Saturday, January 30, 2016

Another once great channel bites the dust

E! Entertainment Network cancelled The Soup, one of my long-time favorite shows at the end of 2015. E! used to have some great entertainment shows, but started going downhill when they went the "reality" star route, starting with Paris Hilton and continuing these days with the inane Kardashians. Apparently one half hour per week was too much to ask for some smart, witty programming. I've noticed while channel surfing these days that E! is practically all Kardashians, all the time.

The Food Network (and apparently its substation, The Cooking Channel) is rapidly becoming the next E!, in that it's a channel I used to watch all the time, but rarely if ever watch these days. I actually bitched about this on Twitter recently:


This morning:

Sigh.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Sick as a dog

Started getting the sore throat late Wednesday night and sure enough, by Thursday morning I had the full-blown head cold going on. Still sick today and had to drag myself to the store because I was running low on tissues and cough drops. Agony.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Snowy Road

Looks like the east coast is going to survive the big snowstorm, thanks to their sense of humor.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

This seriously makes me want to go on a sandwich rampage

Los Angeles Eater's list of the most Epic Los Angeles Sandwiches to Eat Before You Die.

Some of these look really good, and one of them is right in my neighborhood. Seriously craving a sammie now.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Amazon gets into the screenplay app business, with a huge bonus

Not sure how I hadn't heard about this earlier, but in November Amazon launched Storywriter, a screenwriting program that can be used both online and off. I just downloaded it and haven't really had a chance to try it out, but apparently it's pretty simplistic and easy to use.

And it's free.

But there's more. Apparently Amazon Studio is using Storywriter to scout new talent for its original content. You don't need an agent, contacts or an uncle in the industry. You submit direct to Amazon Studios from Storywriter, simply by clicking on the submit option. It's that easy, apparently.


It also imports already written scripts from a variety of formats. I imported one from Final Draft and it was quick and flawless. I'm impressed so far and am looking forward to playing around with this thing and even submitting a script.

Friday, January 22, 2016

RIP Gleneagles Hotel

Sad news. The Gleneagles Hotel of Torquay, England is no more. Why is this significant?

It's significant because the Gleneagles and its strange former owner, Donald Sinclair, were the inspiration for Basil Fawlty and the BBC series Fawlty Towers.


In the early 1970's the cast of Monty Python had checked into the hotel for a few weeks. John Cleese and his then wife, Connie Booth, were taken with the "marvelously rude" Sinclair. In 1975 Fawlty Towers, inspired by Sinclair and his hotel and created by and starring Cleese and Booth, debuted on the BBC and went on to become a world-wide hit.

Clockwise from top: John Cleese, Connie Booth,
Andrew Sachs and Prunella Scales.

The hotel was built in 1963 and will be replaced with "retirement flats".

H/T to Ministry of British Comedy on FB.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sophie's vet afflicted by political correctness


All dental health matters!!!

Kitteh lulz.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

More Bundt mania!

Funny that this just turned up in this month's Food Network Magazine: The colorful history of Bundt funnel cakes.

From the magazine:
Fifty years ago, a home baker from Houston single-handedly brought the Bundt pan back from the brink of extinction. The Nordic Ware company in Minneapolis had produced the fluted tube pan for more than a decade, but sales were so low they were thinking about discontinuing it. Then, in January 1966, Ella Rita Helfrich entered the annual Pillsbury Bake-Off with her Tunnel of Fudge Cake - a chocolate Bundt cake with a soft fudgy center. 
Ella Rita didn't win the contest (she took the $5,000 second-place prize), but her cake started a craze: Pillsbury received more than 200,000 letters and phone calls asking about the pan, and Nordic Ware started manufacturing Bundt pans seven days a week to keep up with demand. Ella Rita, for her part, was featured in magazines and newspapers and made regular department store appearances to autograph Bundt pans for excited fans. When she died last July at the age of 98 more than 60 million Bundt pans had been sold, and the Tunnel of Fudge Cake remains one of Pillsbury's most-requested recipes. 
To honor Ella Rita, and the 50th anniversary of her cake, our test kitchen chefs created three more Bundt cakes, each with its own surprise inside.
Here are FNM's recipes: Red Velvet Cream Cheese Bundt Cake, Jelly Doughnut Bundt Cake and Peanut Tunnel of Fudge Cake.

