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Tag: walmart

Movie industry does what World War I could not: It silences Stubby, the heroic canine

The animated, true story of Stubby, the most decorated dog of World War I, was overshadowed by big studio releases when the movie came out this Spring, and now it appears to be getting overlooked when it comes to DVD sales.

As the film’s writer and director sees it, his movie about the underdog who became a military hero, is finding itself in an underdog position as well.

The movie was the first release by Fun Academy Motion Pictures Studios, which writer-director-executive producer Richard Lanni describes as a new company “carving a new niche for real-life storytelling in a crowded family entertainment landscape of fantasy and fairytale.”

But judging from open letters he has written to fans on the movie’s website, that has been tough going.

Stubby was saved from the streets in New Haven, Connecticut, where Private First Class Robert Conroy was training for duty nearby on the grounds of Yale University. When Conroy was sent overseas, he snuck Stubby along with him.

He would go on to serve as a messenger, guard and more. Over the course of his life, Stubby served in 17 battles and is credited with finding wounded soldiers, catching a German spy and, thanks to his sharp sense of smell, warning an entire platoon of a mustard gas attack.

When he returned home, Stubby was the center of attention at parades and met three presidents, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge.

Stubby merited a half-page obituary in the New York Times when he died in 1926 in the arms of Conroy at his home.

Stubby’s remains were gifted to the the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., where the public can visit a stuffed version of him at the National Museum of American History.

The animated movie, while it got decent reviews, didn’t sell too many tickets upon its release and theater chains all but snubbed it after that.

“Everyone who saw the movie fell in love with Stubby, but there were far too many empty seats in theaters nationwide,” Lanni wrote. “Despite the enthusiastic responses we’ve received from parents, dog lovers, teachers, military families, history buffs, and kids of all ages, we simply can’t guarantee the film will remain available …

“After a challenging opening weekend, we must remember the story of Stubby. He was tenacious, resilient, and determined, and we must be the same. We’re not dead, but we are wounded and must stay in the fight.”

Now Lanni is finding the Blu-Ray version is difficult to get to consumers, as well.

“…We find ourselves fighting yet another uphill battle to make this film available to the wide audience it deserves,” Lanni wrote on the website, saying, because his new studio isn’t recognized, he has been denied the opportunity to sell DVDs on both Amazon.com and Walmart.com.

“The rationale, it seems, stems from those stores’ vendor approval policies. To put it simply, they don’t accept that a company capable of producing and distributing an award-winning animated feature film on four continents is also capable of delivering product to their store shelves…

“To put it another way, we are not recognized as a film studio in our own right and have not been presented with a process to apply for consideration as a film studio.”

As a result, he is offering it on his own, through the movie’s online store. The DVD will come out in early November, but you can pre-order it here.

An L.L. Bean kind of guy in Walmart apparel … Or, how to remain rugged at age 65


Don’t be fooled by outward appearances. True, I may be clad from head to toe in clothing from the sales rack in Walmart. But I’m an L.L. Bean kind of guy.

Whether I am hiking in the wilds (which I don’t do nearly enough anymore) with my dog (sorry, he’s not a Labrador, more of a sales rack sort) or savoring a cognac (well, generic on-sale diet cola beverage) by the fireplace (that can’t actually have fires in it), I generally prefer to do so while attired in soft and snuggly, well-made clothing of denim, flannel, or corduroy.

Alas, my clothing budget no longer permits such purchases from the iconic Maine purveyor of classic, durable and cozy apparel.

But this time of year, as my birthday nears, I might actually open the latest catalog that dropped through my mail slot — if for no other reason than to fend off the inquiries from my brother and sister: What do you want for your birthday?

You will always find at least one dog in an L.L. Bean catalog — generally a pointer or a Lab, either splashing through a lake or nestled peacefully in an L.L. Bean dog bed ($109-$249).

The round or rectangular dog beds come in various sizes, with either a denim or fleece cover, monogrammable, and inside a mattress made of either “loose fill” or memory foam. You can’t get a round one with memory foam, though. I’m sure there is a reason for that, but, as I’m nearing 65, I forgot.

Yes, that’s right, I am reaching the age where even foam has a better memory than I do.

The shirts in the catalog most often grab my interest. I know from experience that as soon as I open a new one up, it will feel like an old one — even an old favorite one. Yes, it is almost like paying extra for a shirt that has already been worn. But, when I’m not actually paying for it myself, I don’t care.

