Griffith's character, Lonesome Rhodes (whose first name is Larry by the way) becomes addicted to fame, and ultimately the power that accompanies it. The support Griffith's performance gets from the likes of Patricia Neal and Walter Mathau doesn't hurt him either.

I watched "A Face . . . " a couple of nights ago. I'd say it's every bit as powerful as Network, Citizen Kane or the Manchurian Candidate. I'm not going to go into a detailed review, however, because 1.) Many others already have, 2.) I waited too long to sit down and write about it, so most of the initial gut impressions I had have faded some and 3.) I'm lazy. That said, I do recall thinking during several scenes, “This could be the greatest film I’ve ever seen.” The acting, writing, editing, cinematography--it was all woven together with near perfection. Excuse the gushing, but I think you get my point. I can't recommend it enough.

Besides wanting to see Andy Griffith play a dark character, the other reason I Netflixed the film was due to my recently acquired interest in Elia Kazan. Despite being one of the most gifted directors in the history of film, Kazan was, and is still, reviled by many (mostly nostalgic left wingers--i.e. Harvard sociology profs and aging hippies) for his role in the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee—i.e. McCarthy) hearings. By a stroke of luck, the behind-the-scenes documentary on the DVD goes into quite a bit of detail about that very topic. Based on what I learned there, the Cliff Notes version of Kazan’s story goes something like this.

He joined the Communist Party in the early 30's because he felt it was the best hope for real social justice. Somewhere about the late 30's, early 40's he began to hear about authors and artists in the Soviet Union being "liquidated" by Stalin. Here in the states, he and others began to come under attack by fellow communists for not marching in lock step to party ideology. He became disillusioned. While he always remained, in essence, a left-wing socialist at heart, he was deeply suspicious of the American Communist Party. When first called to testify before HUAC he pleaded the 5th. When he was called to testify a second time, he gave the names of 8 other communists.

Now, according to the documentary, lots of other directors and actors testified and gave names, but they managed to stay in the left's good graces. And every person Kazan named had already been fingered by previous witnesses. So how did he get on the receiving end of the kind of hard left hatred usually reserved for the likes of Karl Rove or Tom Delay? Apparently the day after he testified he took out a full page ad in the New York Times basically saying he was glad he testified and that it was every good American's duty to do so if they were called. According to one of the experts interviewed in the documentary, this was simply Kazan's attempt to prove to the rest of the country that you could be a member of the left and still be loyal to America. Obviously it backfired.

This hatred was passed down to the next generation of limousine leftists, most of whom were in diapers during the HUAC hearings, who dogmatically towed the party line. I remember the 1999 Oscar ceremony in which Kazan received a Lifetime Achievement award. Several of these next gen limo lefties, like Sarandon and Nolte, vowed to protest his award by refusing to stand and/or applaud when he received it. And they stayed true to their word. As I recall, when Kazan came on stage to receive his award the camera panned to them sitting legs and arms crossed tightly with petulant looks on their faces. As if their blind hatred and pointless grand standing in the shadow of a truly great filmmaker hadn't made them look small enough already, they actually had to pout on live TV.

But back to the movie . . . if you fancy yourself a lover of great films, you have to see A Face In the Crowd. I just wish I'd seen it before I made such a big deal about The World's Fastest Indian. I feel like a guy who just screamed to everyone, "Hey, check out that cool strip mall!" right before he sees the Grand Canyon.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

See it . . . World's Fastest Indian

This movie is mostly for those who love turning wrench, the smell of gasoline and oil and that peculiar sensation of speed only experienced on the back of a motorcycle. There's no real drama or deep message other than maybe, "Follow your dreams." It's basically about the allure of unbridled speed and the lengths some of us are willing to go to achieve it.

I'd never heard of Burt Munro before I saw a trailer for this film, so I have no idea what he was really like. By most standards his story should have merited nothing more than a made-for-TV movie or a segment in a "History of Motorcycle Racing" special on the Speed Channel. But, as usual, Anthony Hopkins infuses this character with so much humanity and life that you can't help but love the guy by the end of the movie. Actually, it is Sir Anthony's performance plus the exhilarating camera work that elevates it to big screen material.

Even if you're not a motorcycle freak, you'll probably find it plenty exciting. I know during many of the scenes where Munro is pushing his machine to its limits, Laurie was gripping my arm like a vice. Such was the power of the cinematography. You really feel like you're on the back of this oil-streaked, fire-breathing antique with him.

I'm just glad (and Laurie more so) that we didn't ride the Suzuki to the movie. I would've wanted to really wring it out on the way home.