Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Marketing Electric Car to California Elites

The infante terrible of electric cars and rocket trips is profiled by Ashlee Vance in “Elon Musk” which is entertaining in parts. The prologue is the best read in the book.  Much of the narrative is bogged down in detail about his marriages and business associates.  (Tom Mueller of St. Maries, Idaho, is one of his rocket scientists.)
Musk is more a marketing genius than a techno whiz kid.  He sexed up the electric car using a Mercedes body with aluminum sheet metal, which is the Tesla that caught the attention of the car magazine editors going 0-60 in less than four seconds.  Thumbing his nose at conventions, he markets the car directly through Tesla stores at $100,000 to elites.  Vance writes that there are plans to introduce a $35,000 vehicle.  His assembly plant is in Fremont, Calif., where Toyota and GM once made Corollas, a nasty rental vehicle.
Musk could be the modern day Howard Hughes (another LA eccentric genius) without RKO Radio Pictures and Jane Russell.  Rather than insane, Musk is “profoundly gifted,” Vance concludes.  But it doesn’t make any difference if you are driving a $100,000 Tesla or a $17,000 Chevy Cruze, you are at a standstill on the Harbor Freeway on the best of days.

Although the electric car is the eco-friendly alternative to the gas engine, more and better mass transit to counter the gridlock is a brighter idea.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Mrs. Cook Was Mom To Boarders at 1007 N. 6th

In the kitchen with Margaret Cook

Content with the communal living I  knew when I was a frat boy, I took a room in 1965 at Mrs. Margaret Cook’s boarding house, a few blocks from the Statesman in Boise.
Mrs. Cook was a reluctant landlady who was forced into it by her humorless farmer son, Clyde, married to the righteous Priscilla, Queen of the Bible.  They were the real American Gothic with their children Nathan, Martha, Nealus and Luther.  Clyde, a former New Mexico extension agent, lured his mother to Idaho to raise his four children while he farmed on the desert near Mountain Home.  
At this point in her life she was ripe for retirement and almost crippled with arthritis.  While he was plowing, mom was running a boarding house so his children could attend Boise High School.  
Martha, a sullen teen, slept  on the first floor with her grandmother and the boys were in the basement with Dan the Man, a Boise State College student, YMCA lifeguard and a fine picture of young manhood.  Dan didn’t fraternize with me, Albert, Duane Mitchell, Terry Newman, Jose or Roy the Boy (flim flam specialist who taught us golf and cheated Mrs. Cook out of rent money.)  Dan kept company with the married woman across the street which caused tongues to wag.
Mrs. Cook referred to the relatives as “Clyde and the others,” but she had an attractive daughter who lived in Dallas who was very professional and urban.  The daughter would visit on holidays.
The house was a smaller replica of the Governor’s Mansion, three stories with transoms above the doors on the four second floor bedrooms.  
On Sunday’s when she didn’t serve meals, four of us would go to the Brass Lamp or the Village Pancake House.  Albert had a friend with stereo equipment and tape recordings of musical shows.  Through him I became familiar with the music from “Oliver!”  
Mrs. Cook was to cooking as the Three Stooges are to plumbing.  Memorable was the time she burned the hell out of the roast beef while she caught a nap.  Sometimes Clyde would bless us with milk from the farm which was noxious so she would dilute it with powdered milk, making it even more unpleasant.  Clyde would share the meat from critters he shot on the farm.
Mrs. Cook was in the Lady’s Circle at the Methodist Church and sometimes the ladies would meet in her living room.  Since I was working nights at The Statesman, I would be home during the days.  I am sure she wished I would disappear on Circle days.  
Priscilla supplied me with literature on Christianity so I could mend my heathen ways.  When the Others visited grace was said before the meal and it was a long painful affair as practiced by Priscilla.
I would sometimes go on errands with Mrs. Cook in her 1950 Chevy coupe with manual transmission.  I enjoyed taking her and a church friend in my car to lunch at McCall, Idaho’s answer to Aspen.
Mrs. Cook would invite us to public events at the high school sponsored by her church, such as a talk by the Jewish advice columnist Ann Landers.
Terry Newman was a smart kid whose parents moved to Colorado and left him in the boarding house so he could finish high school in Boise.  He had a portable record player and introduced me to popular music such as Steppenwolf and Jose Feliciano.  
The boarding house Jose was a Latin lover who kept to himself.  He installed a basement shower in exchange for rent money he owed.  I raised a stink when he didn’t get a city building permit before doing the work.
My social life picked up when Ralph Nichols, a coworker, moved nearby and we would go to Lucky Peak Reservoir.  Bob Gould from Spokane was an attorney for Albertsons and moved to Boise in about 1969.  We went to the Snake River Stampede Rodeo and saw “Bonnie and Clyde” but I was glad to find a better social life in Frostbite Falls.
As a family, we visited Mrs. Cook on a trip to Boise in 1973. Duane visited her in a nursing home in later years.