In the latest catalog, there are “sunwashed” shirts, and “stonewashed” shirts and “lakewashed” shirts.

I have no clue how “sunwashing” is accomplished, but I found myself wondering if there is a particular L.L. Bean employee who does the lakewashing — who, accompanied by his Labrador retriever, hauls all the new shirts to a lake in the mountains to accomplish this deed. I mean there’s gotta be, right? Otherwise it would be false advertising.

I see him as an older gentleman who preferred this job to being a Walmart greeter, because it allowed him to be in the great outdoors, with his dog. He likely fills his old Jeep with boxes of new shirts and a few times a week heads to the lake with his dog and a washboard. He’d be wearing those famous rubber-bottomed duck boots, which he gets at an employee discount.

“Lakewashing,” I’m sure, is meant to convey an image of purity and freshness and the great outdoors — and it works as long as you don’t let algae and pond scum or boycotts enter the picture.

Fortunately, in L.L. Bean World, that never happens. There, lakes remain pure, mountain streams run fresh, and you remain rugged and vital — at least until you head back to Walmart.

(Photos: L.L. Bean)

Revealed: My once and future crib

I believe there is an interior decorator within all of us.

I would like the one within me to leave now.

That’s because he’s an annoying little twit who’s spending too much of my time and money in his attempt to make everything “just so,” insisting on “color schemes” and “balance” and “flow,” and of course “bold accessories that really make things pop.”

I like to think that I’ve always had some taste,  that I’m a notch above those uncivilized brutes who —  having never watched HGTV, having kept the interior decorator within them buried — are content with soft reclining seating (built-in cupholder optional), a wall-mounted flat screen TV the size of your average billboard, and nothing in between to obstruct the view.

But, of late, the interior decorator within me has — and this is the only way to describe it — blossomed. Recent circumstances, I think, are behind my newfound excitement with home decor.

For one, Ace and I have just completed a year on the road, most of which was spent hopping from pet-friendly motel room to pet-friendly motel room every day or two. Remember the Motel 6 bedspread? We do. In those places we stayed longer – a friend’s sailboat, a trailer in the desert, an empty house and the basement of a mansion – we weren’t afforded much opportunity to make them “our own.” After all that flitting about, I think I developed a zest to nest.

For another, while staying in the basement of a mansion in North Carolina for the past month (with free cable TV provided), I became briefly addicted to Home & Garden Television (HGTV) – and all those shows that showed people moving to new homes, or renovating and redecorating their old ones. I despised many of those househunters and homeowners – because they were whiny and spoiled – but I also, for reasons I can’t pinpoint, or don’t want to, envied them.

On top of all that, the place we’ve moved into is special – to me at least. It’s the very apartment unit my parents lived in when I was born and, while dozens of people and families have moved in and out of it since then, I hoped to make it mine again, tip my hat to its heritage and make it presentable.

So join me now for the reveal, keeping in mind that — unlike those HGTV programs — we had virtually no budget to work with. Nevertheless, I’d appreciate it if you say “ohmigod!” a lot on our walk-through, because that’s what they do on all those home makeover shows.

We’ll start in the living room.

Among its featured pieces are my mother’s old couch, an old family desk, an old rocking chair, a wingback chair that once belonged to my father’s parents, my cousin’s coffee table and my mother’s old footstool featuring the needlepoint of great aunt Tan, seen here (in the lower right corner) before I stripped off the old cover and discovered the prize beneath.

I chose copper-colored faux silk drapes from Target for the living room — one of my first, and one of my few, purchases. I just thought they looked cool, and that I could build my color scheme around them.

That gave me copper, burgundy and gold (in the big chair) and blue (the couch). Fortunately, I found a cheap area rug at Wal Mart that bespoke them all, and which, in my non-expert opinion, really ties thing together. I describe my color palette — yes, palette — as being based on elements of the earth: copper, silver, gold, water, wine (I consider wine an element) and silver.

Silver is the color of the room’s dominant artwork, procured from New York artist Lance Rauthzan during an exhibit of his work in Baltimore.

While the living room, through its furniture, bows to tradition, its more modern artworks, I think, make for an eclectic mix — eclectic mixes, such as my dog Ace, being the best kind.

At first I had some concerns that the piece — its inspiration, Lance says, being a silver, Airstream-like trailer — would disappear on my grey walls. To the contrary, I think it works well … subtly, as if to say, yes, I am here, but I am not going to shout about it, even though I am silver.

