Saturday, August 12, 2017

Your Favorite Nebraska-Themed Movie?

Monday, August 7, 2017
Let's begin with a celebration.  It was reliably reported that a bride from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, now working in New York City, married a groom from Los Altos, California, also working in New York City.  Somehow or other, the couple arranged for the wedding to take place in Budir, a hamlet on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in Iceland, 236 miles from Reykjavik, if you could fly there which you can't, or 404 miles driving. 
. . .

When and if the happy couple ever find their way back to New York, we might want to treat them to chocolate chip cookies, from a choice of recipes offered by the New York Times.
. . .

Chocolate chip cookies, however, will not make us feel better about Wells Fargo Bank.  We all remember how it invented about 2.1 million phony bank accounts to satisfy corporate goals.  Now, it expects to disclose a “significant increase” in the number of phony accounts.  But, that's not enough.  It just admitted to charging auto loan customers for auto insurance that they did not want or need involving "800,000 customers according to an analysis commissioned by the bank.  Some 274,000 people were pushed into delinquency as a result, and 25,000 cars were wrongly repossessed."

Hold on.  The cowboys on the Pony Express didn't stop there.  They "charged military veterans illegal fees to refinance their mortgages, costing taxpayers money when those government-guaranteed mortgages defaulted," paying $108 million to settle the claims.  

Now if you or I presided over this potpourri of lying, cheating and stealing, we might be accused of criminal activity, maybe even prosecuted for racketeering under RICO.  Instead, John Stumpf, the bank's deposed CEO, is being forced by its board to return $69 million that he earned while at the helm.  This has to hurt, but only so much considering that his total pay from 2011-2016 was $286 million.  The other 5,299 Wells Fargo employees who lost their jobs probably did not fare as well as he did.  

Wells Fargo is America's third largest bank, with 268,800 employees.  As this series of offenses shows, it has shown little sign of cleaning up its act, treating the many millions of dollars paid in fines as simply the cost of doing business.  Should we shut it down, regarding the fate of some of its possibly innocent employees as collateral damage, akin to civilians shredded by drone strikes on demonic terrorists?  Would other corporate malfeasors take notice and get on the path of righteousness, or, as they did after the giant accounting firm Arthur Andersen collapsed under government pressure, hire more lobbyists and public relations agents to paint themselves as weak reeds, threatened by MERCILESS REGULATION.  While the United States Supreme Court gave corporations a voice by the Citizens United decision, they still seem to lack a conscience.  
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Now, let's turn to something really controversial.  The New York Times has asked its movie critics to pick their favorite New York-themed movie.  The five finalists are:
On the Town
New York, New York
Desperately Seeking Susan
The Wedding Banquet  

Readers are asked to vote and the winner will be shown simultaneously in theaters and public parks across the city on the night of Wednesday, September 13.  But, just like Russia, I'm going to meddle in this election.  I am withholding the link to cast your vote as a protest against the quality of this list.  Brilliant choices are omitted, such as Manhattan, The Godfather, On the Waterfront, All About Eve, Taxi Driver, 42nd Street, Rear Window, Sweet Smell of Success.  

If you Google the topic you'll find lots of best New York movie lists.  My list would include the obscure, but often dead-on, satire of New York Jewish intellectuals, Bye Bye Braverman (1968), which packs a collection of academic and literary types into a Volkswagen Beetle heading to the funeral of their friend, the unseen Leslie Braverman.  The cast notably includes Godfrey Cambridge as a Yiddish- speaking, African-American taxicab driver and Alan King as a rabbi.  

One reason that I'll never forget this movie is the impossible route that they take trying to get from Greenwich Village to a funeral home in Brooklyn.  My obsessiveness buttons were constantly pushed as they made wrong turn after wrong turn, for instance crossing a street in Flatbush directly into East New York.     
. . .

I went into midtown today to make an installment payment on the addition to my periodontist's summer home.  It also gave me the opportunity to have lunch at newly-opened and well-reviewed Little Alley, 550 Third Avenue, named for Shanghai’s network of alleyways, long tang, the origin for much of the food served.  Possibly to give a feeling for old, dark spaces, there is a lot of black paint and wood stained a grayish brown.  Also, standing in the room was an on old wooden telephone booth that might have been lifted from a Shanghai street corner.  

I was about the tenth customer at lunch, but the number more than doubled by the time I left.  There was still ample room, about two dozen 2 tops occupied the space.  The lunch menu offers 13 dishes, priced from $9 to $12, accompanied by hot and sour soup and a choice of spring roll or marinated cucumbers spears.  Additionally, for some reason, the regular menu is presented folded in an envelope.  Were I not alone, the regular menu would have definitely come into play.

The soup was very good, hot and sour and hot, welcome on this rainy, murky day.  I chose and enjoyed the cucumbers, a rare rejection of a deep fried alternative.  My main dish was a medium size portion of Shanghai thick noodles, with shredded pork, shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and bok choy in soy sauce ($12).  It was quite good, but needed a hit of spiciness to be memorable.  

Little Alley deserves to succeed, but it is awkwardly located on Third Avenue between East 36th and East 37th Streets, more than a quarter of a mile from the office towers around Grand Central Terminal and even further from the massive NYU medical complex on First Avenue, both suppliers of huge lunch crowds.  It is closer to the entrance of the Queens Midtown Tunnel than to any subway station.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017
The New York Times has come up with another interesting graphic presentation, the geographic profile of popular music support.  Who is enthusing over whom.  "Each map shows relative popularity in different parts of the country."

An additional feature is the ability to identify the favorite musical personality by Zip Code, yielding the information that the Palazzo di Gotthelf is located in a Drake-leaning zone.  This makes very little difference to me; I doubt that Miles Davis or Thelonious Monk appears at the top of any Zip Code.  However, I am relieved that I am decades removed from Woodhaven, where Justin Bieber is the people's choice.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017
The Wednesday food section features exotic ice creams produced by many Asian enterprises, here and abroad.  

What the article admits, however, is "in a social-media-dominated world, the picture can be more satisfying than the dessert."  My own limited samplings confirm this.  Instead of waiting around for the decorating of some of these concoctions, you can be digging into some superior Häagen-Dazs.  

Thursday, August 10, 2017
Again, the New York Times has come up with unexpected and unsolicited information, job opposites.  Based on U.S. Department of Labor analysis of needed skills and tasks, the paper posits opposites, for instance, “the opposite job of a writer and author is a  mobile home installer.”  Go figure.   

Friday, August 11, 2017
Today's dilemma seems to be the woeful visage of the Nebraska state flag, which is so ugly that it defies my attempts to reproduce it.

Some graphics artists have suggested replacements.

More interesting to me is the role of the North American Vexillological Association.  What a wonderful name.  It would take a far better lexicographer than I to recognize what vexillologic (vexillology?) means.  Does it pertain to kid brothers, fine print, mothers-in-law, plastic packaging material?  Rather, we have an organization "Focused on Flags -- The Shorthand of History."



  1. Design for the new Nebraska flag:

    On any color background--the words:

    "At Least We're Not Kansas!"

  2. New York Movies:
    Woman of the Year
    City Island
    A Bronx Tale
    Crossing Delancey
    Midnight Cowboy
    Marathon Man
    Detective Story
    -- many others --

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  3. Not yet mentioned: The Producers, My Sister Eileen, Ball of Fire, Easy Living, The Odd Couple, The Sunshine Boys... also, major parts of: Bananas, An Affair to Remember, A New Leaf, Bringing Up Baby...

    ...and I love Bye, Bye Braverman...Joseph Wiseman was great in it (as well as in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz [set in Montreal])