Sunday, January 30, 2011


Got some seat time in the new Chevy Volt last week. I had a chance to drive it last fall in Miami, but that was little more than a quick trip around the block.

Thanks to GM, some of us in the media had a nice drive from Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens (on the Dade-Broward County line) down the turnpike and U.S. 1 to Hawk's Cay Resort on Duck Key in the Florida Keys.

I know what you’re thinking. Sometimes life can be tough.

Even if you’re not a car buff, you probably have heard of the Chevy Volt. It has been in the news a lot lately and drawn lots of comment not just from auto reviewers but the general news media as well.

Some commentators have praised the Volt for its electric drive capability, others have panned it.

I’m in between, but leaning to the praise side.

Did you plug in the car?
The thing is, I’m not sure its critics are taking into consideration what the Volt is when they rip it for its limited battery range. It is not intended as a fully electric vehicle. Starting out with a full charge, the Volt runs on battery power for about 40 miles, though the exact milage can vary depending on speed, extreme weather temperatures, number of passengers, etc. When the lithium-ion battery’s charge runs down, the Volt shifts to a 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine to provide power until you get the opportunity to recharge it.

That makes the Volt a hybrid, though not of the type we have become familiar with in recent years, like Toyota’s Prius. Those have gasoline engines that, in models I have driven, kick in rather quickly and at fairly low speeds. The Volt will run  on battery power at highway speed until it is out of juice before it switches to the gas engine.

That power-train configuration also makes the Volt different from Nissan’s Leaf, which is a fully electric vehicle that requires recharging between stints.

Fuel economy figures will vary widely the Volt. If you drive it, say, 50 miles at a time between charges on a regular basis and use the engine for 10 miles you are going to get better mileage than if you drive it 100 miles at a time and use the engine for 60. It’s not the engine performance that is dictating mileage, but your driving demands.

Theoretically, you would never have to buy gas if you didn’t drive it more than 40 miles between charges and plugged it in every night. One GM engineer drove it 2,500 miles without making a stop at the filling station, but my guess is you’re not going to try that.

As noted earlier, the good thing about the Volt is that you don’t have to stop in the middle of a trip to recharge the battery when it’s down. Just let the gas engine take over and you’ve got a range of more than 300 miles, or what you have today in many compact cars.

That’s a big plus for the Volt over the Leaf in my book. Not to knock the Leaf, because I’ve never driven it, but with its range of 100 miles, we couldn’t have made our two-hour or so jaunt from the stadium to the resort in the Keys, a distance of about 110 miles, in the Leaf without stopping in Key Largo to charge up. And where exactly would we have found a handy place to do that?

With the Volt, the switch from battery to gas engine was seamless. The only way we knew it had occurred was because we all were keeping an eye on the instrument panel and navigation screen which showed where our power was coming from via all kind of modes and fancy diagrams with moving, swooping arrows.

There was no difference in performance, though the engine is rated at only 84 hp (and requires premium fuel) and the electric motor at 149. I comfortably got around a couple of slower vehicles in a two-lane section of U.S. 1.

I should mention the ride. The critics of the Volt (and the Leaf, too, for that matter) would like to give you the impression you are getting a pile of junk for your buck.

I would agree that the Volt’s doesn't have the panache of other $41,000 vehicles or even those in the mid-30k range, which is what the Volt costs once the $7,500 tax credit is taken. No power seats, for example. You’re paying for the technology, not luxury items.

But neither is the Volt the POS that critics would have you believe.

Designers did give it some thought with several nice touches in the interior with lines flowing from the dash through the door panels. It is roomy enough in the front, and the rear-seat occupants didn’t complain during our ride. It’s a hatchback, but there’s not a whole lot of room for luggage space with the rear seat up. But you can fold the back seats and pick up more stowage capacity.

Wind noise during our trip was virtually unnoticeable, but Goodyear’s Fuel Max, low-resistance, all-weather tries did transmit some road noise in some sections of the highway, which probably says more about our South Florida road surfaces than it does the car.

The Volt also offers some fun driving characteristics, such as the little indicator in the instrument panel that tells you when you are driving in the most fuel-efficient manner and when you’re not. It's almost mesmerizing.

Because of the Volt's silent ride when you start up on battery power, there’s also a little pedestrian horn to warn pedestrians who may be about to step in front of you. Flick the turn signal lever and you get a slight beep, not the blast you get from the usual horn.

