I got the music in me …

26 February 2009

I made one of those interesting, obvious-in-retrospect discoveries while I was working out yesterday.

I don’t have a health-club membership — between careful money management (they tend to be a bit pricey) and the runaround I’ve gotten from health-club salespeople in the past, I just haven’t taken that route.  What I do have is a nomth-long pass to the brand-new fitness room at the Stribley Community Center, about a half-mile from home.  I walk or drive — usually walk — down there every day, Tuesday through Saturday (they’re closed Sundays and Mondays), and spend about twenty minutes of quality time with the bench press, the dumbbells and the elliptical trainer.  I’m really out of shape, so twenty minutes a day was all I could manage at the start without hurting myself.  I’m planning to nudge it toward thirty next month — baby steps.

But when I went in there last night, something was off.  It was too quiet.

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Oscars postmortem

23 February 2009

As promised, a post-Oscar-prediction wrap-up:

* I did pretty well on my picks — 16 out of 24 — to the point where an acquaintance of mine actually asked me if I’d bet any money on them.  (Alas, no — not that I would’ve even if I had the money to toss away.  Remember, this is the chap who had a second honeymoon in Vegas last month and didn’t even play the nickel slots.)  The eight I missed were mostly considered toss-ups (Best Actor, Sound, Sound Editing, Animated Short) or complete crapshoots (Supporting Actor, Documentary Short).  Plus there was the night’s only legitimate upset: “Okuribito” (“Departures”) winning Foreign Language Film over the heavily favored “Vals im Bashir”.  I know of literally no one who picked “Departures” to win.  So I feel pretty good about my finish.

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Congregational Journey: Visit #7

22 February 2009

It was the best of congregations, it was the worst of congregations …

Okay, sorry for the tortured Dickens reference, but as I looked forward to the second half of my Congregational Journey beginning today, I couldn’t help but ponder the things I’d seen in the first half.  I visited three congregations where people were varying degrees of friendly, and three where if I’d died right in the pew, their primary concern would have been who was going to clean up the mess.  I saw four places where God’s Word was preached in power, and two where it was treated very cavalierly, as if it was here to serve our purposes rather than vice-versa.  At three, the Holy Spirit seemed to be clearly moving in God’s people; at three others He might have been, but the congregation couldn’t have cared less.  In short, about half the congregations I’ve visited seem to at least have some clue about seeking God, putting Him first and presenting Him clearly, and half didn’t.

And then today I saw both — in the same congregation.

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Oscar predictions, Part II: The Wrath of “Ram”

20 February 2009

(Blogger’s note: if you missed part 1 of the predictions, click here.)

Okay, we took care of the lower-profile Oscar categories yesterday — cinematography, makeup, live-action short, all that jazz.  Now it’s time to cover the glamour spots: acting, directing, writing and of course the big kahuna, Best Picture.  You ready?  ‘Cause as Bette Davis said in a Best Picture winner (All About Eve), “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!”

* * *

Best Original Screenplay

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Oscar predictions, Part I

19 February 2009

Okay, time for the Academy Award predictions I promised in yesterday’s post.  I’ll do sixteen of the 24 categories today, saving the last eight (the big ones, natch) for tomorrow.  Please turn of your cell phones, and refrain from talking during the presentation …

* * *

TECHNICAL AWARDS (10)

*** Best Cinematography

Nominees: Changeling, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire.

My pick: Slumdog Millionaire. Slumdog, Dark Knight and Benjamin Button have been splitting the critics’ cinematography awards, but Slumdog’s recent wins at the BAFTAs (the British equivalent to the Oscars) and from the cameramen’s guild give it a solid lead over the other contenders.  (Incidentally, I’ve love to see Roger Deakins get it for The Reader — this is his EIGHTH nom without a win, and he’s wowed me time and again with his imaginative camera work for the Coen Brothers and Night Shyamalan — but the odds are way against him.  Maybe next year.)

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Cultural spray

18 February 2009

Over the next 48 hours, I’m going to be posting my predictions for Sunday’s 81st Academy Awards.  I’m pretty good at it — I went 14-of-24 last year, and most of my misses were ones almost everyone missed, Tilda Swinton and the like.   Part of it is that I have an almost foolproof method, not so much for the picks themselves as for making sure I bring as little bias as possible to the picking process.

The method is simple: I rarely watch the nominated movies.

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Baseball’s dream season

17 February 2009

(With apologies to Franklin P. Adams, esteemed author of the poem, “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon” …)

These are the sweetest of possible words:
“Pitchers and catchers report.”
Sure sign of spring like the twitter of birds –
“Pitchers and catchers report.”
Wiping away all the doldrums of last year
Prompting mem’ries of the glories of past years
Words that fans hear as “it could be US this year!” —
“Pitchers and catchers report.”

Just this last weekend, teams’ pitchers and catchers did just that, reporting to spring training for their various squads to being preparations for the 2009 season.  From the lowliest middle reliever in short-season class-A ball to the highest paid stars in the majors, they’re gathering in Arizona and Florida to start the march toward Opening Day, the 162-game regular season and (for a fortunate and hard-working few) the World Series and some sort of minor immortality.  It’s a prospect that swells the hearts not only of the players, coaches, managers and club executives, but also every fanatic who follows the teams on their rollercoaster ride from this point through the end of October.

For me, this is a moment of infinite promise, where every player is a potential MVP or Cy Young Award winner and every squad has a crack at the big trophy at the end.  Mind, for many of the teams the odds are pretty low (I root for the Giants, and their chances are microscopic given their roster right now), but then, that’s what everyone thought about the Tampa Bay Rays last year and look what happened.

So this is truly baseball’s “dream season,” before we wake to the harsh reality that some folks have the talent to go all the way and some barely have enough to take step one. Frankly, with the recent admissions of yet another former (?) steroid user, reality has been intruding far too much already. Let the naysayers say all the nays they please; I, for the time being, refuse to wake up. In my dreams, every field is green, every bleacher clean of bubble gum wads and spilled beer, every pitcher is lighting up the radar gun and every hitter is spraying balls into the cheap seats. These are the thoughts I carry through the cold gray winter to give me hope for another spring, and I will not let them go until I must.

And in the past few days, some parts of my dream – not all, of course, but some – have moved into the realm of flesh and blood for another year. Pitchers and catchers have reported. Another season approaches. And I couldn’t be happier.


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