Saturday, August 26, 2006

'Who Killed The Electric Car?' - worth watching

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - I have to be dragged to see some movies and this was one of them.

Not because I didn't believe that the EV-1, produced briefly by General Motors, was the victim of corporate greed. But because the movie would reinforce that and just raise my blood pressure.

It did both, but the movie has a surprise ending which I won't convey here.

But I will give you a hint: I'm really glad I'm buying a Toyota Prius. Really glad.

The arguable star of the film is the EV-1 car itself, but in a supporting role is Chelsea Sexton, who was a GM employee in charge of selling these vehicles. She's now an advocate for electric vehicles and if she weren't so honest, could have a great career in politics.

Chelsea Sexton
Chelsea Sexton at a rally to save the EV-1

She's the kind of bright young person I love to see in my classes at the university - far brighter than the people at GM (and the oil companies).

The movie makes a brief mention of the last time the big players teamed up to force the automobile on the American public - back in the 1930s when the oil companies, tire manufacturers and automakers sold many American cities buses at well below their real cost (as well as promises that tires and fuel would be very cheap) so that cities would get rid of their electric trolley systems.

They also required the cities - to get those big discounts - to rip out the rail tracks and in many cases, even give up their rights of way to ensure there would never be another electric railway - just buses that needed parts, tires and of course, oil. Pretty ironic that as a nation we are spending billions of dollars to build new electric light rail lines when we had them 75 years ago - and they worked just fine, thank you very much.

The saddest part of this film is seeing stacks of the destroyed EV-1 vehicles - perfectly good cars, perhaps too good to survive. Remember the expression 'planned obsolesence?' GM forgot to program that in for these sporty - and fast - little cars.

Crushed EV-1 cars
Stacks of EV-1 autos ready for the shredding machine.

Who Killed The Electric Car? is well worth watching. But before you do, check out this website:

  • Plug In America

  • And check your blood pressure before and after, too.

    Sunday, August 20, 2006

    Sunday - a time for boating, barbecues and music

    Leigh Graham
    Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
    SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Most Sundays in years past I would have been aboard Sabbatical today, either closing the boat up after a weekend cruise or frequently fixing whatever we might have broken while out sailing (or was about to break).

    But this Sunday was stay and home and catch up a few things, one them rest and relaxation, which included listing to a lot of music - mostly on the IPod, of course.

    One of the songs that just played is Perfidia, sung by Leigh Graham, a Toronto-based chanteuse who has a wonderful voice. She sings a lot of the old 1940s songs, as well as swing numbers and big band stuff. Her rendition of Hernando's Hideaway is not to be missed.

    When Admiral Fox and I were in the east this summer, I tried to make arrangements to go see Leigh perform live with the Toronto Starlight group, but it turned out she was off the singing tour for most of the summer, pregnant with her first child.

    What a warbler of lullabyes she will be!

    The other song that just popped up is "As Time Goes By," sung by Dooley Wilson, shown in the photo here toasting with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in a famous scene from Casablana.
    Casablanca toasting with champagne
    Dooley Wilson, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman

    Did I say a famous scene? All the scenes from Casablanca are famous, aren't they?

    Right now dialogue from the final scene is playing with music in the background.

    "Here's looking at you kid."

    Monday, August 14, 2006

    On stage 'The Music Man' as magical as it ever was

    The Music Man
    Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
    RIVER CITY, Iowa - I revisited River City, Iowa on Sunday in the company of Admiral Fox and the lovely and talented Miss Samantha Allen, who loved the musical as only an 8-year-old might.

    It was at a small Sacramento venue called The Music Circus and with the play/musical performed in a theater-in-the-round, the music took center stage.

    I had forgotten how many great songs - songs still showing up on playlists on FM radio - The Music Man has.

    The easy one to remember is 'Seventy Six Trombones," but "Trouble In River City, Goodnight My Someone," and "Lida Rose," all are stuck in my head today.

