Monday, July 30, 2012

Stories of achievement in the face of overwhelming adversity

Maybe a little TOO dramatic with the subject line today.....

In the spirit of the now-underway summer Olympics, thought you might like to know that others are accomplishing some things.  The Cincinnati Reds have now won ten consecutive games for the first time in thirteen years.  And this weekend my son and I painted the living room of our home, for the first time in nine years.

That doesn't sound like much to a lot of folks, I know, but consider these factors:


*  Neither of us enjoys painting

*  My son is a very busy dad to two kids, both under the age of three

*  I travel very frequently for my demanding job (in fact, I'm leaving today for three nights)

*  Oh, and did I mention that this room has a fourteen foot vaulted ceiling?


Therein was the problem.  Last time around, we used a variety of tools to complete the job, and by our own admissions, we weren't very good at painting.  Using an extension pole to put paint into odd places with rollers, edging tools and even a brush in a few places, we very unskillfully applied a single coat to our living room and kitchen and I have regretted taking short cuts ever since.  Particularly since the living room and kitchen share that dreaded vaulted ceiling.

I had actually repainted the kitchen, up to where the ceiling began, just a few years ago (when I stripped the wallpaper....there's another story I'll tell you sometime), but, being a kitchen, it needed some attention as well.

The catalyst was a 40-percent-off sale at my preferred paint supply store.  Last Monday was the last day of the sale, and I only had a day trip scheduled last week. So Wednesday afternoon I cleared the decks and dived into painting the kitchen solo.  Many hours later I collapsed into my favorite chair and determined that help would be necessary to paint the adjoining living room, so I recruited my son, who was only too happy to help.

And as I am most fond of saying, it often takes longer to get ready to paint than to actually paint.  Moving furniture, cleaning the dust off of the walls, masking off the areas you don't want to paint (trim, doors, etc.), and, in our case, renting a ladder tall enough for the job (which we didn't do nine years ago) all took time.

We secured the ladder Friday evening and began in earnest on Saturday morning.  The biggest single prep task was to repair a full-length crack in the drywall at the very peak of the ceiling, so my son (who has experience repairing drywall, but in a more detailed way) attacked this task while I began painting the cut-ins (the trim areas that needed to be brushed).

I won't bore you with a full blow-by-blow of our day, but the end result was a completely repainted living room (TWO coats of high-quality, well-applied paint), every item in the room put back exactly where it had been (but the items and the adjacent areas much cleaner), two tired but satisfied amateur painters, and one very happy wife.

I was so happy I actually discarded my "painting clothes," an old t-shirt and shorts that were specked with paint from previous encounters.  I can always dig up an old shirt.

Not sure what project is next on the home front, but I'm sure we'll think of something.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Batman

As was reported here recently, my wife and I were in Cincinnati over the weekend and saw "The Dark Knight Rises" on an IMAX screen.  Before I comment on the movie itself, let me offer a brief endorsement of the IMAX concept.  This was a motion picture format that used to be confined to museums and other similar attractions (the first one I saw was at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida some years ago) but in the past few years there have been more and more commercial cinemas with IMAX auditoriums.  The screen is several stories tall and proportionally wide, and the sound is better than any I've heard in a movie theater.

Anyway, without revealing any major plot items, let me say that "The Dark Knight Rises" is a worthy conclusion to Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy.  "Batman Begins" and its two sequels show its audience what it would be like for a man to decide to become Batman in the REAL world, not a world filled with cartoonish villains who aren't really that menacing.  These are really evil people who plan to wreak major havoc on Gotham City, and Batman is the last line of defense.  Nolan has a great sense of structure and the need to punctuate action scenes with dialogue and vice versa, and these three movies  have a feel to them that's really hard to describe but undeniably appealing.

This movie had it all---well acted, well written, no idiotic dialogue, an intelligent plot that was elaborate but not too confusing, wonderful stuntwork and special effects (hard to tell the difference in modern films), and, well, it's Batman, so that's quite something all by itself.  I could go on and on, but, again, don't want to reveal anything to readers who have not seen this spectacular picture.


in the interests of full disclosure, we saw "The Avengers" when it came out (passed on the 3-D, as I wasn't eager for a headache), and it was very entertaining, but in a lightweight sort of way.  This movie was leaps and bounds better, because it dealt with serious issues and serious characters.  See it, if you're a fan of this genre, and then tell me whether YOU think it's simply the best comic book/superhero movie yet made.


Oh, and Nolan is a producer and creative force behind the latest attempt to resurrect the Superman franchise, if you're interested.  "Man of Steel" will premiere sometime next year (most likely in the summer).


See you soon....same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.

Friday, July 20, 2012

52 pickup

Good morning, all....and happy birthday to me.  52.  Gotta remember to change my Blogger profile.

