Kish and I went to see Unknown on Saturday. We both like Liam Neeson and were in the mood for an action-adventure film. Unknown met those requirements — but not much else.
Unknown is a story of a man who is knocked unconscious in an accident, lapses into a coma, and is surprised to learn when he awakens that he has been replaced, in every facet of his life, by another man. It is the kind of movie that asks audience members to completely suspend their reasoning faculties and tries to maintain such a break-neck pace that you don’t have time to consider the plot holes and implausibilities. It features a big twist toward the end, and I won’t spoil it for anyone who wants to see the film. However, it is the kind of twist that renders the overall plot so improbable that I, at least, felt a bit cheated.
With his craggy face and physical size, Liam Neeson is a believable action hero who looks like he could throw a punch and absorb a beating. His character is helped by an illegal alien taxi driver, played by Diane Kruger, and a former East German spy, played by Bruno Ganz. (Ganz is an accomplished actor and turned in a fine performance, but as I looked at him I couldn’t help but think of his performance as Adolf Hitler in Downfall. His depiction of Hitler, as Der Fuehrer is advised that the Russians are closing in, has been turned into countless YouTube parodies in which a subtitled Hitler supposedly reacts to unexpected results in sporting events. Whenever Ganz was on screen I found myself thinking of Hitler talking about his TO Dallas Cowboys jersey.)
Unknown is no great film, but it’s not an unpleasant way to spend a few hours on a cold and rainy day.
Okay people, does it surprise any one that portly Rush Limbaugh took a cheap shot at Michelle Obama last week after she ate ribs at a restaurant during her skiing vacation. Rush commented that while the first lady advocates healthy eating, she doesn’t look like she follows her own dietary advice and would never be put on the cover of a Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue.
According to the owner of the restaurant the five ounce braised short ribs Michele ate were only 600 calories, not 1,500 as Rush pointed out, besides everyone knows that when your on vacation it’s a time to enjoy oneself and splurge a little.
A word of advice Rush, childhood obesity is a big problem. I just read an article last week that the sharpest increase in strokes was among men age fifteen to thirty four and there have been numerous articles recently pointing to a significant increase in type two diabetes (formerly adult onset) in children. Not to mention the fact that 75% of military aged youth do not qualify for service because they are over weight.
Of course Sarah Palin and Michele Bachman have weighed (no pun intended) in saying that the “Let’s Move” program is big government overreach. Thank goodness two of the more reasonable voices in the Republican party, Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee both said that childhood obesity is a concern and they think it’s a good goal to try to positively encourage kids to eat better.
It’s just my humble opinion, but it seems as though the government just can’t win, if they do nothing and it becomes a really big problem then it’s their fault cause they didn’t do anything, but if they see a developing problem and try to be proactive and address the problem people say they are overstepping their bounds.
So good job Michele Obama, keep on doing what you are doing, I am 100% behind you and your program “Let’s Move” because we all know that what’s now a health issue may soon become an economic issue.
This is the time of year when everyone in the Midwest tries to figure out whether they have Seasonal Affective Disorder — S.A.D. for short.
S.A.D. is a condition that is associated with the winter. The symptoms will sound familiar to anyone who has experienced a Midwest winter: weight gain, depression, increased sleep, lack of energy, withdrawal from social activities, and feeling sluggish and irritable. They think that S.A.D. may be caused by a lack of ambient light and changes in body temperature. Given these symptoms and causes, how in the world do they distinguish people who have S.A.D. from people who just hate the winter and grimly plug ahead through the cold, and the wet, and endless sunless days? How many people out there love icy blasts and revel in the overwhelming greyness of a Midwestern winter? Are there people who are actually excited about a day when the overcast sky is battleship grey rather than slate grey or platinum?
I sometimes wonder about the “discovery” of these new emotional conditions. After all, people were dealing with winter for millennia before somebody decided there was a condition called S.A.D. Centuries ago, when native Americans toughed it out during the harsh Midwestern winters, were braves and squaws afflicted with S.A.D.? If so, how did the chief react when Brave Eagle overslept and wasn’t able to take down a deer or buffalo because he felt sluggish? And did the tribes perform some kind of traditional S.A.D. dance to try to convince the Great Spirit that it was high time to bring an end to the dim, frigid days?
The Ohio State Buckeyes spanked Indiana today, while Purdue crushed Michigan State. Their victories set up what should be an interesting final week of the Big Ten regular season.
