Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pines of Rome

I am learning about music by osmosis, that is, Boy17's musical experience. He has gone so far above and beyond my feeble high school band training. Obviously, I didn't have the talent or drive to excel in music. Yesterday afternoon was the Illinois All-State concert at the Peoria Civic Center. Boy17 chaired second trumpet in the Honors Orchestra, which is just about as good it gets in high school musicianship.

I don't know much about orchestral music, but his group was slated to play only one piece, Respighi's Pines of Rome. Respighi is such a cool name. The piece was written in 1924 and has four movements. I couldn't detect any flaws in the performance. It is an epic symphonic poem and was greeted with a standing ovation. It was easy to spot Boy17, since we didn't get the "Black Tie" memo. We were told suit and tie, so I got him a new suitcoat, brown. You can see the result. Well, I thought he was handsome, and I'm incredibly proud. How Pat and I find ourselves in this world of classical music is mind boggling, I guess we are just blessed!

The Honors Orchestra had the only out of state conductor, Jung-Ho Pak from Cape Cod and San Diego (who apparently has a lot of frequent flier miles). Eli enjoyed his enthusiam and expertise enormously. Just working with the musicians in the camps and programs he has been involved with is a huge benefit to his own growth. He was on Cloud 9 after the concert, as well as exhausted. "Maestro" literally conducts with his entire body. He obviously knew the piece well, and used no music, stand, or baton. He was almost dancer-like.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Golden Globes

Thank you Betsy for getting me addicted to movies again. Since I've been reading Entertainment Weekly weekly, I'm pretty tuned into this years awards nominees. I have seen most of the nominated films. The Golden Globes (GG) were thus a really interesting show for me, plus Matt Damon was seated right in front of the stage and got numerous camera views besides his presentation to Al Pacino or Robert DeNiro or one of them old guys. My first comment is that I'm happy to see Matt's non-celebrity wife is looking more and more comfortable at these events. It would be hard to walk in there and be compared to Angelina Jolie and the gang.

My first comment is, I love the way Annette Benning embraces her age. She is not trying to glam it up whatsoever. Maybe she just feels great next to her 80 year old husband Warren Beatty, so she doesn't have to put on any airs. But the hair, interchangable with Al Pacino? If you missed it, try Google images. It's awful.

Christian Bale is as nutty as his character Dicky Eklund in the "The Fighter." When he got up after winning his GG and started talking in a British accent I thought he was putting it on. So, after seeing "The Fighter" tonight I doubted myself after I told Pat he is British. He did Boston well. He is from England. He and Jeremy Renner from "The Town" and "Hurt Locker" are two excellent character actors who will probably keep reaping the awards.

I about threw up in my mouth when Natalie Portman gave her little speech. I thought "Black Swan" was really good for a horror genre film, but her little baby raspy voice is annoying. And when she announced she was pregnant and her 'boyfriend' loves to sleep with her which proves he's a good actor (and incidentally not a gay ballet dancer), ugh. I guess her awkward extended laugh afterwards has gone viral.

I was actually touched by Claire Danes' acceptance and tribute to Temple Grandin, the talented animal scientist with autism. Ditto for Chris Colfer, the gay teen on Glee.

Kudos to "The Social Network" which sounds really boring but wasn't, unless of course you are not addicted to Facebook.

Loved Ricky Gervais as host. Who is this guy? I thought it interesting that the celebrities were not laughing at what I thought were pretty funny jokes. I think they were afraid to be seen endorsing the ridiculing of their peers. Entertainment Weekly had an editorial calling him "Icky Ricky" because he was mean. Oh boo, the Academy Awards with Anne Hathaway don't stand a chance of cracking a smile. Ricky got on Hugh Hefner and many of the presentors like Tim Allen, Robert Downey, Jr., Sylvester Stallone, and Bruce Willis (Ashton Kutcher's dad). My favorite line of the night which I'm surprised even got broadcast was the closing, "And thank you to God...for making me an athiest."

Friday, January 21, 2011


It was a good, good week. I never had a moment of 'what do I do now?' At times I felt like I bit off more than I can chew, juggling too many balls, but then I found it exhilarating. I went to bed at 7:00 last night, read a tiny bit of "Hunger Games" then fell asleep until right before the alarm at 5:20 a.m. As a result I need about two hours at the gym tonight. I skipped the last two nights of doing anything but American Idol (awful, I thought), eating and sleeping. Boy16 has a game about 1:15 hours away and I already drove my two hour commute today, so I am skipping. I did talk to him and he is recovering from the flu, Dad is going to the game, and it's iffy if he will play or not. So hello, triathlon numbers!

