Academy Awards – Just Sayin’ Reply

I am watching the Academy Awards as I write. The actresses are beautiful, and so are the actors. What’s going on, here?

Have we run out of manly men in Hollywood? Where are the fierce individuals, the manly men, the John Wayne’s of the age? All these guys look-alike, probably down to their underwear.

Let me explain.

First of all, it seems that most of the actors are shorter than the actresses. This means that the average height of a Hollywood Actor is about 5 1/2 feet. They are all little bitty people.

Take a look at their faces. They all are trying the scruffy to medium beard look. This is to make them look more masculine. Little do they know that the master of ceremonies, Ellen DeGeneres could do the same thing (no insult intended). It is almost like they are trying to hide their short-comings with facial hair.

Then, look at their suits. Where did this look come from? It looks like they couldn’t afford a suit  that fit. They all come on stage with their too-tight pants and tight, short-sleeved coats. They look like they got screwed at the Mens Warehouse, I guarantee it. There’s nothing wrong with the Mens Warehouse, but these guys seem like they are trying to push some sort anorexic European, girly boy style.

It looks like the film Gravity is getting lots of awards.

This is my Academy Awards report.

Over and out…

The New Era AZ = After Zimmerman 5

I would like to think that we have entered a new time, called, After Zimmerman. Now that the trial is over, and even our racist President has said that “we are a nation of laws”, maybe we can get back to life as usual. But, that may only happen when we get to that much-anticipated era called, AO -> After Obama.

Truly, we have never seen a worse time for this nation until we elected Barack Obama. But, I digress.

So, what is a little old retired man like me supposed to watch on TV for entertainment, now? Well, it is not football season, baseball season is pretty good with the Braves, but the real zest and angst has gone out of our HD LCD big screen TV. Right now, I am watching Swamp People.

Can you believe the crap they put on the History Channel? You would think that you could never run out of history, but they seem to put the stupidest things on that channel, like, Ancient Aliens (as if space men visited our planet during the time of the ancient Egyptians, Mayans, Incas, and Aztecs).

The interesting thing about Swamp People is that it is all about Cajun people. These are those hardy souls who inhabit the Louisiana swamps, and cook the best seafood in the entire world. I love Cajun cooking.  Yummy!

Anyway, the question of the day regarding Swamp People is about Troy Landry. Given that he wears the same shirt on every episode I have seen, does he have a change of shirts, or is the one we see his lucky shirt?

Inquiring minds want to know.

How are you spending your AZ (After Zimmerman) TV time?

Downton Abbey And Asheville’s Biltmore Estate 6

Highclere Castle - Television's Downton Abbey

Highclere Castle – Television’s Downton Abbey

My wife and I are currently enthralled with the PBS television series, Downtown Abbey. It is a series about an extremely rich English family at the turn of the century. We are currently watching Season 3.

The story is multi-generational, but centers on the Earl of Downton, his wife and mother, and their three daughters. Of course, the entire servant staffs’ stories are intertwined with the upper class, and one daughter even runs away with the chauffeur. The stories about the daughters are not those of a randy bunch of girls, but are told in a realistic and sensitive way.

You get into the whole turn-of-the-century English Lord and Lady thing. It is very entertaining.

The unspoken star of the series is the house, itself. The actual structure used is Highclere Castle, a famous and picturesque castle in its own right.

Picture of Biltmore House

The Biltmore Estate – Ashville, NC

This last week, we made the trip to Asheville, North Carolina and visited the Biltmore House. This is the house built by George Washington Vanderbilt II, grand-son of the fabulously wealthy shipping magnate, Cornelius Vanderbilt. G W received about $2 million after granddad’s death in 1877, equivalent to almost $40 million in today’s dollars.

The Biltmore estate was originally composed of 125,000 acres in the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina. It is only about 8,000 acres today. There is the Biltmore House itself, a winery, several gardens, and other attractions on the grounds. Having consumed a couple of bottles of their house brand of wine since the visit, I can say that the wine is generally good. Specifically, the Pinot Grigi0 and Cabernet Blanc are good, and the Cabernet Sauvignon is drinkable. The prices ran about $15 to $20 per bottle, which was a bit high for the quality received.

On the other hand, what do you expect from a tourist operation like the Biltmore House? Certainly, many of the visitors know about wines, but I have a suspicion that many do not. It certainly seems to me that they could profitably operate a whiskey distillery, or at least a brew pub. The laws in North Carolina may prohibit those activities, though.

