Merry Christmas to all our loyal regular readers and casual visitors. Wishing you and your families the very best this Holiday Season and a joyous, prosperous & healthy New Year!
Today we’re going (very) old school with this clip from 1954’s White Christmas. This Holiday classic featuring the inimitable Bing Crosby singing Irving Berlin’s songs ably assisted by the very funny Danny Kaye, the charming songstress Rosemary Clooney (George’s aunt) and the amazing dancer Vera-Ellen. Helmed by the great Michael Curtiz of Casablanca fame, White Christmas is a very funny musical and dance extravaganza with enough sentimentality to warm the heart of even the Grinchiest viewer. If you’re having trouble getting into the spirit of the season, this slice of 1950s post-War Americana will do the trick like the visual equivalent of turkey with all the trimmings and a cup of egg nog. Merry, merry!
We at MFL would like to wish a Happy New Year to all our loyal readers and occasional visitors. We really appreciate you stopping by in 2015 and wish you & yours all the very best in 2016.
Our New Year’s Resolution is to keep on marching to the beat of our own drummer and expanding our horizons to all things interesting and gentlemanly and then hopefully sharing that with you. What’s yours?
It is sorely tempting to recommend Battleground as a Holiday movie because so much of the action takes place around Christmastime. But since it’s an archetypal World War II film I figured I better just include it along with the other classic movies we talk about around here. Still, there is something about watching it during the Holiday Season that makes you thankful that such brave soldiers stepped up to the grueling challenge of defeating the monstrosity that was Nazi Germany those many years ago. And while this 1949 movie is a long way from the justifiably gung ho, sentimental propaganda that was a Hollywood mainstay during the actual war years, I’d still be willing to bet that you might find yourself tearing up at points thinking about what these young men had to go through in order to prevail against such steep odds. Such is the excellence and impact of the terrifically well made Battleground even to this day.
The film recounts the famous predicament of a very banged up and replacement-heavy Army VIII Corps, including the 101st Airborne division, when they were cut off and encircled deep in the Ardennes Forest by the Third Reich’s last desperate offensive push, which became known as the Battle of the Bulge. Familiar to anyone who has watched the excellent HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, this was actually a cock up by the Allied Forces by somewhat letting down their guard after the initial hard-fought success of D-Day and the semi-setback of Market Garden. The massive and perfectly orchestrated German attack on overly stretched lines took the Americans and the Allies completely by surprise and it was only after very hurried reinforcement, enduring heavy casualties and the clearing of some of the worst winter weather in years that the combination of Patton’s 3rd Army coming up from the south and US air power could be successfully deployed to bring relief to the soldiers trapped in the Ardennes. In all, the Battle of the Bulge lasted from December 14, 1944 to January 25, 1945 but the key breakthrough by Patton’s forward relief force arrived the day after Christmas, the true beginning of the end of the battle. A largely German-American affair, each side suffered massive casualties but ultimately it was the outnumbered Americans who thwarted the surprise German advance, eventually breaking the back of the enemy incursion and essentially dooming the potential for the Third Reich to sue for peace on any terms other than complete surrender.
The excellent ensemble cast features the great character actor James Whitmore as the rock-like Platoon Sargent Kinnie, Van Johnson (usually a song & dance man) as the very funny and reluctantly heroic scrounger PFC Holley and a young and very good Ricardo Montalban as Los Angelino “Johnny” Roderigues, among other quality performances. Continue reading →
After all that shopping, general running around and all those holiday parties the day itself has finally arrived. So Merry Christmas from all of us here at MFL to all of you and yours! May your holiday be filled with joy, friends & family and good food & drink. Enjoy the day’s celebrations and get home safely — it really is a wonderful life so remember to count your blessings and toast your good fortune. We’re certainly very appreciative that you stop by from time to time and we raise our glasses of ‘Nog to you!
Man’s Fine Life would like to wish our loyal readers a wonderful Thanksgiving Day full of feasting, friends, family & frivolity. And here’s to all those who do the hard work of putting the celebration together every year. Lord knows it ain’t easy and we’re certainly thankful for all their efforts and the fine food that results!
Enjoy your holiday, travel safely and know that we give thanks for you stopping by when you can. See you on the flipside for some day-after turkey sandwiches on rye with Russian dressing!
Or what I learned on my summer vacation… There is a “delicacy” in Sweden and parts of Scandavavia called Surströmming. The name literally means “sour herring” but that does’t even hint at the, shall we say, pungent qualities of the fish after it has been fermented for no less than 6 months. In fact, a freshly opened can of surströmming has been found to be the most putrid food smell in the world — and that’s saying something! Here are six foolhardy and funny Americans becoming acquainted with this most acquired of tastes (plenty of profanity & retching so definitely NSFW). And unlike these poor souls, if you ever decide to try surströmming never open the can indoors. Or really anywhere near a civilized population. Enjoy!
So the reason for the radio silence is that my wife and I just got back from a very nice vacation in Tulum, Mexico, where we have been so many times it feels practically like a vacation home. This winter was brutal in the Northeast and we were in serious need of some warm, sunny beach time, which that magical place on the Mexican Caribbean never fails to provide.