You can learn more about Lance and his art — his father played major league baseball, and younger Lance once bartended at Baltimore’s Idle Hour, a bar in which Ace spent his formative years — at his website.

But back to my place. On the living room’s opposite wall, I — believing there is an artist in all of us, too — have commissioned myself to paint my own piece of modern art, of copper and blue and maybe some red, further establishing our color scheme.

The painting will symbolize … I have no clue. I will figure that out when it’s done.

The goals I was trying to achieve in the living room were comfort, simplicity and a rustic elegance that says “come in, sit a spell, OK you can leave now.”

Moving on to the dining room, I found some discounted copper-ish drapes with swirly things on them to echo, somewhat, those in the living room. The dining table was a Craigslist find and the featured artwork is a portrait of Ace resting by a waterfall in Montana, painted by my friend Tamara Granger, Ace’s godmother.

Again, I was striving for simplicity, making sure not to use too much or too-large furniture, since that prohibits Ace from easily navigating the house.

Decorating around your dog (don’t laugh, a lot of people do it) is crucial, especially when he’s 130 pounds. That’s probably why he doesn’t — as much as he’d like to — go in the kitchen, which, in terms of floor space, measures about the same size as his crate.

In it, one can accomplish all kitchen duties without walking — a simple pivot step is all that is required, or permitted. The kitchen features another of Tamara’s artworks, a big black bird, hung over the stove, where it echoes the greys and silvers elsewhere.

Behind the kitchen and dining room is an added on room — not part of the house when I first lived in it — that will serve as a laundry area, once I figure out where to put all the junk now stored there and get a washer and dryer.

In my sole bathroom, I have put up a shower curtain of turquoise, and hung towels to match. So it is white and turquoise. I think it needs another color.

My bedroom is simply decorated with a box spring and mattress that sit on the floor, the better for Ace, until his back problems improve, to climb in. There are two end tables, and a dresser whose origins I don’t remember, and another TV. With cable television starting at $60-something a month, I have opted for the far cheaper, totally undependable and highly unsightly digital TV antenna.

As we enter the guest room/home office, we pass two old editorial cartoons in the hallway — a preview of a bigger collection ahead which pays homage, if you will, to those talented and artistic souls who were once able — and in some cases still are able — to make a career at newspapers out of hoisting the rich and powerful on their own petards.

Amazingly, they were able to do this even though hardly anybody knew what a petard is. While, in modern day slang, some use it as a derogatory term for members of PETA, a petard is actually an explosive device. The phrase “hoist by one’s own petard” means to be undone by one’s own devices.

Editorial cartoonists are becoming an endangered species, but I was always a huge admirer of them — for they were people whose jobs seemed more like playtime, who were allowed to be goofy, and who had the power to makes us laugh, think and feel, sometimes all at once.

They could, and some still do, bring attenton to an injustice, afflict the overly comfortable, and point out that the emperor isn’t wearing anything — all with just a sketch and a punchline. It’s a shame many newspapers have opted not to have their own, anymore, because I think we have more naked emperors walking around on earth than ever before.

My collection — mostly from the 1950s and 1960s — includes the original works of Tom Darcy, Burges Green, Sandy Huffaker, Bill Sanders, Cliff Rogerson, Edmund Duffy, D.R. Fitzpatrick and C.P. Houston.

I lined their works up in two rows above my futon, AKA Ace’s bed, the arms of which still bear the scars of his gnawing on them as a pup.

They, too — those gnaw marks that angered me when I discovered them but now view as Ace’s childhood art — are part of the decor now, another little piece of history, or at least his history. I wouldn’t cover them up for anything.

Rounding out the home office furnishings are my old library table, two dinged up file cabinets, an office chair, an actual bed made for dogs,  and four newly purchased, less than stalwart Wal Mart bookshelves, ordered over Internet.

What’s now the home office was 57 years ago my bedroom. From birth to the age of one, I shared it with my older sister.

The futon — long Ace’s favorite place to rest, and from which he watched me write my book — is one of five soft sleeping areas he now has to choose from. He also sleeps on my bed, the living room sofa, actually a loveseat, the actual dog bed, passed down from his Baltimore friend Fanny, and the Wal Mart rug that bespeaks the colors of my decor, and, come to think of it, of Ace as well.

This is where we’ll end our reveal, and we apologize if it was overly revealing.

In conclusion, I will tell you, what I told my mother when I invited her over for an advance reveal last week: Don’t ever expect to see it this neat and clean again.

(Next week: A look at the family that lived in the house that’s gone from being my crib to being my crib.)