Monthly Archives: July 2009

Sports: Cal Ripken, Jr.

Cal Ripken breaks the record for most consecutive games played. Uploaded by itricks.com.

Cal Ripken breaks the record for most consecutive games played. Uploaded by itricks.com.

“It’s not whether you win or lose,” the saying goes. “It’s how you play the game.” On the other hand, it’s said, “Winning isn’t everything – it’s the only thing.” So the ideal sportsman is one who plays the game with class and respect, and yet still wins. In other words, Cal Ripken.

In a storybook scenario, Cal got to play beside his brother while his father was the coach. But not for the Kenosha Tire Co. Tiny Treads – for the major league Baltimore Orioles. Even then, Cal was a rare commodity in baseball. He was an athlete with the agility to play shortstop and the strength to hit for power.

Uploaded by stevenellis.com.

Uploaded by stevenellis.com.

Cal made an instant splash in the sport, winning the American League Rookie of the Year honor in 1982. He was named to the American League All-Star team 19 times. He was twice named the All-Star game MVP and the American League MVP. He has a World Series ring. And he was a first-ballot inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Of course, the feat everyone associates with Cal is the streak for playing the most consecutive games. Lou Gherig’s record of 2,130 stood for 56 years and was considered unbreakable. Not only did Cal break it, but he hit a home run in the record-tying game and in the record-breaking game. It was named “Most Memorable Moment” in baseball history. He finally took a game off after playing 2,632 straight games. That record will never be broken.

His streak symbolized what kind of a man he is. Show up every day. Care about your job. Do your very best. Give back to the community. The stench of steroids has corrupted baseball in the public eye, and it’s going to take a lot of Cal Ripken-style professionalism before it can regain its lost place in America’s heart.

Food: Hershey’s Kisses

Hershey's Kisses. Uploaded by wallpaperoriginals.com

Hershey's Kisses. Uploaded by wallpaperoriginals.com

When I worked in an office, I always kept a jar of Hershey’s Kisses on my desk. One day a co-worker brought her little girl to work, and the child wandered to my office. I said, “Hey! Would you like a kiss?” The girl, who had been sternly taught the difference between “good touching” and “bad touching”, made a beeline straight for her mom. Ha! More for me.

These delicious chocolate mouthfuls have been around since 1907. They were initially hand-wrapped until Hershey’s developed a machine to package them. That’s when the little “plume” was added, too.

Uploaded by typepad.com

Uploaded by typepad.com

Although Kisses now come in a variety of flavors, nothing has surpassed the original milk chocolate variety. But go ahead, give them a try – Milk Chocolate with Almond, White Chocolate Hugs, Caramel Filled, Special Dark. And literally dozens of other varieties Hershey’s rolls out for a limited time.

I expect they have plenty, since Hershey’s makes more than 80 million Kisses each day. I probably couldn’t eat more than a million a year, so you can have the rest.

Here’s the bad part, and there’s no way around it. Nine Kisses have a total of 230 calories. That means if you want a 100-calorie snack of Kisses, you can have four. Four. I’m just getting warmed up at four. While I’m opening the next bag, here’s a Kisses commercial in Spanish featuring singer and soap opera actress Thalia. Yeah, I don’t know who she is either, but she’s easy on the eyes…

Music: Rodgers and Hammerstein

Rossano Brazzi and Mitzi Gaynor in South Pacific. Uploaded by donnetempo.com.

Rossano Brazzi and Mitzi Gaynor in South Pacific. Uploaded by donnetempo.com.

Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals are, well, as corny as Kansas in August. But is there anything better than some good old corn, every once in a while?

Richard Rodgers (music) worked with Lorenz Hart till Hart’s alcoholism disabled him. Oscar Hammerstein (lyrics) wrote hits like Show Boat with Jerome Kern, but jumped at the opportunity to partner with Rodgers. How successful was the Rodgers and Hammerstein collaboration?

Oh, modestly succesful I think you could say. 34 Tony Awards, 15 Oscars, two Grammys, and even two Pulitzer Prizes. Before R&H teamed up, Broadway musicals were star vehicles for performers such as Fred Astaire. Plot was incidental. Beginning with Oklahoma, Rodgers and Hammerstein used the songs to further the story. It was a formula that was successful for such blockbuster plays and films as Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music.