Pic snicked from Pillsbury's website.

And here's the cake that saved the Bundt pan: Tunnel of Fudge Cake.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Grandma's Thousand Island Dressing recipe

This makes a giant tub of the most delicious Thousand Island dressing you'll ever experience. At family gatherings we would joke, "Would you like some lettuce with your dressing?"

Speaking of lettuce, this is no time to break out the fancy-schmancy artisan greens. This is a heavy dressing, so just chop up a head of iceberg lettuce and tell your inner food snob to shut it. Also, no need to add in much of anything else to the mix, although croutons always go well with thousand island.

It's a lot of work (plus you have to make it the day before). There are a lot easier thousand island recipes out there. But this one stands on its own, so it's worth it when you want to make something out of the ordinary. Because it makes so much, it also works well for pot-lucks where you get stuck "only" bringing salad.

Ingredients:
  • One 64-ounce jar of Best Foods Mayonnaise
  • 1 bottle of Heinz Chili Sauce (it only comes in one size)
  • 2 bunches green onions, chopped (use some of the greens)
  • 6 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemons
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (I've also used white vinegar if it's all you have)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
  1. Combine mayonnaise and chili sauce in a large bowl. Mix well. Don't panic - I know it looks awful at this stage, but it will get better. Trust me on this one.
  2. Add in everything else and mix well. Doesn't it look better already? I told you so.
  3. Refrigerate overnight.
  4. Serve. Don't forget the lettuce!
  5. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

KA-CHING!!!!

OMG, just take all of my money please.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Monday, January 11, 2016

Mystery writing humor

So tempting.


H/T to Aunt Agatha's Mystery Bookshop on FB.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Denna Laing

A new professional sports league, the National Women's Hockey League (NWHL) launched on October 11, 2015 with four teams: Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale and New York Riveters.

This year's NHL Winter Classic included a game between the Boston Pride and the CWHL's Les Canadiennes de Montreal as part of the festivities. The teams were chosen because the NHL game featured the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens.

During the game, the Pride's Denna Laing was injured in a freak accident when she stepped onto a stick and fell head-first into the boards. Unfortunately, her injury was catastrophic. From the linked article:
Tragically, Denna suffered a severe spinal cord injury playing the sport she loves. As of today, Denna has limited movement of her arms and no feeling in her legs. Our prayer going forward is that Denna can be moved from the Intensive Care Unit to a Rehabilitation Center and continue to fight everyday with her trademark grit and resolve. With respect to her long term prognosis, right now there are more questions than answers.
Travis Roy, who was paralyzed from the neck down during a game while playing for Boston University in 1995, posted what I think is an absolutely amazing message on Facebook. Do take the time to check it out.

Denna's life has been changed forever, and not for the better. One moment she was living her dream, the next it was shattered and taken away from her through no fault of her own. I can't imagine what she and her family are going through right now, but it has to be traumatic and heartbreaking. If you can, please consider visiting her website and making a donation: Denna Laing.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Bundt mania

For some reason I'm suddenly on a Bundt cake kick. I bought a really pretty pan from Williams-Sonoma recently and got a great deal on it due to a combination of it being on sale, plus the professional discount card I got from them when I was in culinary school. Twenty percent off is huge at WS. Unfortunately, it's no longer available according to the WS website. Probably why it was marked down.


Since getting this pan, I've tried three different bundt cakes. First up, Pineapple Poke Bundt Cake, from the Moore or Less Cooking Food Blog.

Being a poke cake, it was so moist I didn't even bother with the glaze. It was wonderful with tea. I gave some of it to my Mom, who isn't much of a pineapple person (when she orders pina coladas I get the pineapple garnish) and she loved it. This will definitely be a go-to cake in the future.




For Christmas, instead of yet another pumpkin pie, I decided to try something different: Pumpkin Spice Cake from Taste of Home.