The Volt is a car that in many cases could serve as your primary family vehicle, which gives it an edge over the Leaf, which carries a price tag about $9,000 cheaper than the Volt and would better serve as a “second” family car.

There’s something else I would remind supporters of both the 
Volt and Leaf (who seem to be taking sides the way Chevy and Ford people used to when I was growing up) and their critics, and that is this: The electric-drive technology in both vehicles is in its infancy stage and may not be a precursor to what we will be driving in the future at all.

But it is a first step away from interior combustion engines and a welcome one at that. Have patience. Detractors of early automobiles used to yell “Get a horse” at motorists. Haven’t heard much from them lately.
Winter can be real tough in the Keys. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Please indulge me for a personal observation.

Today is our 43rd wedding anniversary.

Yes, that’s right. Forty-three years. (We were mere toddlers when we wed.)

It's trite to say it, but it doesn't seem that long. (I’m resisting the temptation to crack a Rodney Dangerfield type joke here. After 43 years, I am well aware that leads to nothing but trouble.)

What’s the secret to such longevity in a marriage? Quite frankly, I don’t know.

I asked my wife, and she said, “Well, we’re nice to each other.”

Here we are after we met in 1967
If you want anything deeper than that, you’ll have to go ask Dr. Phil.

We actually marked the occasion last night by going out to dinner because tonight I have a basketball game to cover. Miami is playing North Carolina in Coral Gables. (Maybe patience and understanding, at least on her part, are other factors in the matter of longevity.)

This is not the first time that sports has intruded on our anniversary.

One year I was in New Orleans all week covering a Super Bowl and Virginia was back home. We went out to dinner the next night after I hurried back to Jackson, and since I had noted this conflict in a column the day before, someone we didn’t even know wished us a “happy anniversary” as he passed our table.

That was kind of nice.

Getting married in January can be different from, say, June.

When I called the hotel to make reservations for a brief honeymoon in Santa Catalina, I wondered why I had no trouble getting a room even though though I had called only a few days ahead. Turned out we were the only guests in the hotel.

At night after dinner, only one other customer was in the second-story spot where we went for a nightcap. He sat at the bar and talked to the bartender. We sat at a table and looked across the water at the lights of Newport Beach.

Winter apparently was not the “high season” for overnight tourists on the island.

If you have indulged me by reading this far, thank you. I just wanted to note the occasion in this blog.

And you did know I was kidding with that remark about being toddlers when we got married, didn’t you?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I heard a comment on television that New York Jets coaches were claiming there was a headset failure when the Jets were down at Pittsburgh’s two-yard line that created difficulty in getting the right plays onto the field late in their loss in the AFC championship game.
Maybe I heard wrong, because I couldn’t find anything on that in a search of New York media websites, though western movie star Rex Ryan, oops, I mean Jets coach Rex Ryan, was saying maybe different plays should have been called -- like runs on second and third down instead of passes.
If you weren’t watching the game, you should know that the Jets had a first-and-goal at the two-yard line trailing 24-10 and couldn’t punch it in for a momentum-building touchdown. They did get a safety and a touchdown later, but when they couldn’t stop the Steelers on their final possession, time ran out and the Jets lost 24-19.
This brought to my mind a thought that I have held for a long time now.
I would like to see quarterbacks go back to calling their own plays.
I know. I know. It’s never going to happen, not in the NFL, not in any level of pro football, certainly not in college, not in high school, and likely not in peewee leagues. (An aside here: when I was a quarterback in the eighth grade, I called my own plays for my YMCA team. Not that that was novel. So did every other quarterback in the league.)
Here is what I would do if I were King of Football.
I would get all of the coaches out of the press box (thank goodness it’s still called a “press” box and not a “media” box) and down on the field. I would allow filming (taping, recording, whatever) of the game, of course, for analysis later, but no still shots of formations to be sent down to the sidelines for players to dissect what is going on. They’re on the field. They should know.
Then I would put in a rule banning the calling of specific plays from the sidelines. (I use that word “specific” for a reason, which I will explain below.)
Yes, that would be difficult to enforce, but here is how I would approach it. I would allow substitutions only every three plays (unless there was an injury or change of possession). This would prevent a receiver from bringing in a play to the huddle, but would provide an opportunity to get the punter on the field on fourth down.
It also would allow a coach to provide some direction for the quarterback by getting in the advice like “This might be a good time for a reverse” and “Let’s run out the clock” or “Quit fumbling the damn ball.” The responsibility for the specific play would rest with the quarterback.
Hey. We here all this stuff about how a quarterback is supposed to be a leader. Calling his own plays would reinforce that notion.
About the only thing a quarterback is allowed to do today is check off to another play if he sees the defense is stacked against what has been called from the sidelines. Or some coaches will send in two plays and let the quarterback choose one. Peyton Manning no doubt has more flexibility, but he’s an exception.
I want all quarterbacks to call their own plays.
Like I said, it’s not going to happen, especially on the college and pro levels because too much (money) is at stake for coaches, and they don’t want some bonehead call to get them fired.
But I think it would be fun for fans.
This brings to mind a couple of stories I heard from years ago, so long ago that details like names and games have escaped me.
One is that once when sending in plays from the sidelines was banned, the referee stepped off a 10-yard penalty when he detected a coach doing just that.
“Hey,” the coach yelled to the ref, “you’re so dumb you don’t know that’s supposed to be a 15-yard penalty.”
“For the kind of coaching you’re doing,” the ref replied, “it’s only 10 yards.”
Story No. 2:
A coach known for his conservative game plan sent in these instructions when his team took over the ball at its 20-yard line on its first series: “Run it three times and punt,” the coach told the quarterback.
After three running plays took the ball to the opponent’s 10-yard-line, the quarterback did exactly what he had been told. He dropped back and punted the ball out of the end of the stadium.
Ah, the good ole days.