Uploaded by morethings.com.

Uploaded by morethings.com.

And what songs they wrote! From Oklahoma: “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” “People Will Say We’re in Love,” and “Oklahoma!”…From Carousel: “If I Loved You,” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” From South Pacific: “Bali Ha’i,” “This Nearly Was Mine,” and “Some Enchanted Evening.”  From The King and I: “Getting to Know You,” and “Hello Young Lovers.” And from The Sound of Music: “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” and “Climb Every Mountain.”

Here’s a Web site you should know: http://www.locatetv.com/ Enter the name of one of the great R&H musicals, and you’ll find out if it’s going to be on your local cable system in the next two weeks. Find a show and prepare to be wowed. A couple of hours spent on a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical is never wasted. Here’s Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner singing “Shall We Dance” from The King and I:

Film: Animal House

The great Tim Matheson as "Otter." Uploaded by onlineducation.net.

The great Tim Matheson as "Otter." Uploaded by onlineducation.net.

Let’s total up the number of Academy Award nominations Animal House accumulated. Hmm. None. Then surely it’s on the American Film Institute’s list of 100 Best Films? Uh, nope. Then how did it make this list?

Because it has one classic, memorable scene after another. The pledge party with Mohammet, Jugdish, Clayton, and Sidney. Dean Wormer putting the Deltas on double secret probation. Flounder shooting a blank gun and frightening Neidermeyer’s horse to death. Belushi piling food on his tray in the cafeteria line. The frat boys taking their dates to an all-black club.  The toga party.

I grant that guys probably love this movie more than women. (I mean, more than most women love this movie.) And some will say its humor is sophomoric. Yes. It is. I wouldn’t be surprised if “sophomoric” was invented to describe Animal House. And the producers and writers would probably take it as a compliment.

Uploaded by supak.com

Uploaded by supak.com

John Belushi, fresh after making his mark on Saturday Night Live, owned every scene in which he appeared. Director John Landis had to limit Belushi’s scenes so as not to diminish his impact. But I loved Tim Matheson as Otter. He was perfect as the smooth-talking president of the frat. “Hi, Eric Stratton, rush chairman. Damn glad to meet you.”

Donald Sutherland was the highest-paid cast member, earning $40,000 for his role. The movie cost $2.7 million to make. To date, it’s cleared over $140 million, making it one of the most profitable films ever. I’m not a fan of teen sex comedies, but I think Animal House is so much more than that. It’s one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. Relive some of the best bits in this 10-minute video:

TV Show: American Bandstand

Dick Clark interviews Bobby Rydell on AB. Uploaded by cdn.picapp.com.

Dick Clark interviews Bobby Rydell on AB. Uploaded by cdn.picapp.com.

Kids dancing to records. What a simple formula for a television show. And what an amazing run Dick Clark and American Bandstand had with it.

Dick took over what was then a local Philadelphia show in 1957, and got ABC to put it on the network’s afternoon schedule. It was still produced in Philly until 1964, when it moved to L.A. where more of the musicians lived. Every afternoon, kids from all over the country watched the regulars – Kenny Rossi and Arlene Sullivan, Bunny Gibson and Eddie Kelly, and the rest. They copied their hair styles and learned their dances. They watched every afternoon for years until Bandstand made a move to Saturdays only.

Uploaded by museum.tv.

Uploaded by museum.tv.

One of the great things about American Bandstand was that Dick Clark insisted black artists had to be a part of the show. In the late 50s that stand was controversial , but Clark recognized that to showcase American popular music without racial diversity would be a sham.

Some fun Bandstand facts. The guest who appeared the most times was Freddie “Boom Boom” Cannon (110). The first song on the national show was “Whole Lotta Shaking Goin’ On” by Jerry Lee Lewis. And I remember hearing that the song that got the all-time lowest total in the Rate-a-Record segment was “Walking My Cat Named Dog.” If it’s true, it’s richly deserved.