Everyone loved it. Due to all the craziness of the holiday, I neglected to take a picture of the cake before we cut into it and later divided it up, but I did get a shot of a slice.


Again, the cake was so moist and rich that I didn't bother with frosting and just dusted it with powdered sugar to make it pretty. You can see a better detail from the new bundt pan on this as opposed to the pineapple cake. This is another one I'll make again. I didn't include the pecans called for in the recipe because I don't think it needs them.

I went back to the regular old bundt pan for the Root Beer Float Bundt Cake from Imbibe. It just seemed to suit the cake better.





This cake is really dense and rich - a little goes a long way. It didn't blow me away the way the other two cakes did. After two really moist cakes, this one seemed kind of heavy in comparison.

Notes if you decide to give this one a shot: I needed a lot more root beer for the glaze than the recipe calls for in order to thin it out enough to drizzle. Also, it made a ton of glaze; if you don't want the entire cake covered, maybe cut the recipe for glaze in half.

Despite being pretty happy with these cakes, they brought up an issue I've had since culinary school, and that's feeling funny about using mixes rather than making everything from scratch. The two of these cakes that turned out best (the pineapple and pumpkin spice) both contained not only box cake mixes, but also boxed instant pudding mixes. Once you've been through a culinary program, you become a bit of a food snob; since then I've had an issue of feeling like I shouldn't be using - much less promoting - anything that isn't made from scratch. And that's not even getting into the issue of all the non-natural ingredients (the stuff you can't pronounce) that's in box mixes, but that's for another post. But like I said, the two best cakes weren't from scratch.

If you try any of these cakes let me know how they turn out!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Happy Inception Day, Roy Batty!


H/T to Joel McHale on Twitter. Speaking of Joel McHale, missing The Soup like crazy. Stupid E! Entertainment channel.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Truthiness in advertising.

Bought a package of burger meat, was splitting it up into four equal sections of four ounces each, and then realized the final section came up a bit short. That gave me an idea.

It was kind of blipping between 15.6 and 15.7.

I don't think so.

Think how much profit that adds up to over time.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

From the December readings: Women Food and God

Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth
As I mentioned in the December reads post, I decided to give this one its own post because in addition to discussing the book, I want to address some issues - both good and bad - that I have with self-help and self-improvement books, and the promises they make.

I'm going to start by saying that when it comes it comes to the kinds of issues that self-help/improvement books address - breaking out of unhealthy and/or self-destructive behaviors, whether they involve food, abuse, drugs, alcohol, depression, grief or whatever else - I understand that there is no magic pill to cure any of these. And that includes these books.

My personal experience with these kinds of books is that they impart a lot of common sense advice, and let's face it, we all need those friendly reminders from time to time. But no amount of advice changes your reality; you have to actually make the changes you can, and live with the things you can't. If you're in an unhappy or bad situation, no daily positive thoughts or affirmations are really going to change that unless you force yourself to take action. So one of the issues I take with these kinds of books is that I feel like they need to be careful of the promises they make. If you subtitle your book An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything, in my opinion you're writing a huge check you probably can't cover.

I became interested in checking out this book after seeing a rave about it (and Roth's work in general) on Andie Mitchell's website. Roth has written a number of books on the subject and runs corresponding retreats that start in the low $2,000s. And from the sound of it, she's helped a lot of people. Which is why I had high expectations for this book.

People who read these books are looking for answers, not anecdotes. Okay, I get it that we need to love and forgive ourselves and not let past hurts cripple us in the present. I get sometimes we need to stop and live in the present and focus on what is good about my life now so that I can magically be cured of whatever it is that caused me to check this book out in the first place. But by page 70 of this 211 page book, I'd already been told that multiple times, just with different phrasing. I had become tired of waiting the answers I'd been promised by the book's concept and the raves I'd heard about it. I slogged it out to page 105 with increasing impatience before skipping to the end to find out what the big secret was.

You promised a life-changing answer. Get to it.