Monday, January 24, 2011


I never saw much of either NFL playoff game Sunday, that being a time for me to do much of my work filing reports on college basketball for the Sports Xchange. So I can’t comment too much on the games.

I certainly was glad to see the Steelers hang on to beat the Jets (See my posting on “Pats out, good; Jets in, bad.”). It has nothing to do their loudmouth coach, Rex Ryan, whose name sounds like an old western movie star. He can be funny, especially when he is slamming his headphones to the ground when the game has been decided.

I disliked the Jets long before he came along. So, yea, Steelers!

I would have preferred the Bears over the Packers, just because of the long ago days when I watched the Bears on TV.

But it didn’t upset me that much that the Packers won. It’s hard to root against the Packers (unless you are really strong Bears fan, which I’m not any more, or a Vikings fan, which I’m definitely not).

What I find interesting is the criticism of Bears QB Jay Cutler for coming out of the game because of a knee injury. Yes, the coach pulled him because Cutler hurt his knee. Reports are today that it was a sprained MCL (medial collateral ligament) that put Cutler out of the game.

I’ve never had one of those, but considering it was a knee, I’d say it can be painful and debilitating. According to sources on the Internet, recovery time is a matter of weeks, and Bears coach Lovie Smith has said that if his team had beaten the Packers that Cutler would be considered questionable for the Super Bowl.

But some fans apparently were burning Cutler’s jersey out in the parking lot after the game in protest (Hey, it wasn’t like he was lighting up the Packers defense in the first place.) and now some “macho” football players are coming out and criticizing Cutler’s toughness.

One of the players, former player in this case, doing the criticizing is big mouth Deion Sanders. There is irony there.

First, Sanders was not exactly known as a courageous hard hitter in his playing days. He was a great cover cornerback, but not a hard hitter. Someone pointed out he probably had more interceptions than tackles, which is overstating the case but not by much. A check of the records showed he averaged about two-and-a-half tackles a game. Darrell Green and Champ Bailey, for instance, averaged four a game.

According to pro football records, Dieon had a grand total of 20 assisted tackles in 188 games to go with his 492 solo tackles. Charles Woodson, who will be playing for the Packers in this Super Bowl, has 131 assists in four fewer games to go with 690 solo stops.

Second, as has been pointed out on some other blogs, Sanders is a guy who missed two entire seasons because of turf toe, which is toe that has sustained ligament damage. (Maybe like the ligaments in Cutler’s knee?)

Dieon was out for not just a game, not just a season, but for two seasons.

 And he’s calling out Cutler?

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Did you know that before he became a big western star in movies like Stagecoach and Man from Monterrey in the 1930s, John Wayne starred in a series of cliffhanger serials?

