How the West Was Won

I wandered through a used book/cd/dvd store this afternoon and found a copy of MGM’s 1963 epic How the West Was Won. This was one of the last movies with huge casts of big stars. It included Carroll Baker, Lee J. Cobb, Henry Fonda, Carolyn Jones, Karl Malden, Gregory Peck, George Peppard, Robert Preston, Debbie Reynolds, James Stewart, Eli Wallach, John Wayne, and Richard Widmark. To top it off it’s narrated by Spencer Tracy. It also had four directors — John Ford directed one storyline, Henry Hathaway directed three, and George Marshall directed one. A fourth, Richard Thorpe, directed the transitional sequences.


It’s a long film at 162 minutes, but it was beautifully shot and had some very memorable scenes in it. The gunfight on the train at the end of the film is a sequence I still remember, and I haven’t seen the movie in 25 years.

For five bucks, this was a good buy.

Losing audience share, perhaps?

Have any of you other NPR listeners noticed that Morning Edition has suddenly gotten a bucketload of mentions while other programs are on? During All Things Considered each of the last few days there’s been a promo spot for Morning Edition (“Tomorrow on Morning Edition there’ll be…”).

I’m wondering if the show has been losing share and that’s why they’re promoting it so heavily. I guess the only way to know is wait for new numbers to be published in Current. It’s interesting, though. I imagine they initially lost a fair number of listeners when NPR fired Bob Edwards from the show in 2004, but I suspect many of those came back out of habit. We’ll see.

Exercises in stupidity, Idaho divison

“It is a mistake to ever overestimate the ignorance of the Idaho Legislature,” he said.

That was Frank Lundberg, a herpetologist in Idaho, upon the failure of the legislature to pass a bill recognizing the Idaho giant salamander as the state’s official amphibian.

Why did the critter lose out on this honor? Because ten paranoid and idiotic Republican committee members worried that if it was so designated then the Federal Environmental Protection Agency might put it on the Endangered Species list.

An Idaho attorney general’s opinion advised lawmakers that approving the salamander as a state symbol wouldn’t do anything in the way of encouraging federal protections. But lawmakers remained wary.

“My whole concern is potential federal overreach,” said Rep. Don Cheatham, R-Post Falls. “In north Idaho we have the water litigation going. I just am in fear that something could be impacted if it became an endangered species.”

Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, co-sponsored Hickman’s bill and pointed out that designating a state symbol had nothing to do with endangered species.

“We addressed that,” Ward-Engelking said. “We got an opinion from the attorney general – it was very clear. I spoke with him personally. He said no way, no how was a state symbol going to impact that whatsoever.”

You know what’s terrifying? State legislators, no matter how stupid, often get elected to the US House of Representatives. Can you imagine Mr. Cheatham in that body?

via The Maddow Blog

NFC Championship Game

For 55 minutes the Seahawks played so badly they didn’t deserve to win. Then for about seven minutes (regulation plus overtime) the Packers played so badly they didn’t deserve to win. Unfortunately for the Packers, they failed at the wrong time in the game.

Seattle wins 28-22 in OT.

Now we get to see whether Tom Brady and the Patriots can beat Andrew Luck and the Colts in the AFC Championship game.

More books!

I have a terrible habit of browsing booksellers’ sites and buying on impulse. I did that the other day and picked up three books with another one pre-ordered for purchase upon release.

The first one is David Weber’s “Like a Mighty Army,” the seventh book in his Safehold series. I’ve got the other six, so how can I not buy the seventh?

Additionally, Weber just published Cauldron of Ghosts, another in the Honorverse saga, and it’s the pre-ordered one.

The second and third are the first two books in Sharon Lee’s Archer’s Beach series, Carousel Tides and Carousel Sun. The third book, Carousel Seas, was just published last week, so it’s on order.

I need more rooms, more shelves, or both.

Run flats? Nope, not so much

When I bought the Mini back in 2012 (used) the guy I bought it from said he’d just had four new tires put on it, all of them run-flats. That means you can drive on one of them for roughly 100 miles if it deflates to get someplace where you can have it fixed.

Uh-huh. My right rear tire showed signs of being low yesterday, so when I went out today the first place I stopped was a Chevron station at the bottom of the hill to get some air into it. I got it back up close to the 35 PSI it’s supposed to have and drove about a mile to Office Depot to get a pen refill. I got out of the car there and the tire was damned near flat again.

Fortunately, right next to that Chevron station is a tire place, one that’s been around for 50-60 years. It’s reputable and its people know me; I’ve been going there for years. So I turned the car around after buying my refill and went right back there. I showed them the tire and asked if they sold run-flat tires. No, they said, so they’d try to patch the one that went bad. I sat down in the waiting room to wait.

A few minutes later the clerk found me and said “You know what? None of these tires are run-flats. They’re just ordinary steel-belted radials.”

“But, but,” I sputtered, “I was told they were all run-flats when I bought them!”

“Well, they’re not. So what do you want us to do?”

“Do you have a radial that will fit the wheel?” I asked.

“Lemme check,” she said. Slight delay. “Yep.”

“Okay,” I said. “Lemme have it.”

So they did, at the cost of $153.96 for the tire and a service plan.

But. This car is meant to have run-flats. There is no space for a spare tire anywhere in the car without eating up what little storage space there is. So now I’m faced with either riding without a spare and hoping for the best or buying four run-flat tires at $286 or more apiece.

That’s not a fun choice at all.

Oscar Noms panned

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released its nominations for its awards today, and the first thing that jumped out at observers was that every acting nominee was white. The second thing observers noticed was that “Selma” was nominated for Best Picture but its director was left off the nomination list for Best Director.

And there was much gnashing of teeth.

But look. According to an LA Times survey done three years ago, the membership is primarily aging white men.

A Los Angeles Times study found that academy voters are markedly less diverse than the moviegoing public, and even more monolithic than many in the film industry may suspect. Oscar voters are nearly 94% Caucasian and 77% male, The Times found. Blacks are about 2% of the academy, and Latinos are less than 2%.

Oscar voters have a median age of 62, the study showed. People younger than 50 constitute just 14% of the membership.


The academy is primarily a group of working professionals, and nearly 50% of the academy’s actors have appeared on screen in the last two years. But membership is generally for life, and hundreds of academy voters haven’t worked on a movie in decades.

Given those realities, maybe it was a miracle last year that 12 Years a Slave won best picture, and no surprise that Selma was off the acting radar.

Ted and Marco’s Scientific Adventure

So is the sky gonna fall, is Texas gonna sink, and are Florida’s Everglades gonna dry up now that Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio each chairs a Senate subcommittee with responsibility for science? Cruz has NASA, atmosphere and science policy in his group, while Rubio has NOAA in his.

Probably not, says Roger Pilke, director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research.

“I think we should expect business as usual, with a few new faces,” he says. “I don’t expect Republican revolution of the sort we saw in ‘94, but who knows.”


Even skeptics like Rubio and Cruz don’t have the juice to defund, gut or kill NASA, an agency closely tied to the national identity and scientific research, or NOAA, which provides weather forecasting information to the airline and shipping industries, and has jobs “that show up all over the country,” Pilke says. “It’s not quite pork, but they’re spread around nicely.”

He does suggest that the science community needs to try to figure out how to work with these people. “It’s not easy, I know, but a more confrontational approach going forward doesn’t help the agency and help policy.”

I remain astonished that science has become a partisan issue. It’s now an article of faith in the Republican party that climate change is not happening, that scientists keep saying it is only because they want grants from the federal government to study it, and that it’s squishy Democrats and liberals that believe in that stuff. Manly Republicans and conservatives know better.

What caused this split?