Post Script:
I managed 2 and a half hours of activity (30 minutes circuit weights, 3 miles walking, 4 miles biking and 12 laps swimming), boy a couple days off really can ramp up the energy level, that and working off a little stress (and I haven't had coffee since 10:00 a.m.). This while thinking of Texas Sheet Cake almost continously, in between PTSD flashbacks of Virginia (the 75-80 year old lady who liked to lather up with the water off) having a straight up conversation while delivering a 45 second audible fart in the locker room. Speaking of locker rooms, young girls can be a snarky bunch after a long swim practice. I was about to intervene when I came out of the bathroom stall and one had a clipboard so I guess she was the adult in charge, but I swear she was the loudest, most inappropriate one of the group. I managed to mind my own business after asking one of the girls if that was the coach.

Coming tomorrow: My take on the Globes, Golden.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I have this whole weekly mental thing going. Here it is. Monday is not a bad day because it's Monday and everyone else is having a Monday. Tuesday is the worst day of the week because you are actually expected to do something. Wednesday is cool because it's Thursday eve. Thursday is the best day of the week because you are anticipating Friday and the weekend. Friday is good in that you know you can handle anything because you just have to get through this day but the evening goes really quick and that kind of sucks. Saturday is the second best day of the week because you have all day to do whatever you want and still have Sunday to chill out. Sunday is kind of like the Tuesday of the weekend in that you have to try to accomplish something for the weekend like laundry or getting ready for work. I used to hate Sunday, all day, because it seemed so depressing but now I try to live in the moment with the exception of my aforementioned predisposition to judging each day.

I am going to take a graduate course online now for two reasons. One, work will pay for it, and Two, when I get 12 credits I can move up on the pay scale. Why not?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Case of What is this World Coming To?

Yesterday I made 25 laps without stopping (not 25 miles like I told Pat) swimming. It makes me think about Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign. Why does the First Lady (and who made up that dumb moniker?) have to tell us to feed our kids healthy and get them off the couch and moving? The first of these First Lady crusades I remember was Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No to Drugs" followed by Barbara Bush's reading stump. Excuse me, but aren't those the basics of being a parent?

It seems to me that parents quit being parents sometime in the 80's. I know in my generation you had to move, or you would get stuck cleaning the basement or some other despicable task. If you lived in a neighborhood with kids, usually a pack was running around outside summer or winter. Now I guess they are indoors playing video games and ordering pizzas. In my case, I would take a book and disappear into a quiet corner so at least I would have pleased Barbara Bush.

I know my parents were maybe a little too out there with the food thing (making yogurt, baking whole wheat bread and serving more vegetables than meat) and there were no fast food restaurants in our town until I got to high school. Even then when we went out for open lunch we went to somebody's house and ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Eating in a restaurant was absolutely a special occasion.

At the same time as obesity is at all time high, there are more gyms, fitness clubs and public venues for active fitness than ever before. Even the rehabilitation centers that used to be for heart attack or injury victims are open for wellness memberships. I can think of at least 7 places to work out in my small town of 20,000people. The YMCA is teaming with people on a Sunday afternoon. Maybe an hour at a gym doesn't really replace the natural activities that were commonplace like walking or riding a bike to school or work, playing hopscotch, tag or Red Light/Green Light, and cleaning one's own house. Fitness isn't something you do at a certain time in a certain place, movement should be a part of every hour of the day. I don't think elevators, escalators, and drive through windows were solely installed for the disabled.

There is also a surge in grow your own and store bought organic foods, food co-ops and farmer's markets, an interest in veganism, a decrease in "supersizing", and yet there are more fancy cupcake shops, greasy burger joints and super high fat ice cream stores than ever.

It's hard to understand the conflicting messages and conflicting trends with so much knowledge and information at hand about what is healthy. With McDonalds now offering Oatmeal, maybe we are at the tipping point, and the scales will start to angle down again. I'm just afraid the oatmeal will quietly disappear and the McDonalds will say, "See we did our part and nobody wanted it" while others continue to sue and regulate the food industry, the schools and anyone else they can blame for their own poor choices. Meanwhile, I sound like a an old coot so I will get off my soapbox, but really it is an interesting paradox. And that's the point I was trying to make.

Me in front of a big juicy burger joint, you can see the fat has attached to my thighs.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I don't know where this winter break has gone. I know it is sickenly long for me (I have not been to work since Dec. 22 and do not return until Jan. 18), and I shouldn't whine, but last week just entirely disappeared. This week is making a strike to do the same. It seems everyone else has gone back to work/school and I am aimlessly wasting away in Margaritaville. Not really, far from it, however, I have done little to no prep work for school, which I had BIG plans to do. At this rate, I'll be lucky to be ready for the first week, let alone the entire semester. I did complete an application to teach an adjunct social work class for the University of Illinois, so I am pleased to get that out of the way. Fact is, they were not asking for applications, it was suggested to me that if a good resume lands on the desk of the associate dean, he will be pleased since he has no idea how to go about finding faculty to teach out here in the boonies.

