30 July 2012

Tony Martin RIP

My lunch with Tony Martin (1913 - 2012): In March 1991, I was in Los Angeles visiting with my great friend Shirley Wilson who loves little more than taking me to cool "old Hollywood" hangouts -- knowing, as she does, my great love of all things "old Hollywood." On this trip, after a tour of an exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, she took me for lunch to the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Very few things in Hollywood say "old Hollywood" in quite the same way as the Polo Lounge. We sit there, among the banana-leaf wallpaper dining on something scrumptious when Shirley points out to me a man sitting by himself at a table across the aisle from me. She gives me a hint as to his identity but, alas, I have no idea.  Turns out it was singer Tony Martin (see photograph, next to a swatch of the wallpaper)! Embarrassingly, I still had no idea who he was. But, there he sat, by himself, eating lunch.

27 July 2012

How I Spent Today

Today is my birthday (thank you). My wonderful spouse and I did a whole slew of really fun things -- and I thought it would be neat to share with you how I spent today. (Click photograph to enlarge.)

1: First we went to a dollar store to pick up a few supplies. (To some that might sound like an odd way to start a birthday. Personally, picking up supplies is really keen and I feel better knowing we are well stocked in whatever it is we needed.)

2: ICE SKATING! That's right, we went ice skating.  I used to figure skate competitively when I was a teen and it's been many years since I strapped on the blades. But, I wanted to see what I could remember after all these years (and no, it's not like riding a bicycle: it doesn't all come back to you). But it was fun. Plus, there was a really cute young gay couple there skating and that made my day.

3: To a nearby pet store for cat food (see explanation on item 1).

4: Hardware store to pick up more supplies (see item 1).

5: Discount store for more supplies (blah-blah-blah).

6: Thrift store to look for various and sundry (didn't find anything, hence the lack of a smile).

7: Phoenix Indian School. This site has a special place in my history, as it's the school my grandfather attended. That's right, I'm part North American Indian (despite how white I am). The school opened in 1895 and my grandfather (Jose Martinez) attended from 1910 until about 1917 when he and a lot of other boys left the school early to enlist in the army during World War One. I'm standing at the monument dedicated to the boys from the school who fought (it includes the name of my grandfather). The school closed in 1990 and was converted to a park in 2001. You can read more about the Indian School here.

8: Post office (so Matt could mail some packages).

9: Finally, lunch!  We went to one of our favorite Asian buffet restaurants and had a wonderful meal that included a custom-made tuna roll (sushi) that we loved!

I hope you had a fun day, too!

24 July 2012

Why Amelia?

There are lots of unsolved mysteries in the world, yet one of the most enduring is whatever happened to Amelia Earhart -- born this day in 1897.

With so many fascinating mysteries, why are so many people focused on Amelia?

She made her breakthrough flight (solo across the Atlantic) in 1928 and established her worldwide fame during the worst years of the Depression; a diversion to some, a hero to many. She fiercely promoted an interest in aviation, was a feminist before many even heard of the word (she refused to adopt her husband's surname, for example), and she had no problem working a job and earning her own money.

Then came the around-the-world flight attempt that changed history. After completing 22,000 miles of the journey, she took off for the next leg on the morning of 02 July 1937 and was, as they say, never seen again. Her disappearance was both a surprise and a shock -- and it remains as such 75 years later.

Did her plane ditch in the sea where she drowned along with her navigator? Did she land on an uninhabited island and die? Did she make it to a British-owned island and live a long, secret life? Was she spying for the government? Were they captured and executed by the Japanese? With so many unanswered questions, there is little wonder her life and disappearance still elicit so much interest.

As a journalist, I don't much like unsolved mysteries. Every mystery has a resolution, it's just up to someone to find it. Personally, I hope the Earhart mystery is never solved. There are just some things that are more interesting as mysteries.

You can read more about why the mystery endures here, and more about the woman herself here.

23 July 2012

Malls to the Rescue?