I write this having just learned of the horrific mass shooting in a movie theater outside of Denver, Colorado last night at a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises."  This is a movie that I have anticipated as much as anyone, and my wife and I will be seeing it this weekend (more on that later).  I truly hope that the gunman, whom initial news reports indicate acted alone, was not somehow motivated to these acts of violence by this film.  Certainly will make one think.

Anyway, the day is off to a pretty good start....I just had a nice breakfast, and am watching the Open Championship (British Open to the masses) golf tournament  May be my favorite major champtionship, as it's kind of like four consecutive days of Christmas morning, as a writer recently expressed.  Unpredictable conditions, golf courses that don't look like they've been fertilized and watered into submission, rough as high as one's waist, and knowledgeable (and wearing weather-appropriate clothing, too) fans to see the action in person.  Gotta love it.

It's been a good week, actually.  I managed to play golf twice in the past week, once in a rain-shortened round, and that rain has recurred enough that I actually mowed the lawn yesterday.  Haven't really had to do that for some time.  Prepared a few pretty good meals for my wife and me, since I wasn't traveling this week (and that made it a good week for different reasons, of course).  Had lunch with a good friend this week.

And my Cincinnati Reds continue to be in or near first place in their division, having won eight of their last ten games.  The only area of concern I have for the Reds is that their star slugger Joey Votto will be out for a few weeks with a knee injury.  But that knee injury, which would sideline a nonathlete for quite some time, doesn't appear serious.  Let's hope not.

To cap off this momentous week, my wife and I are going to Cincinnati for the weekend, using some hard-earned hotel points for our stay.  We'll dine, we'll shop, we'll windowshop (more that than real shopping, I'm certain), and we will see "The Dark Knight Rises" on Sunday morning on an IMAX screen, a format where the projection screen is eight to twelve times taller than a standard movie screen, which provides an immersive viewing experience (but a lot more comfortable than even modern iterations of 3D, which I find to be a little annoying, since I wear bifocals).  In reference to what happened last night in the Denver area, my spirits are dampened a little bit but I'm still very anxious to see this, the final installment in director Christopher Nolan's Batman opus.

So I'll bid you a good day and a good weekend, now that I'm just a smidgen closer to official "old guy" territory!




Monday, July 16, 2012

Old

I don't know if you noticed it last week, but actor Harrison Ford turned 70 last week.

That's right....Han Solo is 70.  As is Indiana Jones, Jack Ryan, Rick Deckard (you know, from "Blade Runner") and all of his other characters.

70.

I mentioned to someone last week when I read this that Ford so often played characters younger than he, owing to his good physical condition and apparently ageless appearance.  Last movie I saw him in was "Cowboys and Aliens," with Daniel Craig.  This picture opened last summer, and was fun, if not enduring, entertainment.  Ford looked a little closer to his actual age in that movie, but that didn't really bother me.

And knowing that an evergreen favorite actor of mine from adolescence is now 70 years of age is simply an indication of my own advancing age, I suppose.  Think about it....I was in high school when "Star Wars" came out and turned Harrison Ford from a serviceable character actor into a box office megastar.  A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away indeed....

And equally funny was a reference a golfing buddy made last Saturday to his girlfriend not knowing who Sid Caesar is (or was, depending on your perspective).  He's just a little older than I am, but was surprised to learn that his gal hadn't heard of Mr. Caesar, as many of a certain generation have not (ditto for Milton Berle, Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, and lots of other folks from the golden age of television).  Johnny Carson's been deceased for seven years and off of the "Tonight" show for twenty years.  That means there's a whole generation of folks who really don't know who he was, either.

I've mentioned in this space before my general disdain for music created by those junior to me, and I still feel that way.  I hear something once in a while that I like that's performed by someone obviously younger than I, but it doesn't resonate like something that's more contemporary with me.  Saw over the weekend a feature about the Beach Boys, who are recording and touring together after many, many years of strife and conflict.  They're all around 70 now, too.  But they still can harmonize amazingly well.

One more before I go....same golfing buddy loaned me some CDs that he has, and they're an audio memoir of the late, great baseball broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who has himself been gone for a couple of years.  Probably one of the best radio baseball announcers EVER.  Also gone too soon for whole generations of baseball fans to enjoy.

So let's celebrate those who are "experienced" in their chosen fields and in life.  Their replacements will most assuredly fall short in the comparison.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Here and gone

Back to work today after a week-plus staycation.  Nice to be off work.

Writing this morning about things, particularly businesses, that appear to be here one day, and gone the next.  To wit:

I went to a bakery in an adjacent neighborhood on Saturday, hadn't been there in about a month.  On my way out of the shopping center where it's located I noted that a dry cleaner that had been there seemingly forever was now gone, space vacant and a "for rent" sign prominently displayed on the front windows.  Just down the way another business, which was an eclectic mix of gift items, imported decorative things and a small bistro was having some sort of "house auction" and apparently going out of business.