I think self-help/improvement books should be written like the typical true crime book, which start with a big bang, not the lead-up. The murder happens and is discovered right off the bat. Only then does the author go back to the beginning, unveiling the journeys that everyone involved went through to reach the conclusion. Self-improvement books should be like that. Give us this revelation that changed your life, then tell us how you got to that point.

This book is particularly egregious in revealing its "answers". The pages with this information are literally the last pages in the book, in an addendum after the acknowledgements. When I got to the acknowledgements page I was shocked because I thought the whole book was a ploy to get me to take one of the author's seminars if I wanted the answers. Only because, in my disbelief, I turned the last physical pages of the book did I find what I was looking for. Four pages devoted to "Beginning Inquiry" (sort of a combination self-evaluation, meditation and mindfulness) and all of one page for "The Eating Guidelines" (all seven of them, none of which are anything I haven't seen before).

While I don't question Roth's good intentions or the positive results she seems to have had with many readers and retreat clients, I don't really see how her methods or advice are any different than any you could get anywhere else, whether it be therapy, meditation or Weight Watchers.

If this book changes your life, that's great. But to me it was just a glorified pep talk.

"It doesn't matter whether we believe in one God, many gods or no god."

"When you no longer believe that eating will save your life when you feel exhausted or overwhelmed or lonely, you will stop."

"Compulsive eating is a way we distance ourselves from the way things are when they are not how we want them to be."

"Eat when you are hungry." (One of the Eating Guidelines)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Free online classes!

I don't remember if I've mentioned FutureLearn before, but I thought I'd do it now since I just signed up for some classes with them.

FutureLearn offers free, online classes covering a wide array of subjects. I signed up for The Science of Nutrition, Nutrition and Well-Being, and Antiquities Trafficking & Art Crimes. Other classes cover science, history and the arts. Classes are a combination of videos, text and quizzes, and run for a short period of time, usually three to six weeks. For the money (or lack of it) the classes are well worth your time.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Scenes from a sunset

El Nino still hasn't shown up, but we got a gorgeous sunset tonight. The iphone doesn't do it justice, but I tried anyway.


Flag at the end of the Marina del Rey Channel.

RIP. The tree that figured in the horrific accident last week.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

December reading

Despite the holidays, I got in four books. I almost got five, but didn't quite finish the last one before the new year.

The River is Dark by Joe Hart
This was in my Bouchercon swag bag and I opened it at random late one night when I was headed to bed. Hours later, I was still wide awake and barreling toward the end. I have got to read more stuff by Joe Hart.

The book opens with the massacre of a small family - father, mother, even the family dog. The family's only child, Eric, runs to his parents room, locks the door and crawls under their bed with a phone and dials 911, trying to summon help as he hears "it" come upstairs, searching for him. Eric will be his family's lone survivor, but at great cost. When he awakens from his coma, his only description of his attacker is "a monster".

We then switch to Liam Dempsey, a former detective - and the reason for his premature "retirement" is an ongoing question mark that is eventually revealed in good time. He barely gets his morning going when he receives a phone call that his estranged brother and his brother's wife have been murdered in their home. As the only surviving relative, this falls into his lap. Upon arriving in the seemingly idyllic town, he discovers that the brutal murder of his brother and sister-in-law were the second such killings in a week. Eric's family was the first.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, Liam himself starts to become a person of interest, which I have been told at writers conferences is cop-speak for "suspect". Between this and his cop skills, he now has to conduct his own investigation, not only to clear himself but to find out who is butchering the locals.

Hart is a fantastic writer. I was immediately sucked into the story and couldn't stop reading. He hooked me from page one and I simply couldn't put it down. Hurray for insomnia. I think it was around 2:30am when I finished. I appreciated that the story is unconvoluted. Hart has a very clean, simple forward writing style. Things happen as they need to, and Liam's background was revealed a bit here and there, as needed.

If I have any criticism, it's that as we get closer to the end, our hero begins to sustain injuries at the hand of the murderous monster that aren't life-threatening, but any one of these injuries would reduce a normal person to curling up in a fetal position, and still he manages to fight off the monster while sustaining one after another of these injuries. That's a personal peeve, but this is certainly not the only place I've seen it. Despite that, I highly recommend The River is Dark and look forward to reading more of Hart's work.

