Route 66

Last weekend, I finally saw Cars (2006).  What a good movie!  I didn’t expect from the big-eyed automobiles that I saw in the toystores that this computer animated flick from Pixar/Disney would have such lively characters, such a witty script, and such an evocative story.  One of its themes is the difference between the Interstate sensibility and the Route 66 sensibility.  (“Well, the road didn’t cut through the land like that interstate. It moved with the land, it rose, it fell, it curved. Cars didn’t drive on it to make great time. They drove on it to have a great time.”)

I grew up in a little Oklahoma town right on Route 66.  And our relatives lived way down that same road, so we did a lot of driving on that mother road.  In fact, the town where I lived looked a lot like Radiator Springs in the movie.  The “EAT” cafes, the motels shaped like teepees, the tourist traps, all of those glamorous neon signs, and other imagery from the movie gave me a nostalgia rush.  (Also the “Ghost Light” referenced in the movie would have been the mysterious apparition that occasionally appeared to freaked out motorists known as the “Spook Light,” just 20 miles or so from where we lived.  (No, I never saw it.  But we tried, venturing out on some scary drives.)  Then there was the teenager car culture that went with all of that, trying to turn our junkers into hot rods and dragging main.  And the road food. (We would never stop at a drive-in on Route 66, though such things had been invented.  We always stopped at a local restaurant for hour-long-lunches, finishing off with amazing pies.) In the words of the song, I got my kicks at Route Six Six.

It’s a good movie that can bring all of that back.

Luke 1:63

Our daughter Joanna had her baby! He is our fifth grandy in three years.

Movie drought

I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve been to an actual movie theater. Summer is my time to go to movies, but I haven’t been to any. None of the recent releases have seemed remotely interesting to me.

Long airplane trips with entertainment consoles have given me a chance to catch up a little, but what disappointment. “Clash of the Titans” was Greek mythology filtered through the new atheism. The theme was “Man must become free of the gods!” Besides that tiresome anachronism, the movie got all of the myths wrong! Thinking to improve on some of the greatest and most wondrous tales of Western civilization, the movie reduced Perseus to an action hero.

Then there was “Alice in Wonderland,” another film that sounded good. But Tim Burton drained the story of all of its humor, logic, fun, and, well, wonder. He tried to make it dark. He turned Alice into an action hero.

The worst was “The Ghost Writer,” in which director Roman Polanski–by the way, Switzerland has decided not to extradite him after all for fleeing his U.S. conviction for statutory rape of a 13-year-old child–sets up a ponderous tale that asks, in effect, how could a thinly-veiled British Prime Minister Tony Blair support the Bush war on terrorism? The movie imagines an ex-prime minister charged with war crimes for that. The reason turns out to be that he was essentially a plant by the CIA who has been running England for years.

So, help me. What have been some good movies lately? I know, the new “Toy Story” and “Shrek.” I’ll Netflix those eventually. (Though I’m running out of movies I want to see on Netflix!) But is there anything not kid-oriented? Our wedding anniversary is coming up, and we always go to a movie as part of the celebration. What should we go to? “Inception” does sound interesting. Is it any good, or will it just annoy me?

Watching television

I am not what you would call an early adopter. Our one-and-half year old granddaughter was poking the buttons on our television set and somehow she broke the thing! The screen would light up, showing no picture, and then fade to black. Since that set dated from about the time when her mother was her age, we decided to buy a new one. I find that you can’t just get one with a cathode-ray tube anymore, so we ended up with a high-definition TV. I’m marveling. We are literally watching TV. Not watching programs, just watching our television set, surfing around for striking visual images. I realize that most of the rest of you have already had that experience with HDTV and now take it for granted, and I realize that some of you are standing tall against the baleful influence of this device. I salute that. But I am enjoying the stunning clarity and beauty of these pictures.

Power outage

Our electricity went out yesterday from 3:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m. Was it the North Koreans? Our area’s top-secret agencies? An infrastructure attack on our area’s top-secret agencies? No. Apparently it was just trees that blew over because of a quick storm we had. But how fragile we are. I couldn’t get on the internet, watch television, watch movies, play games, write, read. We cooked out on the grill, lit some paraffin lamps we have, and visited. I guess that’s what they did in the 19th century. But no air conditioning! Anyway, we are way too dependent on technology. And yet, I don’t know what can be done about it at this point.

Vacation tips

Well, we just got back from another grueling road trip, whereupon I have to get ready for an even more grueling trip abroad next week. (You will note that despite the grueling nature of said road trip, I managed to keep up my blogging pretty well, missing only one day, by my reckoning.) So, as the summer unfolds and many of us hit the road, let’s talk about vacation tips.

I like to patronize the independent businesses and roadside joints with a big EAT sign out in front, but those are sometimes hard to find in today’s interstate travel and sometimes one’s travel companions require certain standards of reliability. So let’s talk about chains and franchises.

BEST MOTEL CHAIN. Hampton Inn, for spacious rooms and really comfortable beds.

BEST CHAIN RESTAURANTS. Famous Dave’s, Longhorn, Chili’s


BEST FAST FOOD. KFC, Long John Silver’s

BEST BATHROOMS. You tell me.


These are not ex cathedra declarations, just my views so far. I am totally open to other suggestions. If you have other road trip tips (BEST GASOLINE STATIONS, BEST CONVENIENCE STORES, etc.), please let us all know.