The Biltmore house contains 175,000 square feet, divided into 250 rooms. Thirty-five are guest rooms and forty-three are bathrooms. When visiting, you must use public restrooms in another structure. So, take care of details before entering the house.

We didn’t allow time to get down to the basement which houses the servants quarters, the swimming pool and the engineering spaces. When the house was constructed, the electric power world had not matured, with Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse fighting for supremacy between Edison’s Direct Current standard, and Westinghouse and Tesla’s Alternating Current. The Biltmore House was therefore wired for AC and DC. The first electric service was a DC generator in the basement. When an AC generating plant was built in Asheville, the Biltmore’s DC generator was changed out for a bank of mercury vapor rectifiers to change the city’s AC to DC for the house.

When you tour the extravagant rooms of the Biltmore House, you cannot but help to compare it to the house in Downton Abbey. George Vanderbilt had provided not only comfortable rooms for guests, but he also provided three kitchens to feed them, libraries for reading and intellectual pursuits, stables to care for polo and carriage horses, an indoor swimming pool, and numerous gardens and walking paths to keep those guests entertained. The house itself is a beautiful structure, and from almost any part of the house you have breathtaking views of the North Carolina mountains.

The designer of the house was Richard Morris Hunt, an architect of note who had designed several of the Vanderbilt houses. The grounds were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted who numbered the landscape design of New York City’s Central Park among his successes.

Similar to the story in Downton Abbey, I could not help but be struck by the sheer extravagance of the two houses, and the wastefulness represented by those estates of the very rich. Indeed, the Vanderbilt houses in America represent what has become known as the guilded age. We may think that the American guilded age and the lavish British Victorian age are long gone, but the very rich are still with us.

Similar to lottery winners, even the Vanderbilts ran the risk of running out of wealth because of their extravagant ways. The estate is still owned by the family, but is operated as a business. Since it is in private hands, I don’t know how well the business performs, but you can see everything for about $50.00, US currency. Or, you can buy a pass good for one year and unlimited visits for $130.00. Equestrian activities cost more.

Bill O’Reilly and Dennis Miller – Bolder & Fresher Tour 2

picture of Bill O'Reilly and Dennis MillerBill O’Reilly and Dennis Miller brought their Bolder & Fresher Tour to the Cobb Energy Centre in Metro-Atlanta, this evening. I bought the tickets in the spring of this year, probably around the time it was first advertised. It was sold out within a week or so after the announcement.

It was an impulse purchase, and not because I am a big Bill O’Reilly fan. I am a big Dennis Miller fan. My wife and I were not disappointed. It was a good show.

This was the first time we have been to the Cobb Energy Centre in Cobb County, GA. The facility holds around 2,700 people and it was a sell-out event. I calculate that at an average cost of $100 per ticket, the gross revenue was probably around $300,000 for a single night.

If O’Reilly and Miller split one third of the gross, that is about $600,000 per year, each if they play in equivalent venues across the country monthly. That alone is incentive enough to do the tour.  Most likely, it is good publicity for their radio and TV shows, too. The whole thing will feed on itself in higher ratings and higher incomes.

The two hour show started with individual performances, first by Miller, and then O’Reilly. Miller did a great job warming people up with his brand of stand up comedy. By the time O’Reilly got on stage, everybody was feeling good. O’Reilly took us to intermission with his accounts of politicians and personalities in the Presidential campaign leading up to the present.

The closing act after intermission was an entertaining back and forth between the two. Both are natural showmen, and they know how to entertain. This supports my idea that news people are really frustrated comedians, or wannabe actors.  These guys are pretty darned good.

What did they talk about, and what were the funny lines? Just understand that every sentence from Dennis Miller was funny, and when he was describing the former Speaker of The House, Nancy Pelosi, certain references to bat guano and sleeping upside down were hilarious, and characterized that woman pretty well.

Bill O’Reilly did a good job describing certain memorable events, including this week’s charade of the DNC trying to put God back into its political platform with multiple voice votes. He suggested that God was probably not happy with the result. The Democrat Convention Chairman had to cheat to get God into the platform.

O’Reilly made fun of all the Republican Presidential candidates. His description of each of the candidates, how they came to lead the polls, and how they failed to make the grade were really funny. Remember that here in Atlanta we like our homeboys, and they are Hermann Cain and Newt Gingrich. O’Reilly knew this, but gave our guys some pretty serious barbs, anyway. He had a couple of Mitt Romney stories, too.

One of the Dennis Miller take-away lines for me was his description of the liberal, cradle to grave, government run, benevolent society in which it is a big deal to make it to the cradle. Abortion is such a big component of the Democrat platform that they have figuratively jumped the shark. Just getting born in this country is a contest with Planned Parenthood.