I didn’t, at least not until recently when I ran across the John Wayne Cliffhanger set while browsing through the DVDs Netflix has to offer.

I should take a moment to explain here for younger readers exactly what a cliffhanger serial is.

A serial essentially was a three-hour action film cut up into segments of 15 minutes or so. In the days before television (often referred to as the Dark Ages), they were shown on a weekly basis, thus giving you not only the feature movie (sometimes two as a double-feature) but a serial, cartoon and newsreel as well.

When we went to the movies back then, we didn’t go “on” a Saturday afternoon. We went “for” a Saturday afternoon.

So much for the serial part.

The cliffhanger comes in because each of the segments ended with the hero or his girlfriend (more on her later) in some sort of peril (Thus The Perils of Pauline, which spawned the genre).

The last scene would show him, or her, lying on railroad tracks with a train bearing down, trapped under an overturned car that has caught on fire or is about to, or struggling with the controls of an airplane headed for a crash. He (or she) might even be hanging from a cliff.

Then the first scene of the next chapter (after a minute or so of catching you up on how the previous episode had ended) would show that the hero (or his girl) had rolled out of the way of the train, leaped from the car before it rolled over, or donned a parachute and jumped from the plane at the last possible second.

Whew. That was a close one!

You might think that because the story was told over a period of three hours or so that the scripts would feature great plot lines with interesting dialogue and innovative twists. You would think wrong.

The plots seemed to follow similar lines.

There would be a hero and a girl, who was his love interest but not in a sexual way, and she would have a widowed father (mothers apparently just got in the way) who was in some sort of trouble, wrongly accused of some dastardly deed by a group of men who once had been his friends or at least business associates.

The hero also would find himself being wrongly accused at some point, or points, as well. But he eventually worked his way out of it.

In the final episode, after a series of chases, crashes, standoffs, false arrests, fist fights, and narrow escapes, the villain would be unveiled and everyone, presumably, would live happily ever after.

There were certain staples:

-- The hero had the ability to knock out bad guys (but not their mysterious boss) with one roundhouse punch. The mysterious boss, however, usually got out of the room before being punched, until possibly the last episode.

-- It took getting hit over the head with a lead pipe before the hero could be knocked out. But no fear. He would be out only a  couple of minutes and wake up without even a headache, let alone a fractured skull. Even bad guys had similar recuperative powers.

-- The mysterious boss had a catchy name and you didn’t know who he was for sure until he was unmasked at the end.

-- Cops (or sheriffs) always were after the wrong guy (the hero) for most of the story. They also were easily fooled and unable to keep anybody in a jail cell for long.

-- Everybody, even crooks, wore ties (except in westerns).

-- They pretty much all smoked, too.

-- When accused of some wrongdoing, the person accused would react by drawing back his fist and lunging at his accuser and saying, “Why, you... ”. But he usually would be stopped before getting off a punch. He would do this even if they were in a police station at the time and he was surrounded by six other people, including some with guns.

-- Everybody was a good shot, even bad guys. A bad guy could take a pistol and hit the tire of the good guy’s car in the middle of a chase. The good guy shot people only in the hand to knock away the bad guy’s gun. And it didn’t matter if they were six or sixty or six hundred feet away.

By today’s standards, hey, even by the standards of the day, serials are pretty hokey stuff, but they’re kind of fun to watch. Part of that fun is to see what the California landscape looked like back in 1930s when the John Wayne Cliffhangers were shot. Many outdoor scenes back then had to be done on location.

From time to time, you can spot the same shots from one serial, like cars and trains going over cliffs, explosions, brawls, etc., in other serials from the same studio. These were not high budget productions, to say the least.

But apparently they did help give John Wayne his start.

One drawback to watching them on today’s DVDs is that each episode is a separate entity, which means you have to sit through the recap of the end of the previous episode before getting on with the story.

The circus music that introduces each chapter of Shadow of the Eagle began to wear on me after a while.

The quality of the film on Shadow of the Eagle also isn’t too good, but that just adds to the campiness of the experience. Hurricane Express, which begins on Disc Two of the set and which I am in the middle of now, seems to be better quality both in sight and sound.

As I write this, the last time I saw John Wayne’s character he was lying between the rails of railroad tracks as a train approached.