In 2006, I returned to the house now owned by an unkept woman with two big dogs and a broken screen door.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Robinson Pursues Artists Life

Here's Dwight Robinson with a reproduction of his painting, a wild west scene.  Dwight has a background in the natural sciences and worked for State Agriculture when I was working for Jobs and Training.  We traveled together on a Caribbean cruise, San Diego and New Orleans.  He also enjoys jazz and is expert on natural remedies.  He and his partner John live in Red Wing, MN.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Teen Musical, Tomlin Movie Both Span Generations

Lily Tomlin gives us an edgy look at the senior years in the new movie “Grandma,” now playing at the Edina Theater.  As Roger S. explained, the Tomlin character is struggling with end of life anger as she views her 30ish lover who can look forward to an exciting life full of interesting relationships.
As for the Tomlin character, she has hunkered down to a debt free retirement, going to the extreme by destroying her credit cards.  The later action complicates the plot when her teen granddaughter asks her for help in terminating an unwanted pregnancy.  The scenes with the teenager offer an opportunity to bridge the generation gap.

A former husband, played by Sam Elliott, offers another look at aging from the perspective of a proud grandfather but interested in reliving moments of past desire with the Tomlin character.  With so few films employing senior actors, “Grandma” is an opportunity not to be missed.

I could hardly get to sleep last night with adrenaline pumping after Edina High School’s homage to the torchy ‘30s in their performance of “Crazy for You,” a new Gershwin musical.  Teen Jack Fischer, playing the juvenile lead Bobby Child, has all the right moves whether it’s side stepping in tap shoes or just his over the top stage presence.  
Talk about your Glee-full resumes, Fischer is a member of the International Thespian Society and has lettered in theater at EHS.  
The ensemble has memorable numbers, singing and dancing that reminded me ofthe great Busby Berkley movies.  This feast for eyes and ears involves incredible coordination and staging, but it works and is rewarding.
The irony for me was that these kids were chirping to tunes that my Mom and Dad grooved on when they were teens.  Talk about bridging the generation chasms, “Crazy for You” at EHS is a landmark event.
The finale with the lead couple swinging on the moon is very campy 1930s romantic comedy.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Summer Day at Statesman Staff Picnic


This was taken by a Statesman photographer, probably the summer of 1968, at a picnic for the Idaho Statesman where I was a reporter/writer from 1965-69.  Location:  Julia Davis of Ann Morrison park. 

Monday, November 09, 2015

RKO's "Brave One" Worth the Long Wait

Before I see the biopic on blacklisted screen writer Dalton Trumbo, I had to see the 1956 RKO Cinemascope epic “The Brave One” filmed in Mexico.  Trumbo was awarded an Oscar for his screenplay but couldn’t receive it until the 1970s because his political beliefs conflicted with the reactionaries in Congress.  It was shown on TCM last night.

A heroic bull representing the working class is the hero in this story and the matador represents the oppressive aristocrats, they way I read this yarn.   If ever a movie had to be in Cinemascope it was this one.  Jack Cardiff’s photography is breath taking and Victor Young’s music is memorable.  The Trumbo biopic is coming soon to theaters, but also see “The Brave One.”

Netflix "Master of None" Scores With Senior Comedy


Aziz  Ansari takes his girl friend’s grandmother out of the stifling confines of a nursing home to an elegant dinner where they bond.  She tells him about going to a Sinatra concert in her teens and he says his own experience at a Hootie Blowfish concert pales by comparison, but she says “don’t be so sure of that.”
The “Older People” episode of “Master of None” opens with Aziz and his buddy’s grandfather struggling with his VCR and the young men advise him to get a Blu Ray player but he argues against that.

Few programs explore the intergenerational gaps so brilliantly as this. (Netflix streaming)

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Halloween Movies, Good, Bad and Ugly

This year I actually did get afraid.  The 1942 RKO Radio Picture “The Cat People” that I saw Friday night on TCM with Gary left me with nightmares.  It’s easy to figure out; the swimming pool scene with the woman and water reflecting off the walls was incredibly claustrophobic.  No way would I be in that room, even if a jaguar wasn’t chasing me. It had to be in an RKO sound stage because no one would design that mess in a health club.  Director Jaques Tournier knew how to work lights and shadows for maximum fright.

We also watched a less successful Tournier effort: “Curse of the Demon” wherein the producer inserted a monster right out of a Roger Corman fright fest.  It was dumb.  What was even dumber was the scary guy in “Monster from the Surf” (1965).  

Also, last night I was left with two virgin bags of candy unopened.  Apparently trick and treat is not part of the tradition for kids who live in my building.  The candy will be just as fresh a year from now.  I didn’t even bother to put on my vampire costume as I watched two Karloff classics on TV.  I think I went to a Jaycees party in about 1968 with a date as a bum in Boise but most of my Halloweens aren’t even a foggy memory.