Thursday, September 10, 2009

New Blog Address

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Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday Bookworms: James K. Polk

James K. Polk, John Seigenthaler

156 pages, @2003

Woo-hoo my 11th President I'm flying through this challenge, only 33 more President's to read about!

So I try to read 2 books about Presidents a year. I read about John Tyler in the 1st half of the year and decided to pick up James K. Polk now so I wasn't struggling to read it during the holidays in the 2nd half of the year.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading about James K. Polk. I thought he was kind of one of those forgotten Presidents and let's face it I'm in President no-mans land with all one term peeps leading up to Lincoln.

James Polk, however, really impressed me. He is consistently ranked behind Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln as a President that wielded the power of the office of the chief magistrate effectively. I was surprised by that. In fact, since Arthur Schlesinger, Sr. began periodically surveying experts in the field, he has consistently been ranked among the great and near-great Presidents in the US. Again, surprised by that fact. He achieved great things as President for our country but it appears his personality as an annal, controlling, blah kind of man has tainted all that he accomplished.

The most amazing thing about Polk's story is that he was on his way out when he was elected President. Basically he had lost the governorship of Tennessee (his home state) two elections in a row. The year he was elected President he was aiming for the Vice Presidency and his party wasn't even in support of that! Then at the same time the two candidates that were pretty much going to win the nomination from their parties (Martin Van Buren and Henry Clay) came out and declared that they were not in favor of bringing Texas into the Union. This was not the way the majority of the country felt. Polk, as a known supporter of bringing Texas into the Union, became the lead candidate for the Democrats, won the party nomination and then beat Henry Clary for the Presidency. I mean talk about coming out of nowhere this guy was politically dead when he was elected President. I found that incredibly interesting.

In order to win his party's nomination he guaranteed them that he would only be President for one term and that he would not seek a 2nd term. He went into his Presidency with 4 goals in mind: 1) He would lower the tariff, 2) He would re-create Van Buren's independent treasury, 3) He would acquire Oregon from the British and 4) He would acquire California from Mexico. He accomplished all 4 of his goals during his Presidency of 4 years, which in my book is pretty amazing.

He was succeeded by his enemy Whig President Taylor (who led the charge in the war against Mexico to acquire Texas and then California). He then died 3 months after leaving office. He had no children.

All in all I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading about Polk. I would definitely be interested in reading a larger biography of President Polk...we'll see if that happens one day!!!

Post in Comments:

Who's your favorite President of the first 11? (Washingston, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Adams, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler or Polk?)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Entertainment Thursdays: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

I know, I know this movie came out forever ago. It's been in my infamous Netflix queue (that I swear I'll get down to under 100 before the year is up!) The other day I found it on TV and dvr'd it so I was able to watch it sooner.

While The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was not nearly as good as it's competitors (ie: Harry Potter) I thoroughly enjoyed the story and feel the need to now re-read the books.

Essentially the plot is that during WWI or WWII 4 children are sent to live with a Professor far from London where the bombing is going on. They arrive at this incredibly huge house but are told the Professor is not to be disturbed. They decide to play hide-and-seek and the youngest child Lucy hides in the Wardrobe and discovers the mystical state of Narnia. No one believes her until one day trying to escape getting in trouble they all hide in the wardrobe and all end up in Narnia. The White Queen is looking for them because she wants to end the Prophecy. In the meantime they're looking for the Lion (can't remember his name) who is building an army to fight The White Queen. They each discover their strengths and are tested by loyalty.

In the end I thought it was a very enjoyable movie. I was happy I watched it. The acting wasn't phenomenal and the sword fighting was a little cheesy but I can forgive them that. I was surprised by some of the actors in the movie - James Broadbent, James McEvoy, and Tilda Swinton. They were great but they were all kind of side characters to the children. I loved the cinematography tn brought Narnia and it's inhabitants alive - it was very well done! It seemed a totally magical place. I'll have to check out the 2nd installment Prince Caspian.

4 stars

Post in comments:

Did you like The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Foodie Wednesday: Corner Bistro

Ahhh, the good ol' Corner Bistro!!! Jon's co-worker recommended this to him when we moved here (they go often). I've been twice. Once just Jon & I the 1st year we moved here and then again recently with our friends Emily & Armen.

This place is a fun place to grab some grub and by grub I mean cheap beers and great burgers (many argue the best burgers in the city!) It's a tiny joint and there is not much to it. You get there and wait in line (don't worry they serve you beer while you're online or rather you can serve yourself at the bar). After about 30 minutes you'll grab a seat. The menu is very simple, burger, chicken sandwich, cheeseburger, grilled cheese, chilli burger, BLT, chilli and fries. Your pick. Every time I've gone Jon and I have each gotten our own burger and shared fries. It is so yummy and soooo affordable!