"Liam stood, glancing in all directions as he retreated to the house, his mind trying to make sense of what just happened. An uneasy feeling like a ball of infection began to throb in his stomach. He didn't know what bothered him more: the sight of the shadowed form appearing and disappearing within the storm, or that it seemed to have come to visit the grave of the Shevlins' deceased infant."


Murder with a Twist by Tracy Kiely
I saw Tracy Kiely on a panel at Bouchercon and was intrigued by her using one of my favorite films, The Thin Man, as an inspiration for an updated take on Nick and Nora. In this case it's Nic (former New York Detective Nicole Landis) and Nigel Martini, a west coast heir. There are a lot of nods to The Thin Man, especially their new name. There is a dog, although instead of the lovable (if somewhat cowardly) Asta, the Martini's have a newly acquired gigantic Mastiff. Their last name is a nod to the virtually non-stop boozing in the original (although they don't drink quite as much in the updated version).

One thing I noticed was that although the back cover promised that the book "Includes cocktail recipes!", there weren't any. I looked at reviews on Amazon and Good Reads and only a couple of people commented on this.

It's an upbeat, breezy read and another one I got through in one late night sitting.

"The voice was gruff and to the point. "Do yourself a favor," it said, and go back to L.A. before you get your other pretty leg shot up." With that the line went dead, which was fine by me. It didn't seem like it was going to be a good conversation anyway.

"Who was that?" Nigel asked, as I turned off the light.

"The Ladies Home Journal," I replied. "You've been selected to receive a free trial subscription."

"Tell them no thanks," Nigel said as he pulled me close. "Their centerfolds are terrible."


Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William J. Mann
With a focus on the unsolved William Desmond Taylor murder and its sordid aftermath, this Edgar Award-winning book examines the scandal culture of early Hollywood and how it resulted in the Hays code. And while he's at it, author Mann puts forth his own unique take on who he thinks killed Taylor.

It's the early 1920's and Adolph Zukor is head of Famous Players-Lasky, one of the biggest studios and theater chains in Hollywood, and the powerful Zukor is looking to get bigger. He wants to dominate Hollywood, but his ambitions are endangered by a series of scandals involving stars that are making Hollywood look unsavory and like a bad influence on the American public. This has religious and moral figures threatening boycotts and the government considering regulating the industry, endangering Zukor's plans.

First Bobby Harron, recently replaced as director D.W. Griffith's star of choice, commits suicide. The beautiful Olive Thomas dies in Paris after accidentally ingesting mercury bicarbonate after a night of carousing. Then comes the Fatty Arbuckle scandal in which the popular comedian is charged with murder after actress Virginia Rappe dies during a weekend long party thrown by Arbuckle. The revelation of popular star Wallace Reid's addiction and his subsequent drug-related death. As if all this wasn't enough, popular director William Desmond Taylor is murdered in his Los Angeles home, revealing a secret past that Taylor had always guarded fiercely.

In addition to Zukor, Mann focuses on three actresses who were connected to Taylor in very different ways, and contends that one was responsible for setting in motion Taylor's murder.

Mabel Normand was a popular comedienne who was fighting to stay clean. While they weren't romantically involved, Taylor was a close friend and confidant, and a huge help to Normand's sobriety, once chasing off a drug dealer who came to her house after she'd returned from rehab.

The painfully young and delusional Mary Miles Minter was madly in love with the much older Taylor, who cared about her but didn't share her passion. Minter was being groomed as the next Mary Pickford by her studio and her monstrous stage mother Charlotte Shelby. Shelby was a truly vile person who makes Joan Crawford look like Harriet Nelson. Shelby didn't like the idea of her little cash cow being involved with an older man; she despised Taylor and had threatened him in the past. This gave her the honor of long being considered to be the primary suspect, although she was never tried, suspicion followed her for the rest of her life.