Matt and are I huge supporters of the Arizona Humane Society. If we had more money, we would donate to every organization that helps animals. Animals need help from people because they often cannot help themselves.

An article in our local newspaper today explains how there might be more hope for animals here in the Phoenix metropolitan area and certain other cities across the country. It relates a major decision made by Macerich -- one of the leading owners, operators and developers of major retail properties.

Macerich will no longer rent space to pet stores.

That might not sound like something worthy of a big huzzah, but wait: they are working under the (well supported) theory that a lot of pet stores sell animals (mostly dogs) that originate in puppy mills. Puppy mills are very bad. So, rather than allow stores to sell animals from mills, they will only rent space to stores that adopt out rescue animals! What a great solution!  Now, you don't have to go to one of the few shelters in the area, you can go to your local mall and adopt a great new friend! There are already enough wonderful dogs and cats (and other small animals) that need good homes, why not adopt them out rather than bring new animals into the mix?

You can read more about this humane decision here.

21 July 2012

Guns Don't Kill People

With a total now of 12 shot to death and another 58 wounded, I wonder how many the crazed gunman in Colorado would have been able to kill if he did not have such easy access to guns -- and had only, say, a knife. 

Of course, guns don't kill people.

07 July 2012

On the Twentieth Century

Comedian Fred Allen is not too well known anymore, but there was a time when his program was one of the most popular shows on radio. Headlining various programs, Allen was on the radio from 1932 - 1949, facing direct competition from the likes of Jack Benny and Fibber and Molly McGee. Although his show was decidedly sophisticated and urbane, he aimed more at the middle of America rather than the upper crusts.

Known for many regular features on his show, one of the most interesting elements (especially all these years later) was his interviews with regular folks, actual people who did routine (dare I say) run of the mill jobs. These interviews with just plain folks (like the 1937 interview I featured on this blog with Hollywood lunch wagon proprietor Willie King) provide rare and unusual insights into their lives -- and in their own words.

I would like to share with you another interview, this time with Joe Cooper, a porter for the Pullman Company, then employed on the Twentieth Century Limited (pictured), a luxury train that ran between New York and Chicago. A life-long employee of the company, at the time of this interview Cooper had been working for them for 22 years. The Twentieth Century Limited was often traveled by the rich and famous. Here, Cooper talks about riding the rails with the likes of  Ronald Colman, George Arliss, Douglas Fairbanks, Joan Crawford, Edward G. Robinson, Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor.

You can hear Cooper's 1939 interview here (it runs about seven minutes).

06 July 2012

Too Happy Today?

Sometimes you can be just too happy, right? Everything is going right, the sun is shining (but not too hot), the flowers are swaying in the breeze. Well, enough of that. If you want to get REALLY sad REALLY fast, go here.

01 July 2012

Between One Cat and One Mouse

Cats and mice make an interesting combination: in nature, they don't usually interact unless it's when one eats the other. In the realm of entertainment, they interact in bizarre and crazy ways unique in the comic world of pairing disparate things (dog and cat, cat and bird, Oscar and Felix).  Why is it that we find it so funny to see cats and mice together?  Who knows.

Here, then, is a small tribute to some of the funniest cat and mouse pairings through history (click image to enlarge):

1913: Krazy Kat and Ignatz the mouse appear in the comic strip "Krazy Kat." They originated as part of the comic strip "The Dingbat Family" (renamed "The Family Upstairs") which began in 1910

1941: Tom the cat and Jerry the mouse appear in their first cartoon "The Midnight Snack." A similar cat and mouse appeared in the 1940 cartoon "Puss Gets the Boot," but with different names

1949: Katnip the cat and Herman the mouse appear in their first cartoon "Mice Meeting You," although Herman originally appeared with others starting in 1944

1990: Scratchy the cat and Itchy the mouse first appear in an unnamed cartoon as part of the episode "There's no Disgrace Like Home" on "The Simpsons." They originated on "The Tracey Ullman Show" starting in 1988