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“Cars” gets bypassed at Oscars February 26, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Movies, Music.

The hit Disney-Pixar movie “Cars” was bypassed for any Academy Awards victories on Sunday night, falling short in both the Best Animated Feature and Best Song categories.

And you can blame it on global warming. But more on that later.

“Cars” was favored to win Best Animated Feature, but “Happy Feet” scored a mild upset. After “Cars” scored a Golden Globe in that category, I initially figured it would be a lock for the Oscar.

But in recent weeks, I noticed momentum seemed to be swinging in “Happy Feet’s” direction. I suspected something was up when Entertainment Weekly picked “Happy Feet” for the Oscar in an online contest.

For Best Song, the winner wasn’t James Taylor‘s performance of “Our Town” from “Cars.” Nor was it one of the three nominees from “Dreamgirls.” The one who walked away with the statuette was Melissa Etheridge for her performance of “I Need to Wake Up” in the Oscar-winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.”

So what’s global warming have to do with this? Everything.

In recent months, the issue has been near the forefront of the media and watercooler discussions. And that issue no doubt was on the minds of Academy voters.

That’s why “Happy Feet,” which had a strong environmental message in its ending, edged “Cars” for Animated Feature. That’s why Etheridge’s tune, which was tied to the global-warming documentary, beat “Our Town” and songs from a Tony-winning musical.

Perhaps Academy voters thought it was someone else’s turn besides Pixar to win  Oscars for animation. Perhaps Etheridge gained sympathy votes after her recent bout with cancer. And I’m sure a few people (including myself) thought “I Need to Wake Up” was one of the best songs of her long career.

But, in the end, the global warming issue was stacked against the fossil-fuel-burning characters of “Cars.” They didn’t call Sunday night “the Green Oscars” for nothing.

I felt only mild disappointment that “Cars” went home empty-handed. I would have been crushed if the movie had been a flop when it was released back in June. With $400 million in grosses and millions more in toy and product licensing, “Cars” is anything but a failure. An Academy Award or two would have been gravy.

I don’t begrudge the global warming issue, either. For years, I’ve taken steps to reduce my energy consumption with compact fluorescent light bulbs, Energy Star appliances and fuel-efficient vehicles.

With Route 66, you can have the best of both worlds. You can cruise the Mother Road in a hybrid vehicle. With the historic highway’s lower speed limits, you conserve even more fuel. And buying from mom-and-pop businesses along the road keeps more money within the community instead of sending it to distant, often-wasteful big boxes.

Route 66ers are known as preservationists. And I count the Earth as a worthwhile preservation project, too.

Sepia-toned scenes February 25, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.
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Here’s a different YouTube video with a Route 66 theme. These are sepia-toned images of decaying vehicles and spots along the Mother Road, set to Lyle Lovett‘s “The Truck Song.”

Blue Whale blues February 25, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music, Road trips.
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Canadian singer-songwriter Melissa McClelland has posted Part 4 of her video diary from last summer’s trip down Route 66.

In it, she wears a pretty white dress and belts out a bluesy tune, “Go Down Matthew,” at the grounds of the Blue Whale of Catoosa, Okla. The song comes from her “Thumbelina’s One Night Stand” album.

She says she appreciated the voodoo of the location — the sultry summer heat, chirping birds and insects and the nearby pond added to the song’s vibe.

You can view Part 4 of the documentary at this site. (A high speed connection and Internet Explorer 6 browser are required.)

New “Cars” video game being produced February 24, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, Highways, History, Movies, People, Video games.
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Author and Route 66 expert Michael Wallis, who portrayed the Sheriff of Radiator Springs in the hit Disney-Pixar movie “Cars,” provided some interesting news to me this week via e-mail:

This week I spent several hours in studio recording a brand new CARS video game featuring the Sheriff, Mater, Lightning and many of the other film characters. I cannot say too much about it, but we were able to do the work from a Tulsa studio, hooked up to Burbank and Emeryville (Calif.). From the gist of the script I worked from, I can tell you the action takes place after Lightning is comfortably settled in Radiator Springs and there is more Ghost Light material, etc.

All of us on the hookup had a great visit about this Sunday night and our joint hopes for an Academy Award victory! Not too cocky, but I for one am feeling pretty good about our chances.

We’ll report more details on this video game as soon as we get them.

Wallis has quite a few other irons in the fire.

An Oklahoma Centennial edition of his book, “Way Down Yonder in the Indian Nation,” has just been updated and reprinted by the University of Oklahoma Press.

Wallis’ newest book, “Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride,” is shipping to bookstores now and will be on sale March 19. A second printing has already been ordered. And for you roadies, Wallis says much of the action takes place “in Route 66 country.”

Six major book clubs have purchased the book, foreign and audio rights have sold, Diane Rehm of NPR fame and severlal other major national radio/TV shows have booked me, big pieces coming in American Heritage, True West, NY and LA Times.

A 20-city book tour for the Billy the Kid book will begin next month and continue through April. Wallis says stops will include Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

His next book, “The Lincoln Highway: Coast to Coast from Times Square to the Golden Gate,” with photographer Michael Williamson, will be out in July. There will be a book tour for that volume as well.

(Photograph of Wallis by Redforkhippie.)

Dining at Al’s February 24, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Restaurants.
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Scott Cherry, food writer for the Tulsa World, stopped by Al’s Route 66 Diner in Sapulpa, Okla.

Al’s is gaining notice for its Big Daddy — a 66-ounce burger, three pounds of french fries and a 32-ounce milkshake. If you have a big enough appetite for it, call a day ahead and it will cost you $35.

But if you eat it all in 66 minutes, it’s free. Only four people have taken the Big Daddy challenge so far, and all have failed.

Rally ’round Red Fork February 23, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Television, Towns.
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Today, I was sent this link to a video produced by Webster High School students in Tulsa and broadcast on a local TV station. The film is about the Red Fork Main Street revitalization program, and Route 66 plays  a prominent part in those plans for Tulsa’s west side.

The fledgling program is giving Red Fork a shot of optimism and a chance for a rebirth after years of decline.

Yes, the Grand Canyon Skywalk is real February 23, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions.
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It’s been reported for a while that Hualapai Indian tribe is constructing a Plexiglass-rimmed Skywalk that juts out 70 feet into the Grand Canyon, over the Colorado River. The fantastical project sounds like a scenery-lover’s dream (or a nightmare if you have problems with vertigo).

Anyway, the Skywalk seems so improbable that Snopes.com, a site that debunks urban legends and e-mail rumors, has devoted a chapter to it. And, yes, Snopes reports that the reports about Skywalk are definitely true, and has construction photos from the project to buttress the evidence.

In addition, Grand Canyon Skywalk has its own Web site. According to the site, the official opening date of Skywalk will be March 28.

This thing is going to be a monster tourist attraction.

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