I wonder how he gets out of that!

Thursday, January 20, 2011


For the last week, I have been driving the 2011 Infiniti EX35 Journey, and it has been a very pleasant experience.

The EX35 looks great, handles well (which it should; it is built on Nissan's FM -- for Front Midship -- platform, same as the company uses throughout its sedan lineup), and is comfortable with all the little extra touches, like the signature analog clock in the center stack, you expect from a vehicle from Infiniti.

The 3.5-liter, V6 engine delivers adequate power (297 hp, 253 lb.-ft. of torque) to move the Journey's 3,795 pounds with alacrity. (The base model is slightly lighter, and AWD models are slightly heavier. I was in the RWD version.)

Power gets to the rear wheels via a very smooth-shifting seven-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability (on the console lever, not steering wheel-mounted paddles). It’s much better than the CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). The slight downside is that premium fuel is recommended, and it drinks gas at the rate of 17 mpg city, 24 highway.

The front seats are plush and comfortable and roomy. The back, I fear, not as much. Comfortable, yes, but not as roomy,
especially if the front-seat passenger has leaned the seat back. The EX is listed as five-passenger capacity, but the three in the back better be small kids, which, considering most buyers in this segment, they probably are.

It is a true luxury compact of the early 21st Century genre called CUV (Crossover Utility Vehicle). What this is is a vehicle that has the profile of an SUV but is built on a car platform and sits lower. It is meant for driving on paved roads with no more off-road challenge than a gravel parking lot, and considering that I wouldn’t want a rock to damage the pristine finish, I would hesitate to go there.

Naturally, the EX35 comes with a long list of standard features you expect in the luxury field (leather all over, USB connection port for iPod and other devices, steering wheel controls for cruise control and audio adjustments, a rearview monitor, satellite radio, etc.), and enough options are offered to run the base price from the mid-$30,000 range into the mid-40k neighborhood, which is about where its bigger brother, Infiniti’s FX series, starts.

A couple of the many features on my test vehicle ($46,206) were a Lane Departure Warning system that gives the driver a gentle beep alert should the vehicle begin to veer out of the lane without the turn signal being activated and a Forward Collision Warning system.

The latter was pretty sensitive, giving a slight beep when cars ahead lagged the slightest when making a right turn if I didn’t tap my own brakes fairly early.

“I like that system,” said my wife, who kind of is the nervous-passenger type.

Controls for all the available technology, including the optional navigation system, are easy enough to operate. It took me a while to find out how to adjust the analog clock (there also is a digital time display on the navigation screen), but that was about it.

My only real questions about this vehicle aren’t with the vehicle itself, but with the compact crossover segment. I mentioned the fairly snug backseat. Well, storage space (with the rear seat in place) is snug, too, only 18.6 cubic feet. That’s good for groceries and is bigger than a sedan trunk (like the G37 sedan and its 13.5 cubic feet), but not not for serious trips to Home Depot. The FX offers 24.8 cubic feet for cargo with the seat up.

So it kind of comes down to this: The EX doesn’t carry as much stuff as the FX, but is more fun to drive. But it’s not as much fun as the G Sedan or Coupe. Especially the Sport Coupe. But the EX carries more than the G.

Whatever floats your boat.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


A friend of mine once wrote column citing his favorite lines from classic movies. At least I think they were classic movies. Frankly, because it is going on 30 years since I read it, I don't recall whether the movies themselves were classic or just the lines.

But I do know that his favorite line was from a classic movie -- “Round up the usual suspects,” from Casablanca.

Now I can’t watch that movie now without thinking about that column and mentally coming up with some of my own favorites. Sometimes I don’t even need the movie to get me thinking about them, which is why I am writing about them today.

You’ll probably remember many of these lines, too, as they very well could be among your favorites (if you ever dwell on such things).

I am going to number them, not because they are in any particular order, but because at the end I will match them later with the movies they are taken from. Not all of them, you see, are from classic movies. They are lines from movies I like, and this is my blog.

The lines:

1. “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

2. “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?”

3. “Thirty years from now when you’re sitting around your fireside with your grandson on your knee, and he asks you, What did you do in the great World War Two? You won’t have to say, ‘Well, I shoveled shit in Louisiana.’ ”

4. “Heeere’s, Johnnny!”

5. "What knockers!”