The trio is rounded out by Margaret Gibson, who dreamed of the kind of stardom Normand and Minter had attained, and pursued it relentlessly despite setback after setback. She had known Taylor years before he was killed. "Gibby" mixed with some criminal types, and when acting gigs dried up she often resorted to blackmail schemes with several of her lowbrow buddies. It's this activity that Mann uses to tie Gibson to the Taylor murder. He doesn't put the gun in her hand (that honor goes to one of the other blackmailers) but he holds her responsible, as she seems to decades later with a startling deathbed confession.

This book is not a quick read; it covers a lot of ground, but weaves all the stories together to demonstrate how interlocked all these different people were, even when they rarely crossed paths. Even back in the 1920's, despite being a relatively new industry, Hollywood was already a machine determined to preserve itself at any cost, including the lives and careers of some of its biggest players.

"With icy disdain, Shelby answered every one of the panel's questions, repeatedly asserting her innocence. Afterward, the jury disbanded. They handed down no indictments, but neither did they offer any exonerations."


Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth
I'm going to give this one its own post, which will follow shortly, because in addition to discussing the book, I want to address some issues - both good and bad - that I have with self-help and self-improvement books, and the promises they make.

"When you no longer believe that eating will save your life when you feel exhausted or overwhelmed or lonely, you will stop."

Saturday, January 2, 2016

In praise of the noble horse: Mack the fire horse

Horses are like big dogs. They serve nobly and can't seem to do enough for us. Case in point: Mack, the legendary fire horse.  From the article:
On one occasion he nobly responded to a command to take the apparatus through a narrow passageway in the South End between flaming walls. He came out withall the hair burned from one side of his body. "Mack" knew the difference between the test alarms and real fire alarms, his dash from his stall to his place at the apparatus being much more vigorous on the latter occasions. In one instance when the sounding of an alarm at night found the lights in the engine house all extinguished, "Mack" was impatiently waiting in his place when they were resumed. His unfailing instinct had enabled him to go there directly in the dark.
The "dash to the apparatus" referred to in that paragraph refers to this:

video

Note how the horse come bursting out as soon as their doors open and immediately go right into place. They can't wait for the harnessing to be done and when it is, they just take off.

Back to the original article, I was happy to see this:
After the York County Fire Museum was established at 757 West Market Street, the monument was moved to the yard beside the museum. "Mack's" remains were re-interred next to the monument, however not before "Mack" made a final fire call. While his remains were being transferred to the Fire Museum, the fireman transporting them responded to a fire call.
A true hero.

H/T to Cowgirl Magazine on FB for the link to the article and Art Horse Magazine on FB for posting the video.

Friday, January 1, 2016

2016 Tournament of Roses Parade

The Rose Parade, a Southern California institution, welcomed the New Year for the 127th time, and as usual, it was spectacular.

One of the most significant aspects of this year's parade is that it's the last year that Bob Eubanks and Stephanie Edwards will host KTLA's local broadcast (the go-to Rose Parade broadcast for Southern Californians) after thirty-four years. It's hard to imagine hearing other voices host the legendary parade. Here's what they themselves have to say about it via KPCC.com.