Clint Eastwood – Genius 8

Picture of Clint Eastwood at the Republican National Convention

Clint Eastwood In Dialog With Barack Obama Who Is In The Empty Chair Wearing His Empty Suit

The Republican National Convention came to a crescendo last night with Mitt Romney accepting the party’s Presidential nomination.

The most entertaining speaker of the evening was Clint Eastwood, who in a comical and biting speech, made fun of our feckless President. The President was figuratively on stage, ably represented by an empty chair. This is apparently a device used before by stage artists, and it was very effective. One could almost see Obama sitting in that empty chair, wearing his empty suit.

Eastwood is an artistic genius.

He also had Obama engaged in dialog. Barack was using distasteful words about what Clint could do to himself. Eastwood replied that Obama’s suggestion was physically impossible.  This was stagecraft, pure and simple. It works.

Allusions of incompetent politicians and Obama’s resemblance to the same were piled on fast and thick. Eastwood reminded us that it is the people who own this country. Politicians are just employees. Sometimes employees do not live up to expectations, and you are faced with a decision.

Let’s underline that statement, because Eastwood did it verbally. Politicians are just employees!

Boiling the situation down to everyday language, Eastwood said that sometimes you have to let an employee go. With clear reference to Barack Obama, he said that it is time to fire the man.

As Clint finally said, make my day!

It’s Cool In The Mountains 10

My brother tells the story of when he was on a US Navy ship stationed in the Phillipines. On a very hot day in Manila Bay, the sun was turning the ship’s steel hull into an oven. A little breeze came up, and a young sailor from south Alabama climbed topside to get some air and observed, “It’s a little cool up here in the mountains, isn’t it?”. Everything is relative.

This weekend I am at this same brother’s house in the East Tennessee mountains, and I can attest that it is a little cool up here in the mountains. It is also beautiful.

Our little trip this week started with a couple of days in the Asheville, NC area. If you haven’t been there, you need to go. Asheville is the artsy capital of western North Carolina, and is most famous for the Biltmore House, a 175,000 square foot, 250 room mansion built by George Washington Vanderbilt in the nineteenth century. The estate is on about 8,000 acres. Today’s rich people have trouble imagining such opulence.

On any night downtown Asheville is hopping with live bands, street corner entertainers, and just plain interesting stuff. It is an island of cultural insanity in a beautiful setting, coexisting with back country mountain traditions. If you have been to New Orleans, this is Asheville on a weekend night.

In stark contrast to the liberal, and loose society that Asheville has become is the religious community. In the Asheville vicinity are some major religious mountain retreats. Ridgecrest, Lake Junalaska, and others are nearby as is the town of Montreat, North Carolina, home of world-famous evangelist Billy Graham and Montreat College, a Christian liberal arts institution.

Next to Montreat is the town of Black Mountain. It is a town of about six thousand people. It has more good restaurants than it has gas stations. Art boutiques and antique stores abound. It us one of those places that is a pleasure to explore. We stayed with some friends in Black Mountain, and recommend its inclusion on everybody’s itinerary.

If you like beer you will love this part of North Carolina. The Asheville area has some great micro-breweries and some really good barbecue like that found at The Twelve Bones Smokehouse in Asheville. One of the best breweries is the Pisgah brewery in Black M0untain. I am adicted to the Blueberry Lager they make there. Not only do chicks love it, but men love it, too.

The sailor from Alabama was right. It is way cool up here in the mountains.

What Are You Gonna’ Do? 6

That’s the first thing that popped into my head, this morning. What am I going to do, now? You see, my wife is retiring, and when she leaves her job, she leaves significant amounts of income left unearned. The peace and quiet I am used to having will fade away.

With my lovely and deserving wife retired, that means that she will be available all day, every day, for extended sessions of domestic consultation. Some people would call it nagging, but I am trying to keep on the high road, here. I will not draw any comparisons between marriage and less tasteful situations.

I am an idea man. Hot ideas pop into my head like microwave popcorn. Like, there is no such thing as space travel. We will have to travel between parallel dimensions to get from one side of the universe to the other. Have you done the arithmetic to see how long it takes to travel a million light years at the speed of light? It is a really big number!

So, what happens to all my brilliance if I have a wife hanging around all day informing me of the finer qualities of male servitude?

Retired wives need to be kept busy all the time. If you are rich, you can send her shopping. If not, you can be in big trouble.

Not being rich, I have to be more creative than most curmudgeons of my ilk.