6. “How ’bout some more beans, Mr. Taggart?”

7. “Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There’s no crying. There’s no crying in baseball.”

8. "Seven years of college down the drain.”

9. "Heil, myself."

10. “We're gonna need a bigger boat.”

11. “Nothing's too good for the man who shot Liberty Valence.”

 12. “She calls those nothing. Imagine her concept of something.”

13. “I sometimes wonder whose side God is on.”

14. "He's in the car."

15. “I let him go.”

16. “If you build it, he will come.”

17. “Those who are tardy do not get fruit cup.”

18. “You can't handle the truth!”

19. “What we have here is failure to communicate.”

20. “What a dump.”

21. “In Italy under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed. They produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock.”

The movies:

1. Casablanca, of course. I like this one better than “Round up the usual suspects,” but then, the movie had so many great lines. “We’ll always have Paris” is another. Quite possibly the one cited most often is actually a misquote. Humphrey Bogart never said, “Play it again, Sam.” What he said was, “You played it for her. You can play it for me.” Ingrid Bergman was actually closer to that when Ilsa said, “Play it once, Sam. For old time's sake” and “Play it, Sam. Play as ‘Time Goes By.’ ”

2. Ah, Clint Eastwood. He has had some great lines, but I like this one from Dirty Harry best.

3. If you didn’t know this was said by George C. Scott in Patton, you must be some sort of unpatriotic, anti-military, Commie pinko.

4. Jack Nicholson in The Shining. One thing bothers me about that movie: A resort in Colorado that shuts down because of snow?

5. This comes from Young Frankenstein, which is a movie I always stop to watch when I am channel surfing. Just can’t resist. “He was my boyfriend!” -- screamed by Cloris Leachman -- is another favorite. So is “Wait. I was going to make espresso,” the plea from the blind man (Gene Hackett). And then.... I’ll stop now. The movie is full of them.

6. Speaking of Mel Brooks, Blazing Saddles is full of memorable lines, too. In particular, I like this one and “Somebody’s got to go back and get a shitload of dimes” when the bad guys ride up to the toll booth at the Gov. William J. Le Petomane Thruway. One line from the movie, “Badges? We don’t need no steenking badges,” actually comes from 1948’s Treasure of the Sierra Madre with slightly different wording.

7. This is no doubt the most well-known line from A League of Their Own, but what follows Tom Hanks’ admonition to Madonna is funnier. Hanks says to the umpire, “Anyone ever tell you you look like a penis with a little hat on?”

8. One of many from Animal House. Another one -- “Hi, Eric Stratton, rush chairman. Damn glad to meet you” -- becomes funny because of how many times Tim Matheson says it.

9. This is from at least one version of To Be Or Not To Be. It is there in the remake when Mel Brooks, disguised as Hitler, passes by in front of German troops, but I don’t know if it was in the original that starred Jack Benny.

10. Jaws, of course.

11. In addition to his one, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance gives us the classic “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” This concept has not been lost on present-day news media.

12. From SOB. William Holden is discussing the, ah, charms of a topless sunbather.

13. This is another military movie, The Longest Day. Curt Juergens, playing German general Gunther Blumentritt, ponders what is about to occur. Another line, also from the German side of the story of D-Day, is said by Hans Christian Blech (playing Major Werner Pluskat, who is stationed at the Atlantic Wall) when he calls headquarters after seeing the invasion fleet headed his way: “You know those five thousand ships you say the Allies haven't got? Well, they've got them!”

14. This is from The Untouchables starring Kevin Costner. Eliot Ness says it after being asked where Frank Nitti is a few minutes after having pushed Nitti him off the roof of the courthouse, where he lands on a parked car in the street.

15. This Arnold Schwarzenegger line from Commando is in the same vein as the previous quote. Arnold is answering a question from his partner after just dropping a bad guy off a cliff (or overpass; can’t really remember which).

16. Field of Dreams.

17. Cloris Leachman says this in High Anxiety when outlining the dinner time rules at the Psycho-Neurotic Institute for the Very, Very Very Nervous. I also love it later in the movie when, after his fight in a phone booth with a bad guy, Mel Brooks, who is already on the lam for a murder he didn’t commit, tells Madeline Kahn he has just killed a man. Kahn responds, “Another one? Listen, Richard, you have to a grip on yourself.”