If you're looking for a place with a lot of "NYC Charm" check out the Corner Bistro for your next burger craving just don't go with a big group and remember it's CASH ONLY!

Corner Bistro
331 West 4th Street
New York, NY 10014-1901
(212) 242-9502

Post in Comments:

What's your favorite burger joint in NYC?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tuesday Travels: Run the Planet

I love to travel and I love to run (although I'm not quite the runner I was when I lived in MA). Regardless, when I travel I love to find running routes. I find that it's the best way for me to see a city the way the locals do.

A couple of years ago I found When you go to the home page and click on Running Routes you can type in the city, state and country that you are visiting and you'll find running routes (for most places). The routes are written up by runners who have visited the city, who have lived in the city, or who currently live in the city. I used this to find a great running route in San Francisco for Jon and I when we were there and for Portland, Oregan when we were there and for Amy and I when we ran in Puerto Rico. I've printed out running routes for our upcoming vacation for Munich, Salzburg, and Fussen. I'm excited to check them out.

Run the Planet is a great way to get to know a city and even if you're not a runner a lot of these paths are also great walking paths or biking paths so check it out. Also, another great resource for running routes is the concierge at your hotel. That's how we found a great 4 mile loop through the vineyards in Napa. It never hurts to ask the locals.

Post in Comments:

Where have your favorite runs been? For me my favorite runs have been Land's End in San Francisco, Summit Avenue in St. Paul, The Circus Maximus & Appian Way in Rome, running through the vineyards in Napa.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday Bookworms: Acqua Alta

Acqua Alta, Donna Leon

A couple years ago I read a review of a Donna Leon book in People Magazine while traveling. Always looking for a new mystery I picked up one of her books. Her books in my mind are consistently 3 star books but I keep going back to them because they take place in Venice and with Venice as a "character" in the book how could you not want to read them! My mother in the meantime has become hooked so I always have a fresh stash of Donna Leon that I can borrow.

Acqua Alta was the only one I currently had on my shelf so I decided to pick it up. The book starts with a friend of Guido Brunetti (the main character and detective of these mysteries) being beaten to a pulp. She lives but is threatened not to go to an upcoming meeting that she has. As Brunetti tries to unravel the mystery a death occurs connected to the beating. As he begins to learn more about the world of stolen artificats the mystery begins to unravel.

I didn't enjoy this one as much as I've enjoyed some of her others. It moved slower and I actually didn't like the side story about Acqua Alta very much it distracted me from the mystery. The mystery was too easy to figure out as well which always takes away a little bit from a mystery. It was just OK. Of course that doesn't mean I won't pick her up in the future...

3 stars

Post in Comments:

Do you read Donna Leon mysteries?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Entertainment Thursday: Gangster Movie Challenge Update

I bet you've been wondering what was going on with my Gangster Movie Challenge? I know curious minds want to know. Well, Jon and I have watched 7 out of the 10 movies in the AFI's Gangster Top 10. My review of Scarface is already up and here are the next couple of movies in order.

#9 - Little Caesar is a 1930 movie that tells the story of a man who works his way up the chain of command to be the top dog (isn't that they way with all gangster movies!) Edward G. Robinson plays Little Caesar. Our opinions differed on this movie. Jon liked it more than I did. He loved that the actors talked like old time gangsters (what you might expect from a movie from the 1930's). I do remember that I was surprised by how short it was. It was like 80 minutes or something crazy like that. I just find some of those older movies to go slower because they're not as action packed or the action is not as high-tech as I'm used to seeing (which is a sad statement to make). I did definitely enjoy this movie more than Scarface! Jon rates it 4 stars and I rate it 3 stars.
#8 - The Public Enemy is the movie that launched James Cagney to stardom. It is the story of a young man's rise through Chicago's underworld during Prohibition-era America. Essentially it's the story of a gangster becoming the head gangster and having to fend off rival gangs from their lucrative business. I definitely liked this movie better than Little Caesar but Jon preferred Little Caesar. Jon rates it 3 stars, I rate it 3 1/2 stars.

#7 - White Heat once again starred James Cagney. Although Cagney took a hiatus from gangster movies and came back to the genre when he was approached with this script. It was the perfect role for him. His character was really deep and totally maniacal! He played the part beautifully! White Heat is the story of Cody Jarrett the deranged leader of a criminal gang that robs banks, trains, etc. Cody Jarrett has to step aside for a bit and his colleague "Big Ed" takes his place in the gang and in his marriage. When Cody gets back he's all for revenge, will the bad guy win this one? You'll have to watch to find out. We both enjoyed this movie the best so far - 5 stars!!!

Post in Comments:

Have you seen any of these old time movies? If so, which was your favorite?