The Buckeyes close at Penn State, on Tuesday night, and then finish at home against Wisconsin on Sunday. Purdue, in the meantime, hosts Illinois on Tuesday and then ends the season at Iowa on Saturday. Although there will be a Big Ten Tournament the following weekend, and the winner of that tournament will be deemed the Big Ten championship for purposes of the automatic NCAA Tournament bid, every true Big Ten fan knows that the regular season title is the more important one. There is a lot of pride involved in surviving the rugged life on the road in the Big Ten and winning enough away games to claim the regular season title.
This year, Ohio State, Purdue, and Wisconsin clearly are the class of the conference. Ohio State fans hoped that Purdue might stumble in East Lansing, but instead the Boilermakers drubbed the struggling Spartans. That win means the Buckeyes will have to win out to claim the regular season title, and Ohio State held up its end of the bargain today by clubbing the Hoosiers at Value City Arena. Indiana is a good example of a once-storied program that has fallen on hard times. Although the Hoosiers may bounce back next year, when they have a good recruiting class coming in, right now they just don’t belong, talent-wise, on the same floor as Ohio State, Purdue, or Wisconsin. They are cannon fodder, like the Washington Generals or the anonymous masked wrestler who gets trounced by Hulk Hogan in the run-up to Wrestlemania.
The game at Happy Valley Tuesday night will be a huge one for both teams. The Nittany Lions need a win to build their resume for an at-large NCAA bid, and the Buckeyes need the win to stay ahead of Purdue in the race for the regular season Big Ten crown.
On several occasions, Richard has suggested that I set up a Facebook page. I have resisted doing so — until now.
I haven’t joined the Facebook brigade because Facebook just seems weird to me. The whole concept of “social networking” and having a wall that anyone can write on is odd. I don’t know how accessible I want to be to people from my past. I’ve also thought that there is something kind of pathetic about people who aren’t in their teens reaching out to others and asking them to be a “friend.” It’s like high school all over again! I’ve been afraid that, if I join Facebook and have to wrestle with awkward social issues like “friending,” I’ll probably suffer some kind of sympathetic acne breakout, too. And, unlike, say, Bob Dole, I’ve never made a practice of referring to myself in the third person — and Facebook seems to be filled with breathless, third-party references.
Why have I reconsidered? Many of my contemporaries (i.e., 50-somethings) have Facebook pages and have said it is a good way of keeping in touch with family and friends. Richard also points out that it may well allow more people to check out the family blog. So, I am willing to give Facebook a shot, for now. If it turns out to be too weird, I’ll just end it and retreat back to my prior state of unconnected, aging “friend”lessness.
Filling vacant storefronts with art sounds like a good way to increase interest in a struggling downtown area. Congratulations to Russell for his hard work on the project, and good luck to the Catskill Arts Initiative as it works to revitalize a charming area that has been hard hit by our struggling economy.
Phase One of the project, including the collective Vassar College show, will run until May 31, 2011.
Venice is sinking and the surrounding sea level is rising. In the last 100 years, Venice has sunk 11 inches. It doesn’t sound like much, but 11 inches is a lot when every building and square is bordered by canals or open water. If you visit Venice, you quickly realize that water is everywhere. You cannot escape the sound of water lapping against a bulkhead, the smell of water in the canals, or the sight of water as you walk across one of the countless bridges spanning the canals.
The situation has become intolerable. Venice now experiences 100 floods a year. The Venetians and the Italian government have finally taken action. Their plan involves construction of massive inflatable gates that will lie flat on the sea floor under normal circumstances, only to be inflated so as to block sea water from entering the lagoon when water levels rise. The project is, as you would expect, controversial. People have raised questions about its cost, its effectiveness and its environmental impact. Amazingly, due to political wrangling it took four decades for construction on the project to get started — even though the situation is growing increasingly desperate.
Venice is a beautiful city, filled with fabulous architecture, art, and history. Equally important, it is one of those cities that is a testament to the human spirit, human ingenuity, and human perseverance. Imagine building a city on marshland and seeing that city grow and develop to the point where Venice was a major sea power and center of commerce! Everyone should be interested in seeing Venice, in all its glory, preserved — and that means hoping that the project works. Mankind would be poorer indeed if Venice, like fabled Atlantis, were to disappear beneath the waves.
The BBC has a story about an exceptionally large, and therefore exceptionally rare, yellow diamond. The tear drop-cut stone weighs more than 110 carats and is called the Sun Drop. The BBC story explains that its yellow color is caused by traces of nitrogen in the carbon for the stone. (Other colored stones are caused by the presence of other substances — boron creates a blue stone, for example, and radiation creates a green cast to a diamond.)