18. Another Jack Nicholson classic, A Few Good Men.

19. Cool Hand Luke. Notice it is not “a” failure to communicate.

20. I’ll be honest with you here. I didn’t actually remember where this one came from. But the answer that Paul Lynde gave on “Hollywood Squares” when asked who uttered that movie line remains a classic. “Dumbo,” he said. So I looked it up. It was Bette Davis in Beyond the Forest, a 1949 production.

21. Another confession. I did not remember all the words to this quote, which comes from the Orson Welles’ 1949 classic, The Third Man, but wanted to include it. It’s something for all those people who think things are so wonderful in Switzerland compared to the United States to think about.

You may notice that many of my movie lines are from older (and Mel Brooks) movies. That’s probably for three reasons:

No. 1, I don’t get around to movies as much as used to. Guess I’m cranky, but I rarely see much of anything listed that I care to lay out so much cash for. (The King’s Speech I’ve heard may be an exception.)

No. 2, I like Mel Brooks.

No. 3, older movies seemed to have better dialogue. Too many new ones seem to feature explosions over talk.

Monday, January 17, 2011


The New England Patriots are not in the AFC Championship game, and that is a good thing. Their coach has all the charm and charisma as a box of rocks and doesn't speak as well, and they have gotten arrogant with their success in recent years. (Of course, when one of my teams has a long run of success, which is rare, they NEVER are arrogant.)

But the bad thing is the New York Jets are now a win away from from the Super Bowl.

Come on, Steelers!

Hey, wait. There's a franchise that has had an amazing Super Bowl run that hasn't become arrogant. Pittsburgh is a, well, likable team, even though their quarterback is a dunce (not in the Terry Bradshaw sense of the word, but in a more crude way).

But getting back to the Jets, maybe it's because so many New Yorkers who move down to Florida like to try to tell us how much better things are up north that I don't care for the Jets. Hey. If it's so much better up north, stay there!

The most obnoxious New Yorkers (Is obnoxious New Yorker  redundant?) seem to be Jets fans. Giants fans, like Yankees fans, may have an arrogance about them, but they do have class. They might actually say something that makes sense. No such chance with Jets fans.

That's just judging from sports talk radio, of course, but I have the feeling it's the way things are all over.

Go, Steelers!

While I'm talking about NFL playoffs, could there be any more classic match in the NFC title game than Bears-Packers? I used to root for the Bears because the Bears and the Browns were what we got on TV a lot when I was growing up. (Yes, we had TV back then.) The Browns had Otto Graham, Lou Groza, and then Jim Brown. The Bears played in Wrigley Field (yes, the baseball park) and had Red Grange doing the announcing.

Bill Wade was the quarterback when they won the 1963 NFL championship. I think he threw for about three yards, but he didn't make mistakes. Several years ago I called Scoop Hudgins, the once longtime PR director for the Southeastern Conference,  who was in the hospital in Nashville, Tenn., and Bill Wade (who played college ball at Vanderbilt) answered the phone. Before I realized who had answered, he turned the phone over to Scoop. I never got the chance to say anything to him. (Bill Wade, that is.)

I've got to learn to think faster.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Even his biggest critics have to acknowledge that Dick Vitale has done a lot for college basketball.

Now he can do something else. He can retire.

I cringe every time a college basketball game that I want to watch on ESPN has Vitale as one of the announcers, such as he was for today's Vanderbilt-Tennessee game. I don't have the opportunity like a friend of mind does to turn down the sound and listen to the radio broadcast.

It's either no sound (an attractive option) or Vitale's bloviating.

The man never shuts up.

The thing is, so much of what he talks about is only remotely connected to what is happening on the floor at any particular moment. Prime example: Most of the time, no matter what teams are performing in front of him, he's going to find a way to work Duke and/or North Carolina into the conversation. Enough already, Dick. We know they are great programs.

One entire segment of today's game in the first half was an interview with Tennessee women's coach Pat Summitt. Now Summitt is one of the best coaches in any sport in the country and there's no questioning that she can be a good interview who has lots of insight into the game and its issues. I'd listen to what she has to say. Usually.

But at that particularly point I was more interested in knowing who was scoring (or in the case of this game, not scoring) or who was coming up with a steal or rebound than I was listening to Vitale fawn all over Summitt and saying what a great job she has done. No kidding. She has eight national titles and more than 1,000 wins.