So come on, it’s our turn to be featured in the Spotlight Dance. American Bandstand: It’s got a good beat, and you can dance to it.

Travel: Biltmore House

Front facade of the Biltmore House. Flickr photo by lee-mccain-photorama.

Front facade of the Biltmore House. Flickr photo by lee-mccain-photorama.

Suppose you visited a remote town, and you thought, “I like the view here. I think I’ll buy an acre or 125,000 and build myself a modest little 250-room bungalow.” The town was Asheville, North Carolina and the bungalow is a little something called the Biltmore House.

Imagine having more than four acres under roof. With 34 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. All in your second home. That’s what architect Richard Morris Hunt and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead (who also created Central Park) designed and built for tycoon George W. Vanderbilt.

Biltmore small by weddingsscIt took six years to get the home to a place where Vanderbilt could move in, but construction continued for years. It included items that were almost unheard of in the 19th century, such as elevators, warm air heating, fire alarms, and intercom systems.

More than a million visitors now come to Biltmore House annually. In addition to house tours, they stay at an Inn on the property, dine at one of four restaurants, browse through the interesting shops, and enjoy the products of the Biltmore House Winery. Though the grounds are now “just” 8,000 acres (much of the rest was donated to the surrounding National Forest), its gardens and plantings are still breathtaking.

It’s called the largest private home in America. And you know what? I’m going to take their word for it. It costs $47-60 to tour the Biltmore Estate, but you’ll get a good taste in the video below.

Actor: Dick Van Dyke

Dick with Mary Tyler Moore. Flickr photo uploaded by stephanieb.

Dick with Mary Tyler Moore. Flickr photo uploaded by stephanieb.

Which part of Dick Van Dyke’s career do you like best – early TV (The Dick Van Dyke Show), movies (Bye Bye Birdie, Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), or late TV (Diagnosis Murder)?

His eponymous TV show was, like all great programs, brilliantly cast. Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie as Buddy and Sally, the wonderfully irascible Richard Deacon as Mel, and of course, Mary Tyler Moore as Laura Petrie. The show earned a total of 15 Emmy Awards, three given to Dick for his performance. Hard to believe the show was only on for five seasons; its influence on TV comedy and on our culture was much greater than its tenure.

Flickr photo uploaded by martinstreisand.

Flickr photo uploaded by martinstreisand.

Dick took his Broadway role in Bye Bye Birdie to the big screen. He was said to be annoyed that the Ann-Margret character got more prominence in the movie, but it was a big hit regardless. He didn’t quite get the Cockney accent down in Mary Poppins, but the film showcased his versatility. His song “Chim Chim Cher-ee” won the Academy Award as song of the year. A screenplay written in part by Roald Dahl attracted Dick to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but he didn’t look back on the film with great pride.

I have to admit I don’t think I saw a complete episode of Diagnosis Murder. Yet it ran for eight seasons on CBS – three longer than the Dick Van Dyke Show! One of the reasons I avoided it was the “acting” of Barry Van Dyke, Dick’s son. To characterize it as “wooden” is to insult trees.

Dick Van Dyke is 83 now, an elder statesman in entertainment. Take a moment and enjoy this clip from one of the best episodes of the Dick Van Dyke Show: “Alan Brady Presents.”

Americana: Statue of Liberty

4th of July celebration in New York Harbor. Uploaded by firstpres-sermon1

4th of July celebration in New York Harbor. Uploaded by firstpres-sermon1

Lady Liberty. What a grand nickname. What a great gift from the French, back in the 19th century when they still liked us.

Today, July 4, 2009, marks the first time since the 9/11 attacks that people have been allowed back into her crown. Eventually, some 200,000 people each year will get the unmatched thrill of seeing New York from one of the 25 windows. Not right away, though, as only three groups of 10 are allowed up each hour. You can reserve your “Crown ticket” up to a year in advance. There’s no elevator, so if you want to go, be ready to climb 354 steps up and back down. Oh, and it’s not air conditioned. And there are no bathrooms.

Uploaded by lindaborciani

Uploaded by lindaborciani

The Statue of Liberty is the most recognizable symbol of freedom and democracy in the world. That’s reflected in its official name: “Liberty Enlightening the World,” chosen by sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi. The internal skeleton was created by Gustave Eiffel, who proceeded to create a pretty famous tower of his own.