OK. I still have that leaning mail box that needs to be straightened. A little quickcrete and a shovel, and my wife will be busy for a couple of days. I will help by holding the level to make sure the post is vertical.

How about all those bushes that need trimming? Or, how about all those unwanted trees that spring up in the shade of those God-Awful pine trees? I will just turn her loose on them, and she will be good to go.

You see, for every problem there can be a solution. I sure hope my solutions work, or I will be just like Cool Hand Luke being dragged back to the prison farm. We would have failed to communicate.

I am sure she will communicate, over, and over, and over.

Listen To The Music, Ladies Reply

Picture of Samsung Galaxy Note

Samsung Galaxy Note

This article is for my lady blogger friends who have yet to enter the twenty-first century, which is a great mystery to me. You see, these outstanding network nannies (Leticia, and Z) do not have smart phones, iPods, or even a cheap MP3 music player.

So, ladies, here’s my pitch for your technological redemption and explanation of what smart phones are all about.

Let’s take a look at what happens with my smart phone. It can do almost anything my computer can do.

1. Address Rolodex – All my email and phone contacts are in my Google mail (gmail) account, and I have my phone sync to gmail for phone contacts, email addresses, and Google calendar. Most smart phones will sync up with Microsoft Outlook, too. The smart phone is your portable address book, calendar, and birthday list if you wish. I have Google calendar send me a short text message to remind me of every appointment, prior to the appointment. This is the ultimate cool for forgetful old men, like me.

2. Music – My entire collection of music CD’s have been transferred to Apple iTunes, and from there to the iPhone. Since I got rid of my iPhone I have transferred all the music to my  new Android phone. All my music is with me, where ever I go, and I can listen to it anytime I want.

3. Books – My entire library of Kindle edition books (e-books) is available on my smart phone. I take my library with me, everywhere, and can read my current book anytime, anywhere. Not only do I have print books, but I also carry my Audible.com books, listening to them while I drive, and before I go to sleep.

4. Important Notes – With the note taking function in my smart phone, I have made list of my prescription medications. Also, I have my extensive list of pin numbers, passwords and usernames for my countless internet accounts. I have password protected my smart phone to keep busy fingers away from this information.

5. Google – Yes. I take Google with me. I can even talk to Google, and it will understand my search. Several times I have been lost, or could not find an address, and would speak that address into the Google search application. The result would be links and map references. Cool, huh? Now, us guys don’t need directions. They are always in our pockets.

6. Bank  – I use my Bank of America application to check my bank balance, move funds, and to find an ATM or bank branch. Everybody needs this one. There is probably an app for your bank, too.

7. Movies – I can stream movies over the internet to my smart phone. The small screen is not very satisfying, but if I really feel the need to see the Magnificent Seven, again, it can happen.

8. Text Messaging – You might think that texting is just for teenagers. Not true, girls. I used my smart phone last night to cast my American Idol votes for Skylar Lane a couple of dozen times. I voted for two others, also, many times. With a smart phone, you have a tiny little virtual keyboard that is touch sensitive, and you can actually get used to using it.

9. Camera – With my smart phone, I have a good camera with me all the time. My Samsung Galaxy Smartphone has two cameras built-in, one in front, and one in back. The eight megapixel camera in back is almost as good as my Nikon Koolpix camera for which I paid over $100. The pictures are about as good, and I can upload them to my computer via USB connection.

10. Picture Gallery – I have my grand children’s pictures on my smart phone. I do not carry pictures in my wallet. Pictures can be taken by the smart phone itself, or just downloaded from my computer.

11. Cell Phone – I take my telephone with me, everywhere. This feature was saved for the last because I wanted to enumerate many of other features, first.

There are two main types of smart phones, the Apple iPhone, and the Google Android phones. Several major manufacturers make the Android phones including Motorola, Samsung, LG, HTC, and many others. Android phones have been selling faster than iPhones, and they all do about the same things. Neither has an advantage over the other.

Microsoft Windows is late to the smart phone lineup. The first Windows Phones were recently introduced, and there are only a couple of manufacturers signed up to make them. Even at that, AT&T sells the Nokia Lumia series of Windows Phone, and has found it to be a great sales success. The Windows Phone does not offer any advantage over any other smart phone.

You can see that the primary benefit of a smart phone is that it is an all-in-one entertainment device. I always have something to do while waiting, driving, or walking, or even in bed before sleeping. Last night, I listened to one of my Audible books until I went to sleep.

If the features listed above don’t sell you on smart phones, I can’t help you. Maybe you are dead, and haven’t realized it, yet.