Wednesday, February 22, 2017

February 22

With a side of muscle:

Man nips:

Classic Car Fetish:

The response to my recent post about the car Ryan Gosling drove in the film La La Land revealed that more than a few of my regular readers are also car buffs. One of them actually owned an early 1980s Buick Riviera convertible. I’m beyond envious.

But my favorite movie car is from a much earlier film. On a sleepless night about twenty years ago I was captivated by a late night TV movie in which a blue convertible was driven (with white gloves) by Grace Kelly. It was the classic 1955 Hitchcock film To Catch a Thief (I had never seen it – the fifties was the era of my parents), but I could not determine the car’s provenance, because it was not an American-made car. I was intrigued, baffled and frustrated, and I never forgot it. Upon entering the age of Google search a couple of years later, I was at last able to discover that the glamorous movie car was a sapphire blue 1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I.

A true open 2-seater, the car did not have exterior door handles or wind up windows (just like Morgan motorcars). Sunbeam Alpine Mark Is were hand-built in England at Thrupp and Maberly coachbuilders (shuttered in 1967), and it is estimated that no more than 200 survive from the production total of 1,500 units in 1953. In my humble opinion, it is one of the most beautiful cars made in the early 1950s.

The irony of this scene (movie still, above) is that Grace Kelly is looking out over Monaco, the principality of which she would become princess upon her marriage to Prince Ranier III on April 19, 1956. When the movie was made, Kelly had not yet met Prince Ranier. Looking back, there is also a sad sense of foreboding. One of the villages Kelly and co-star Cary Grant race through on a hair-raising drive along the Moyenne Corniche* is La Tourbie. In 1982 Princess Grace had a stroke while driving her green 1971 Rover P6 3500 (see what a car nerd I am?) just below this village and plunged 45 feet down a cliff. She later died from injuries sustained in that accident.

*corniche is French for cliff; upper (grande corniche), middle (moyenne corniche) and lower (basse corniche) cliff roads run along the Mediterranean through Monaco and south east France.

Watch out for the chicken!

I nearly came to a similar fate in November, 2000, when I drove the Moyenne Corniche from Monaco to Italy through a cyclone – in a rented Fiat Punto. Not only was I nearly blown off a bridge, but water rose up to the bottom of the doors while I was stranded in a tunnel. Finally arriving in Italy, I was not able to calm down until my third punt e mes (with a splash of tonic and an orange peel) at the hotel’s bar. The next day’s edition of La Stampa revealed that five people had died, trains had derailed and cars and buses toppled, yet I had somehow made it safe and sound to Orta San Giulio. But that’s a story for another day.

Gay Ambassador Rufus Gifford – Jobless

The incoming Trump team wanted no Obama political appointee occupying any of our nation’s embassies, so Trump insisted that all ambassadors vacate their positions by Inauguration Day on January 20. Trouble is, only three replacement ambassadors have been nominated so far – to China (Terry Branstad, governor of Iowa, also a Scottish Rite Freemason “Knight Commander of the Court of Honor”), Israel (David Friedman, a NY bankruptcy lawyer with no diplomatic experience, who has made disparaging remarks about Palestinians and liberal Jews, for starters; five former ambassadors to Israel opposed his nomination; Friedman says he “regrets” his previous statements) and the United Kingdom (Woody Johnson, NY Jets owner mocked by Trump for his previous support of Jeb Bush). 

A full month after the inauguration, all the political appointee ambassadorships sit vacant (all ambassadors require Senate approval). Also, not a single assistant secretary of state has been named, much less confirmed. Under the Obama administration, six gay men served as ambassadors – all have been sent home, leaving their posts vacant. While it is common for a new administration to appoint its own ambassadors, it is not common to leave ambassadorships vacant during the transition.

Rufus Gifford (photo at top of post), former U.S. Ambassador to Denmark, is thus out of a job. He was wildly popular with the Danes, who would greet him by name on the streets of Copenhagen. Same scenario for the other five gay ambassadors. Sad.

Our State Department is in chaos. Five days after Trump’s inauguration, most senior management officials at the State Department resigned en masse and have yet to be replaced. But to hear Trump tell it, his administration is running “like a fine-tuned machine.” Yet 33 days into his term, Trump has created chaos by making 132 verifiably false claims*. That’s an average of four a day. Lucky us.


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