    I saw the film, The Music Man when it came out in 1962 and have viewed it a number of times since, always enjoying the late Robert Preston's characterization of Prof. Harold Hill, the erstwhile charlatan who comes to town to sell band instruments and uniforms, romance the librarian (played by Shirley Jones) and eventually try to scram with the help of his friend, played by Buddy Hackett.

    Shirley Jones
    Shirley Jones

    I thought I would have trouble letting the stage actors take over the roles after the great performances in the movie. But I was wrong, by the intermission, I was as smitten with the actress playing Marian the Librarian as I ever was with Shirley Jones. And the actor playing Harold Hill became Harold Hill quite easily after a few songs and scenes.

    Granddaughter Samanatha said she's ready for any musicals we want to take her to from now on.

    Me, too.

    Preston with Ron Howard
    Robert Preston with Ron Howard and Shirley Jones

    Saturday, August 12, 2006

    Ship, house & sailboat meet in the Delta

    STOCKTON, Calif. - Sabbatical's voyage to the California Delta (about 75 miles from our slip in Alameda) last week was eventful for several reasons.

    1. We had record runs in both directions, sailing faster than I thought Sabbatical was capable of.

    2. We thought we had an engine room fire that had the crew running around with fire extinguishers and wondering exactly how cold the water might be if we had to swim to shore.

    3. After the fire turned out to be only smoke from a locked brake on the engine, I discovered that the aft cabin sole had water - a lot of water - which turned out to be coming from an exhaust house that had slipped a clamp.

    Many glasses of wine were imbibed that evening.

    But in addition to our ship's adventures, we also sat at anchor near Mandeville Island for a few days, watching big ship traffic along with other sailboats and jet skis out in the channel. Also, there was a large raftup of houseboats on the shore with some very interesting sunbathing activity on the rooftops. (Interesting sunbathing? Hmmmm...)

    The photo at the beginning of today's entry is of an arguably close call, in which a sailboat got caught between the house on the shore and the grain freighter in the 100-foot wide channel. Not much of a contest if the sailboat couldn't get out of the way.

    On the way north, we made an overnight stop at the Vallejo Yacht Club, where my friend of 36 years, Jim McCarthy greeted us. The entrance is narrow (see photo below) but we snuck in fine without even hitting bottom. The next morning, we snuck out fine, but about 15 minutes early and helped the Yacht Club with its dredging project by churning up a 20-foot swath of mud.

    Vallejo Yacht Club entrance channel
    Vallejo Yacht Club entrance

    On our sail up from Vallejo to Mandeville Island (west of Stockton, Calif.) the wind came up - really came up to over 30 knots in gusts - and at lunch time we rolled up our headsail and sailed with just a mainsail. We still made record time getting to the anchor and were glad that we only had one sail to deal with when we hit the twisting narrow channels late in the day.

    Unfortunately, that wind was also pretty cold until almost the point where we anchored.

    Sylvia and Lorraine on the bow
    Sylvia and Lorraine on the bow - in jackets because of the cold

    The trip home was equally fun - sort of - with blustry winds in our face the first day, which encouraged us to put in to the marina at Pittsburg, a new facility that is on its way to be a first-class operation. With our crew and amigos, Dan and Lorraine Olsen we found a Mexican restaurant that is almost worth driving to from Sacramento. Almost - it would be more than an hours drive.

    In touring downtown, we found a movie theatre that is undergoing some kind of renovation. Dan couldn't wait and wanted a tour and ticket right then. We convinced him it would be awhile before the girl behind the counter served him.

    Dan Olsen has trouble buying a ticket
    Dan Olsen tries (unsuccessfully) to buy a ticket

    The next day we motored the rest of the way back to Alameda - 48 miles - and instead of the turmoil and high winds when we left, we crossed what looked like a mountain lake, with hardly a ripple of wind.

    San Rafael Bridge and SF Bay 'lake'
    'Lake' San Francisco