Why do some people lust for gems? A diamond is a glittering object — but so is a well-cut piece of crystal. How many people have the skill and knowledge to distinguish an actual diamond from cubic zirconium, or some other skillful knock-off? Why is wearing a big diamond, or some other gemstone, so important to some people? And how inflated are the prices charged by the jewelry store at the mall for their rings and pendants with diamond chips? How much is the mark-up on the rings featured in those sappy romantic TV ads?
Tuesday night some friends invited Kish and I to watch the Buckeyes play Illinois at the Schott. We had a great time watching the Buckeyes beat up on a traditional Big Ten power.
Jared Sullinger and William Buford
I don’t know what will happen for the rest of the season or in the NCAA Tournament. I do know, however, that this is one of the most entertaining basketball teams I’ve ever watched. They play great defense. They rebound well. They can get out and run with anyone, and in David Lighty they have one of the best finishers in the college game. They can play a slow-down game and fire away from the outside, with Jon Diebler and William Buford. They can work the ball inside to Jared Sullinger, one of the best post position players in America. And, with Aaron Craft, they can break a press, break down a defense on a drive down the lane, and unmercifully harass the opposing point guard with in-your-shirt defense.
Tuesday’s game was a great example of the enormous entertainment value of this team. In the first half, Illinois shot the ball about as well as a college team can reasonably expect — at one point, the Illini were 8 of 9 from three-point land — and still the Buckeyes led by 15 at the half. They did so because they forced turnovers and were ridiculously efficient at the offensive end, with William Buford leading the way. In the second half, after Illinois closed the gap to 6 points, David Lighty grabbed the game by the throat and simply wrestled it into submission. He hit threes, he made steals that led to breakaway dunks, and he took the ball to the rack, and the Buckeyes pulled away.
I really enjoy watching these guys play. Thad Matta has produced another great team.
We’ve reached the time of year where the ancient weather gods can’t seem to make up their minds. It is warm one day and freezing the next. Snow melts, but before the water evaporates it freezes again, leaving sidewalks, roads, and driveways coated with a thin sheen of ice.
It makes this the most treacherous time of year for the morning walker. In the dim, pre-dawn hours, it is virtually impossible to distinguish a cleared asphalt walking path, where the confident walker can move with long, careless stride, from a frozen surface that even a sure-footed polar bear would hesitate to cross. As a result, the careful walker proceeds head down, with penguin gait, scanning the immediate path ahead for patches of snow that might provide better traction and making split-second judgments about whether to risk a tentative step out onto a questionable surface.
Because — make no mistake — it is that first step that is crucial. If you’ve ever slipped on ice, you know the feeling. You take the step, your foot slides immediately and unpredictably, and suddenly you are grasping the air, adrenalin surging, arms waving like a person trying to fend off a bee attack, as you try to regain your balance. (And try doing so when, in one hand, you have a leash attached to a zig-zagging dog.) You desperately hope to avoid the horrible realization that you have failed, and you are going down. Because when you fall, whether you land on your keister or your side, the physical impact is less significant than the fact that you feel and look like a complete idiot.
Yes, it is an exciting time of year for morning walks.
Yesterday the Cave Dweller and I went to lunch at a nearby sandwich shop. As we were eating we noticing people with union t-shirts and signs heading toward the Ohio Statehouse. After we finished our lunch we decided to take a lap around the Statehouse to see what was going on. It was a journey well worth taking.
In Ohio, as in Wisconsin and other states, the ability of public employees to engage in collective bargaining is being revisited by the legislature, and the pro-union forces were having a big rally. As we approached the Statehouse along Third Street, buses were rolling up and discharging union members who were joining the rally. The crowd, probably numbered in the hundreds by that point, began a spirited “Kill the bill!” chant. Union members were handing out fliers with the schedule for the day. The TV trucks were there, with their satellite dishes extended, and we ran into an NPS radio reporter who was happy to have some good audio to use in her report. As we turned the corner of the Statehouse, we saw more union members heading toward the rally. At the corner of Broad and High we watched as a firefighters bagpipe and drum corps marched by playing some unknown tune, their kilts flapping in the cold winter wind. A policeman who was holding back traffic gave a high five to one of the marchers. By the time we got back to the firm, a helicopter — probably from one of the local stations — was hovering overhead to get some crowd shots. And when I drove home that night I heard that the rally would be capped by a lawsuit contesting the decisions on how many of the rally attendees were permitted to enter the Statehouse.
Regardless of your position on the issue at hand, you had to be proud. What could be more American that concerned citizens petitioning their government and making their views known to their elected representatives? Our country would be a better place if more of our fellow citizens took a direct interest in what their governments are doing — and perhaps marched down to the Statehouse, kilted or not, to let their representatives know that they are paying attention.