What I already knew was gone from this center was a high-volume discount gas station which has been located there for about twenty years.  This place was always open, and always busy, and because it was situated right on the corner of the intersection where this shopping center is located (along a pretty busy secondary road), always plagued traffic because of people trying to get into and out of this place.  The lot is now completely vacant, and it looks as though the gas station won't be rebuilding, as the tanks were removed from the ground shortly after the building was razed.

But the biggest shock in this category was that our neighborhood hardware store, which is less than a mile from our house, is going out of business.  Closing forever.  Lost their lease.  Everything must go.

Oh, my God.

This means I'll now be forced to go to a big-box home store, the next nearest place that has what a hardware store has, and troll the aisles hoping to find that odd toilet part or that package of nuts and bolts I need to fix whatever.  When we bought our house, this hardware store already existed, and I have continually told the owners how happy we are that they're nearby.

No more.

My wife and I have speculated that another tenant in the shopping center, an upscale steakhouse with multiple locations and several different dining concepts, wanted more space and that the other merchants who are scattered through this part of the center will likely be relocated to accommodate this restaurant group.

Or not.  Anything's possible.

The moral of this, I suppose, is that you can't really count on anything anymore.  At least not of a business nature.

Here's another example of what I mean.  There was a time that you could bank on your local phone book having complete and accurate information, particularly in the white pages.  Now?  Not so much.  The example I use is that our daughter misplaced an important item while she and her family were visiting with us over the past two weeks.  We turned the house inside out looking for this item, and began to retrace where we'd been with this item, hoping that perhaps it had been found and turned into the various establishments that were visited.  As we went about calling several of these businesses my wife used the phone book, and I used Google.  In several cases, my wife reported that there was no listing for places like the Disney Store, businesses that have existed for some time.  The funny thing is that we noticed over the last few years that the phone book we use (and the other half-dozen we routinely discard) had phased out residential listings, presumably because so many people no longer have a land-line phone and therefore they have no phone number to list (since cellphone numbers aren't available in such a way).  But you'd think that the business listings would be a little more accurate.

Is it a tragedy that a hardware store or a dry cleaner is closing?  It is to the owners and employees.  Always hate to see a family business go under, unless it's totally voluntary and deliberate, and not forced by other circumstances.  But life will go on, whether we like it or not.

Funny how that works.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Thinking too much

I'm on vacation from my job this week, but since I'm enjoying a "staycation," I have a few things I wanted to send into the ether for everyone to ponder:

I think Tony LaRussa is a slimeball.  To pass over two obviously deserving members of my Cincinnati Reds simply because he CAN is, well, not at all unexpected.  And from what I just read, I think one of the snubs, Reds' pitching ace Johnny Cueto, will file a grievance, as the reason LaRussa stated for not choosing Cueto is a violation of the collective bargaining agreement between Major League Baseball and their players' association.  Worth noting that LaRussa is now an EMPLOYEE of the MLB hierarchy. Hmmm....

I think "Brave" will be Pixar's latest hit film for Disney.  That makes something like 13 in a row.  I took my granddaughter yesterday afternoon and have been muttering in a Scottish burr ever since.  Oh, and I noticed that the movie theater where we saw this is already selling tickets for "The Dark Knight Rises," the final installment in Christopher Nolan's brilliant Batman opus.  It opens on my birthday, so you can just about guess where I'll be on that evening or the following day.

I think that no one is surprised by the announcement that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are getting a divorce.  One day, she woke up and was just too old for him.  Wait, that's a line from a movie, isn't it?

I think it's funny how so many prominent Republicans and conservative pundits keep saying "it's not over" regarding the Affordable Care Act, the official name of the health care reform law that was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama a while back.  Let's see....there was a vote in each house of Congress, and it passed.  It was signed into law.  Then a group of state attorneys general decided to challenge the constitutionality of the law.  The Supreme Court heard arguments and rendered a decision.  So what's left, exactly, besides Rush Limbaugh moving to Costa Rica as promised?

I think I was already tired of hot weather, but when a storm knocked out power to our home last night, forcing us to open windows and sweat in the heat and humidity until around 4:00 AM today, I KNOW that I'm tired of it.

I think that the "lifetime warranty" that covers my four year old suitcase is a bit of a sham, as it is again damaged, and the manufacturer (Briggs and Riley) is only interesting in repairing this thing for the fourth time, with the shipping to have been paid by yours truly.  I attempted to persuade these nice folks to honor their warranty and send me a new case, but, no, I got a return authorization instead.  Decided to take it to a local craftsman who worked on my briefcase recently (another instance where the manufacturer's warranty was absolutely worthless), paid the equivalent of shipping my bag one way, and the work should be better than anything Briggs and Riley did when they made the bag or the last three times they repaired it.

And I think that's about all I have today.  Enjoy the heat!




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