It’s impossible to tell now, but the Statue is constructed of copper. Some 62,000 pounds of it, actually. And ours isn’t the only one in existence. Bartholdi created two smaller models as he perfected his design. The first is still in Paris, while the second sits outside the city hall in Maceio, Brazil.

But it’s our majestic Lady Liberty that thrills hundreds thousands of visitors each year. And inspires millions more. Hold that torch high, Lady. We need you now more than ever.

Americana: The U.S. Marine Corps

Marines raise flag at Iwo Jima. Uploaded by phoenixcis.com.

Marines raise flag at Iwo Jima. Uploaded by phoenixcis.com.

I can’t begin to appreciate the pride shared by members of the Marine Corps. No matter what you do for the rest of your life, whether you’re a Senator or a janitor, you’re always a Marine. There are no “ex-Marines.”

It’s a pride that’s came into being in November, 1775 when the Continental Congress authorized the creation of two battalions of Continental Marines. The legend grew after the Marines battled the Barbary pirates in an action memorialized in the first line of the Marine Hymn: “…to the shores of Tripoli.”

Uploaded by ui32.gamespot.com.

Uploaded by ui32.gamespot.com.

The Marines went ashore on the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Cuba during the Spanish-American War…earned the nickname “Devil Dogs” at the battle of Belleau Wood in World War I…and served with great success throughout the Pacific during World War II, notably raising the flag signaling the victory at Iwo Jima. The legend grew through the hostilities in Korea, in the jungles of Vietnam, and now in the mountains of Afghanistan.

America can count on the Marines because they are always faithful – “semper fidelis” – to fulfill their mission. As a country, we are extremely blessed that they are on our side.

We will always be in their debt. And they will always be the few. The proud. The Marines.

Sports: Arnold Palmer

uploaded by authenticsportscollectibles.com

uploaded by authenticsportscollectibles.com

He wasn’t quite the best golfer of his era. You’d have to give that honor to Jack Nicklaus. But he was the most influential. His rapport with his fans, who became known as Arnie’s Army, translated into a wider influence that made him the unofficial ambassador of his sport.

His list of professional accomplishments is certainly more than impressive. He’s won the Masters four times, the U.S. Open once, and the British Open twice. He finished second in the PGA Championship three times, but never managed to complete his personal grand slam. Even so, he was named by the Associated Press as the Male Athlete of the Decade for the 1960s.

uploaded by 4.bp.blogspot.com

uploaded by 4.bp.blogspot.com

After his retirement from competition, Arnie became involved in a number of businesses, and is a noted golf course designer. More than 200 courses around the world bear his imprint.

Arnie will turn 80 this year. His golf swing is notoriously unorthodox, and best not imitated. But we could all follow the example of  his down-to-earth demeanor, compassion, and dedication to charity work. We could all enlist in this branch of Arnie’s Army.

Kid Stuff: Popsicles

uploaded by NATTY H

uploaded by NATTY H

According to official Popsicle lore, these frozen treats came into being by accident. A man left some soda water with a stirring stick in it on his porch one freezing winter night, and when he went out the next morning, Eureka! The Popsicle!

Who knows, it might have happened that way. Makes a good story. But it doesn’t really matter, because now we have them in all their tongue-dying, brain-freezing, t-shirt staining glory.

uploaded by icecreamusa.com

uploaded by icecreamusa.com

Here are some interesting facts, courtesy of the Popsicles People. Cherry is the number one flavor. The sticks are made from birch. And the twin pops came about during the depression as a way of giving two kids a treat for one nickel.

Popsicles are as much a part of childhood as action figures and having to be kissed by your fat aunt Bertha. For example, who could have gone to camp or to Bible school without making something useless out of Popsicle sticks? And didn’t you try to break the twin pop in half, only to have part of it fall on the ground?

One last personal note. I love orange creamsicles. To me, that combination of orange sherbet and vanilla ice cream is irresistible. I love it in other products and drinks. It’s the Michelangelo’s David of frozen pops.