As always, it was a treat to listen to Bob and Stephanie as the floats, marching bands, equestrian units and classic cars made the famous turn from Orange Grove onto Colorado Boulevard. Here are some that really caught my eye:
  • The opening festivities were preceded by the annual B2 flyover. I've always wanted to see it in person. As impressive as it looks on TV, I think that's the only way to really grasp how amazing it is.
  • The parade is broadcast to 200 countries.
  • The USMC Marching Band, belting out Battle Hymn of the Republic, got big cheers. Rose Parade attendees tend to be a patriotic bunch. 
  • The Downton Abbey float was gorgeous and that theme music gave me goosebumps as usual. Elizabeth McGovern, Lady Grantham herself, was aboard and looked fantastic. 
  • The Dakota Thunder Shires in harness were a truly impressive sight. Shires are the largest breed of horse; they can mature up to 2700 pounds. To give you an idea of how big they are, the average thoroughbred or quarter horse weighs in at about 1100-1200 pounds. 
  • The Medieval Times horses are gorgeous, as are their riders outfits. I went to Medieval Times once years ago, and seeing them made me want to go again. I remember that our King was hot. 
  • The Toho High School Marching Band made the trip to Pasadena all the way from Nagoya, Japan. They are known for their precise and unusual routines and they got a big cheer from the crowd. In true Japanese fashion, they practice like crazy, four hours per day on weekdays and eight hours a day on weekends, under the supervision of their bamboo sword-wielding director (he doesn't use the sword on them).
  • Bob: "Here's a float with a lot of heart." Two giant hearts, to be exact, courtesy of Union Bank. Damn, I'm going to miss Bob and Stephanie.
  • The Salvation Army Band makes its 97th appearance in the parade. The band's musicians range in age from fifteen to seventy-five.
  • The Northwestern Mutual float was a real heartstring-tugger. A thirteen year old aspiring ballerina named Peyton (last name not give) was aboard with her parents. She has been battling cancer for the past year. The float featured a ballerina dancing amongst depictions of ballet/arts landmarks from around the world. Titled "Dancing Into Adventure", the float deservedly won the Past Presidents' Trophy for Most Creative Design and Use of Floral and Non-Floral Materials. Bob: "God bless her, little angel." I wish her all the best.
  • As always, good to see The Valley Hunt Club, founders of the Rose Parade. According to Stephanie, a bad rose crop the first year almost resulted in the creation of the Orange Parade (oranges were a major California crop back in the day).
  • The Pasadena City College Marching Band did a heck of a job belting out The Magificent Seven theme. 
  • Obviously I'm partial to the equestrian units, but the American Endurance Ride Conference was noteworthy due to the group's senior member, a 91 year old endurance rider. Keep in mind that in these events they can cover anywhere from 25-100 miles per day. Bob is a fount of information on the equestrian units; I hope his departure doesn't result in short-shrifting of the units in the future.
  • Disneyland's massive float boasts an airborne Millenium Falcon, Chewbacca, C-3P0 and stormtroopers along with classic Disney characters. Happy 60th birthday, Disneyland!
  • Bob and Stephanie introduce their replacements, Leeza Gibbons and Mark Steines. They have huge, if not impossible shoes to fill, but say all the right things and for our sake and theirs I hope they knock it out of the park next year.
  • The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Mounted Unit included an appearance by Pearl, one of Gentle Carousel's miniature therapy horses. A truly amazing organization, they visit hospitals, victims of natural disasters and trauma victims, including heading to Sandy Hook after the shootings there.
  • Awesome! Trader Joe's float is titled "Fearless Flyer" - which of course is also the name of their mailer/flyer. It features a guy literally flying and won the Fantasy Trophy. It also got a big cheer - TJ's is hugely popular here in Southern California.
  • It's a fire-breathing dragon! For real! Marco Polo: East Meets West takes the Sweepstakes Trophy with their gorgeous Orient-inspired float. The dragon is actually belching flames. Those kind of pyrotechnics always go over well with the Rose Parade crowd.
  • YAY!!! It's the Budweiser Clydesdales! Magnificent animals. Cannot say enough about how impressed I am with how well trained they are. These horses can exceed 2000 pounds each. 
  • The Rose Parade takes an unexpected and uncharacteristic downturn with a float from the TV show The Bachelor, featuring bimbos in a hot tub and some Z-list reality star. What next, the Kartrashians? Leave the decent people our one last bastion of class, please. You shouldn't have to explain Rose Parade floats to your little kids.
  • The parade closes with a rousing rendition of God Bless America by the New Directions Veterans Choir, followed closely by the float "Jesus is the Light of the World" presented by the Lutheran Hour Ministries. The guy waving from the float is, unfortunately, not the real Jesus. We could use him the way the world's been going.

You bet I got choked up when Bob and Stephanie signed off for the last time. It's tough to see them go.

The Rose Parade continues to be a bright spot in Southern California and the world, a joyous kickoff to a new year. Congratulations to the City of Pasadena, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses and KTLA Los Angeles for another amazing presentation.