I first went to Tulum in the 90s just for a quick visit while staying at Isla de Mujeres off of Cancun and Playa del Carmen up the road (now a sprawling metropolis in its own right), mainly just to see the seaside Mayan ruins. That led to my wife and I going down there for spring vacations beginning in the early 2000s. We initially stayed at Cabanas Copal and then Azulik towards the north end of the resort area many times. At first there weren’t that many hotels in the whole Tulum strip and virtually none south of the small checkpoint down the road from Zamas, essentially only the Maya Tulum yoga spa right on the spit of the small bay, then a little down the road/beach there was Posada Margherita, the original Tulum “destination” restaurant run by some charming Italian ex-pats with help from some very sandy dogs, and just a few other small places scattered on the beach along accessible by dirt road. Hemingway on the beach — which despite the name does not have a real bar! — and El Tábano, on the inland side of the road and still serving up wonderful Mexican comfort food cooked up by a troop of hard working abuelas, were some of the last restaurants and hotels that far south, not including a few exotic outliers tucked into the palms on the beach and in the jungle.
This time we stayed at the very reasonable and good Coco Tulum Hotel on that once-sparsely developed southern part. But now, after countless fashion photo shoots and ad campaigns, as well as travel write-ups in pretty much every major publication in the US and abroad, that southern strip between the checkpoint and the Sian Ka’an Biosphere is packed back-to-back with places to stay and eat. Due to the ease of travel from the East Coast (it’s about a three and a half hour flight to Cancun from New York and then about an hour and a half drive down to Tulum) and the magic of the name “Tulum”, snowbirds flock there in ever increasing numbers. Thankfully, it never feels crowded or overpopulated on the beach side because it is so long and the resorts all have their own large sectors. But inland you find that it is absolutely hopping. It’s startling to see tattooed hipsters from Brooklyn and well to do people from all over the world, as well as the traditional backpackers, jamming the paved roads and pathways of what used to be a rutted trail unsuitable for bicycles. There’s even a must-try restaurant, Hartwood, where people line up for dinner reservations in the early afternoon as if it were Per Se in Manhattan. I hear great things about it but there’s no way I’m spending my vacation trying to make the scene in what is to me an escape from all that sort of pretentious jive. Not that there’s anything wrong with it…
The Bay at Zamas at sunset
In fact, as it’s turned out with the way the southern sector has been (over) developed, it’s the northern “town” section that’s most like it was a decade ago. Continue reading →
Before there was your smartphone to keep you on the ball there were high-end wristwatches with alarm complications for men on the go. I happen to have on offer two of the most classic Swiss wrist alarms ever designed in the analog age and at heavily marked down sales prices to boot. So don’t be late for your New Year’s date — these timepieces will make sure you arrive at your assignations in style and fashionably on time. Why not make promptness your New Year’s resolution and let a classy vintage wristwatch help you do it?
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox is one of the all-time classic alarm wristwatches, so much so that the venerable high end Swiss manufacture still makes the model to this very day, though they call it the “Réveil” for extra snob appeal. This Memo is the Jumbo version at 37mm in diameter and was destined for the American market, as you can tell by the “LeCoultre”-only dial signature. This means that JLC in Switzerland supplied the movement, in this case the workhorse caliber 815 bumper automatic, and then LeCoultre USA used the domestic Star Watch Company to case the watch thereby saving the import duties they would have paid had they simply shipped over the complete watch.
This particular example dates from the mid-1960s or thereabouts and features a front-loading all steel monocoque case for maximum water resistance. The alarm and its turntable disc are wound and controlled by the top crown and the time by the bottom. This watch is all original down to the oh-so-vintage silver dial with original Tritium lume dots & hands and the classic JLC movement has been fully serviced for years more faithful service. It even comes on its original hard-to-find JB Champion bracelet!
The second watch I have on sale to usher in the New Year is this wonderful all original Vulcain Cricket in uncommon stainless steel water resistant case. The Cricket has been renowned as the “watch of presidents” ever since Vulcain shrewdly gave one to Harry Truman in the late 1940s. They’ve been giving them to U.S. presidents ever since and if they’re good enough for the leaders of the free world they’re well up to the job of keeping you from being late to work. This late 50s/early 60s example features a beautiful original four-quadrant guilloché dial with contrasting pattern in silver-white with lovely pyramidal & bar markers. It also has a very cool and complicated dual-barrel proprietary caliber 120 movement that is operated by the one crown with two-way winding action and the pusher at “2” (and is best explained off site by the invaluable Ranfft.de pink pages for wristwatch movements). It has also been fully serviced and the alarm on this little beauty is loud enough to wake you after even the most Champagne-drenched New Year’s Eve party. Bottoms up!
It may be New Year’s Eve 2014 but this 2013 Arctic Monkey’s song has been rattling around my head since before Christmas.
The leadoff track from their mega-successful album AM, which featured a much more layered and lush R&B evolution of the Monkeys’ previously angular, singularly Anglo-Saxon sound, “Do I Wanna Know?” is a hook filled sugary delight while still retaining Alex Turner’s trademark verbal dexterity and straight-outta-Sheffield inflections. It’s also an unabashedly romantic paean, something else one might not expect from the usually acerbic band from South Yorkshire. And what better way to go into New Year’s Eve than by dropping the smart aleck pose and laying it all out there for the prize of a kiss?