The dogs that were next most likely to bite were shih tzus, chihuahuas, and poodles. No surprise there, either! Every dog knows that those poor guys act macho to make up for their shrimpiness or the fact that they are constantly getting combed or coiffed or treated in some kind of really embarrassing way. Any dog would rather roll in poop than have someone put a bow in their hair or keep them in a purse. The shih tzus and chihuahuas try to compensate for their humiliating condition with a chomp or two. It’s sad, but predictable.
I don’t see the point in biting. They only thing I want to bite is my dinner.
Today — February 22 — is the birthday of George Washington. Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is February 12. Do we have a federal holiday on the actual birth date of either of those two colossal historical figures, who generally rank as the two greatest Presidents in American history? No, we don’t.
James Buchanan doesn't deserve a holiday!
Instead, we have a holiday called “Presidents’ Day” that is easily the lamest holiday of the year. There apparently were two steps in its creation. First, Congress — no doubt after heavy lobbying by the travel industry — decided to give people as many three-day weekends as possible. So, in the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1971, Congress dictated that Washington’s Birthday would be celebrated on the third Monday in February, and not on Washington’s actual birthday. Then, the holiday somehow got broadened to include not just Washington, or even just Washington and Lincoln, but all Presidents through “Presidents’ Day.” It is such a phony, meaningless holiday that it isn’t even recognized by most businesses. What does it say about a holiday if most people don’t even get the day off?
George Washington deserves a holiday, and so does Lincoln. In reality, however, most Presidents don’t. There have been far more crappy Presidents than good Presidents. James Buchanan and Millard Fillmore were disastrous Presidents. They don’t deserve a holiday, they deserve to be forgotten. The same goes for Andrew Johnson, Herbert Hoover, and Richard Nixon, among many others.
“Presidents’ Day” is like the modern practice of giving a trophy to every kid on a sports team, no matter whether his team wins or loses or whether the kid is talented or the most uncoordinated soccer player ever to stumble onto a field. (My God, James Buchanan even looks like the kind of hapless kid whose domineering mother insists that he get some kind of recognition regardless of his complete ineptitude.) It’s like we are trying to not hurt the self-esteem of the crummy Presidents, so we give them an embarrassing holiday that most of the country ignores. It’s time to get rid of Presidents’ Day. Let’s go back to recognizing a President who did make a difference, and actually celebrate his birthday on his real birth date.
We can fairly conclude that something is happening, because Gaddafi’s kid gave a bizarre, finger-wagging, fight-to-the-last-bullet speech. You wouldn’t expect that kind of diatribe unless circumstances were dire — although trying to assess the conduct of the Gaddafis by applying the standards of normal, rational behavior is probably doomed to failure. From the speech, it sounds like Gaddafi Junior is a chip off the old block in the weirdness department.
At any given time, Muammar Gaddafi would easily rank in the top 5 in a “strangest leaders of the world” contest. Right now, his chief rivals in that competition probably would be Kim Jong Il, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Robert Mugabe, and Hugo Chavez. Gaddafi is a pretty strong candidate for top honors, however. He is known for his rambling speeches, his incomprehensible political philosophy, and for wearing sunglasses, colorful outfits, and curious hats. If he was somebody you knew in college, you would conclude that he is a complete stoner. Instead, he has been the leader of Libya, and in control of its oil riches, for more than 40 years.
The world would be a better place if the oppressed people of Libya sent Mo packing — and his kid, too.
Recently Kish and I went to a funeral service for a veteran. The service featured the presentation of the colors. It reminded me, yet again, of the extraordinary power of ceremony in our lives.
In this instance, the presentation of the colors ceremony was performed by three Marines. It was accomplished deliberately, in complete silence, and with great dignity and respect. The three Marines walked down the center aisle of the church at stately pace and retrieved a folded flag from the altar. They slowly unfolded it so that the flag was fully unfurled when Taps was played. The Marines then carefully refolded the flag, presented it to each other, and slowly saluted the colors before presenting the folded flag to the widow and walking slowly out of the church. This simple ceremony was the culmination of the service and was a deeply felt moment for everyone present in the church.
In this case, the man who had passed was a true hero — a Marine who had fought and suffered grievous, life-threatening injuries in the Battle of Okinawa, recovered, and returned to normal life to make enormous contributions to his family, his community, and his profession. How can you adequately recognize the personal sacrifices that he, and his fellow veterans, have made on behalf of us all? Ceremony provides us with a means of accomplishing what mere words cannot. The presentation of the colors, performed with appropriate silence, gravity and care, is a powerful way to demonstrate our esteem and gratitude for those who have served.