One unfortunate offshoot of Vitale's popularity and style is the impact he has had on many younger broadcasters. You'll hear them on telecasts of secondary games (most often on ESPNU) yukkking it up and talking about where they had lunch that day and who with, or one guy is poking fun at the other guy's golf game or even his own. Psst. Nobody cares, y'all.

Please, please, guys, find some other role models. Jay Bilas is opinionated and can come off as arrogant at times (after all, he's a Dookie), but he tells what is happening on the court and why, which I always thought was the analyst's main purpose. Or Bill Raftery. Even Bob Knight. Knight has his issues, but few can take a game apart as well as he can.

Let Vitale keep his Diaper Dandies to himself.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Probably for my first blog I should be writing about some topic other than a car review, but this being several days removed from Auburn's victory over Oregon for the national collegiate football championship and two days from a Duke loss in basketball (in today's age of instant communications, those topics qualify for history books), I really don't have much of anything else to say at the moment. (What? You want my NFL playoff predictions? No, you really don't.)

Funny thing is, though, my first car review on my new blog isn't going to be about a car.

I just got out of a Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE model (I don't name them; I just write about them), which isn't a car, of course. It's an SUV in every sense of the word.

I've kind of had a soft spot in my heart for Land Rovers ever since I maneuvered a Discovery II up the side of a mountain in Vermont a few years ago. I've also had the fun experience of attending the Land Rover Driving Experience school on the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, (twice) and have grown to appreciate Land Rover's combination of luxury and ruggedness. It seems incongruous to be sitting in such comfort while you're rock crawling or splashing through creeks.

The main thing like about the Range Rover, though, is the feeling of power that comes over me when I get behind the wheel. With 375 horsepower (same as the figure for torque) available to me from the 5.0-liter V8 engine and riding on 19-inch wheels shod with 255/50YR19 tires, I have a feeling that I can crush anything and just about everything that would dare get in my path.

Not that I would ever do anything such thing, of course.

I have this feeling, by the way, even in the Range Rover Sport, which is a slightly smaller version of the full-size, top-of-the-line Range Rover, the true behemoth in the Land Rover lineup. The Sport still offers full-time four-wheel drive with two-speed transfer case (for true off-roading) and suspension and traction settings: general driving, grass/gravel/snow, sand, mud and ruts, and rock crawl. I don't know how often "rock crawl" would come up for most people, but if you get the opportunity, you need to take advantage of it. It's pretty cool.


I mentioned the Sport is slightly smaller than the full-size Range Rover, but unless they were sitting side-by-side, you probably wouldn't notice it. It also sits slightly lower. You probably wouldn't notice that, either. Small here is a relative term. The Sport weighs in at about 5,500 pounds, about 1,500 less than the full-size Range Rover. The Sport is about 188 inches long, 76 wide, and a fraction over 70 tall. That's not really small, is it? Unless, of course, you put it up against the Range Rover, which is about 195 inches long, 80 wide, and 74 tall.


If you wouldn't really notice the difference in size, likely what you spot right off is the rakish roof line on the back half of the Sport as opposed to the boxy rear of the Range Rover. The liftgate also is different. On the Sport, you can open the glass portion only or lift open the full gate. On the RR, the liftgate splits, the bottom half lowering to give you a small tailgate on which to put your tailgate party items.

I didn't have any complaints about the liftgate, but I do have an issue with the screen that displays navigation, audio, climate and other system settings. When the sun hits it, the screen is difficult to see, and the sun hits it quite easily. Because many of the functions are touch-screen, fingerprints muddle up the view as well. But that probably would be as big of an issue as it is if there was to adjust the slant of the display screen, which also could be slightly bigger.

Overall, because of its size and nifty handling the Range Rover Sport may be slightly more adaptable for life in an urban environment. It's also nearly nearly $20,000 cheaper than the full-size Range Rover with an MSRP starting at just under $60,000. The vehicle I just got out of had a couple of extras like a premium sound system and a luxury interior package that ran the total cost to $68,395.

And thus ends my first blog.

Oh, what the hell. I pick the Ravens over Steelers (sorry, Russ), the Falcons over the Packers, the Bears over the Seahawks (though wouldn't it be funny to see a nine-game loser keep advancing), and the Patriots most definitely over the Jets.