I increased to 16 laps in the pool today, in four lap spurts, so that is progress. I think my breath was fine, it was my arms getting a little tired that caused me to take three short rest breaks. I also noticed some old habits coming back, such as my shower routine after swimming where I do the depression thing and turn the water off to get lathered. This older lady who swam in the mornings always did that next stall to me so I picked up the habit. She had some other rather bizarre habits I did not incorporate. The Y has really downgraded their water supply by the way. It is no more than a lukewarm drizzle, which must be saving them a lot of money, because I for one, no longer stay in there for an hour.

Well, this is just another way to avoid doing productive work, although in my mind, it is more productive than napping. I have one lunch date and one coffee date this week and was hoping for a movie date, but no good shows are playing in the area.

Here is my first table top photo. Didn't I clean it off nicely, a fresh slate? Only a buffet full of crap in the background is holding what the table normally holds.
Random picture of Boy16 at the Galesburg game Saturday night. Macomb's first loss in 14 games.

Sunday, January 09, 2011


January or a new year is time of discovery, or rediscovery in my case, is it not? Did you know the word "rediscovery" is not in the dictionary? This week I happened back into the swimming pool after a three year hiatus. The reason you ask? I am completing a triathalon. Before you get all impressed, I have 6 weeks to do it in a bit by bit fashion. And bit by bit it is. I started with 10 laps, breaking between each to catch my breath. Hard to believe I could once swim 56 continuous laps (although at the tortoise pace of 1.5 hours). I found being in the pool oddly sensational. I forgot the hypnotic rhythm of swimming and the peace of the water swishing around. Today I upped it to 12 laps while stringing a couple together at time. I recalled it doesn't take all that long to build up my endurance. The water was about 110 degrees today which was a surprise since I expected it to be turned down for the all day swim meet yesterday. Perhaps all that swimming heated it up (?). Anyway, it was almost uncomfortable and looked forward to those little cool pockets in the middle of the pool.

My second rediscovery was sewing. Mom is helping me with my t-shirt quilt for Boy16 to commemorate and make useful all those Little League t-shirts he has collected. We borrowed one of BIL Chuck's 3 sewing machines. Yes, my brother in law sews, but he is a very macho seamstress (seamster). Just read Betsy's Christmas letter about how he slayed his own tree. I had that feeling like they say, you don't forget how to ride a bicyle. I wound up a bobbin and threaded the machine like an old pro. Ha. I just kept reaching for the release bar (don't know if that is the proper terminology) behind the needle which is where mine always was, but this one was to right of the needle. Well, we persisted through a few minor disasters and the nearly unbearable directions and have completed the entire top. What is left is adding the batting, the binding, the backing, and either tying or quilting the entire thing. Sounds like we still have a mountain to climb, huh?

The boys are renovating their bedrooms which is a new one! First Boy17 cleaned and rearranged his furniture and today Boy16 did the same. He pushed two single beds together, which was creative, but unfortunately, they are different heights so it would be hard to sleep in the middle, though it does save space. One of the vacuums is on the blink so I will have to get that looked at tomorrow.

This is another project Mom and I took on, sorting old pictures that Uncle Cal had collected, scanning them and putting them into an electronic frame. I only helped with part one.

Finally, a photo I found in Dad's collection labeled "Thanksgiving" though this is not. It may have been that weekend. You can see Uncle Cal's frail hand in the lower part of the picture.

This final picture goes with the blog Strawberry Pictorial, strawberries are finger lickin' good. Boom goes the dynamite!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Welcome Betsy (Anonymous)

It looks like you beat me here this morning. I was going through my DVR last night about to delete yet another episode of "Undercover Boss" when I looked at the synopsis and it was for Norwegian Cruise Lines! My ship. Do you think Candy, our cruise director, is featured on it? Probably only if she has a hard luck backstory. Anyway, I'll let you know how it is and keep it for you if it is good.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Tiny Furniture

Tiny Furniture is a fabulous little indie film Betsy and I saw tonight. Paid all of $5 for the exclusive showing in Louisville Village 8 Theater where we saw Fair Game the other night.

I love this movie. I could relate on so many levels. The most obvious attraction was to the title and photographing of miniature doll furniture. Next was the writer/director/star Lena Dunham who is playing a recent college grad who moves back home to the Tribecca neighborhood of NY (her mom is pretty successful as an artist who photographs small things) and is an aspiring filmmaker, herself. She's pretty successful on youtube. As is the moocher Jed, who moves in but has no interest in sleeping with her.

There is a very familiar sister dynamic as well as a girl friend relationship. And finally the mother-daughter relationship is changing as the daughter is struggling to grow up and redefine her relationship with her mom (think Boy22). It was just so refreshing and anti-Hollywood and low budget. The actors looked like they had a blast making it.

Maybe it's because I haven't been to a small film like this for so long that it was just was so sweet and poignant and brought back memories of all the independent and foreign films I used to see in Denver.