New Shoes in the Rain

Monday, February 27, 2017

Oscar Magico!

Good Monday morning to everyone!  If you're like me, and stayed up to watch the Oscars last night, you're a little sleep deprived.  I mean, after all, how often does an awards show end with a major twist in the ending?

If you didn't watch and have not watched or read the news, then you don't know about the colossal screw-up that ended what was a pretty entertaining Academy Awards show last night.  The final and biggest award, for the Best Picture, was being presented by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, selected apparently because 2017 represents the fiftieth anniversary year of their vehicle "Bonnie and Clyde."

In any case, after a brief political statement, the pair got down to business and introduced the nine nominees, then Beatty appeared a bit flummoxed by the contents of the envelope.  Dunaway laughed and said "you're impossible" and announced "La La Land," the odds-on favorite, as the winner.

In the midst of acceptance speeches by the three producers, along with much of the cast and crew of that film there appeared a man wearing a headset and a couple of others whom I didn't recognize.  Then the primary spokesperson for "La La Land" said that there had been a mistake.  The winner was actually "Moonlight," a "small" coming of age film that had already won a couple of awards earlier.

Beatty then tried to explain by showing the camera that he and Dunaway had been supplied the WRONG ENVELOPE, containing the name of Emma Stone, who moments earlier had won the Best Actress award for "La La Land."  The "Moonlight" team arrived on stage and exulted in their victory, however it was announced.

This morning I saw that someone had frozen a screen shot from their TV, and, sure enough, Beatty's explanation was accurate, you could read from the front of the envelope that he and Dunaway had been given a duplicate of the Best Actress envelope.  Left my wife and me on our couch shaking our heads at the time, but laughing when the Internet got going with all of the hilarious quips about what happened.  I strongly encourage you to check those out.

We thought the show was good, fun, reasonably fast-paced, made enough jokes about awards for movies no one saw and about our current political landscape.  Host Jimmy Kimmel acquitted himself pretty well and continued something from his late-night show that regularly jabs actor Matt Damon, which produced some pretty funny moments.  The opening production number with Justin Timberlake performing his nominated song from "Trolls" set a nice upbeat pace and also yielded a good comedic moment when he tossed his microphone to Kimmel, who made no effort to catch it.

Kimmel did a cute bit where he tweeted a couple of things at President Donald Trump, including #merylsayshi.  Nice tribute to acclaimed actress Meryl Streep, whose Golden Globes speech decried many of the new administrations actions and policies.

Winners spoke out about equality and fairness as appropriate.  None of the losers in the audience appeared to be terribly sore losers, which is a nice change from a few over the last couple of years who failed to contain their disappointment.  Some of the women who were nominees or presenters wore pretty dresses while others' ensembles were not so appropriate.  And it appeared to be the year of the navy tuxedo for the men, as we saw quite a few of those.

Unlike last year, we saw none of the Best Picture nominees, and happened by chance to see the film that won for the Best Animated Short Subject, another triumphant piece by the Pixar crew entitled "Piper."  See that if you can, and you'll have a smile on your face for quite a while.

I still think my favorite Oscars ceremonies are those where I have a significant rooting interest.  The year that "Schindler's List" won the major awards was quite moving, as that film is.  And the ceremony that culminated in "Schindler" director Steven Spielberg proclaiming "it's a clean sweep" in announcing that "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" had won Best Picture and and the other TEN for which it was nominated was probably the most satisfying for me personally, as this film and its two trilogy counterparts are high on my all-time favorite films list!

By the way, the title for today's post comes from a pretty terrible magician's name.  He entertained my elementary school nearly fifty years ago, but that name has somehow stuck with me.  One of those oddball things I'll probably never forget, even if I can't recall what I had for lunch last Thursday...

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

It's a world gone mad

Greetings, everyone.  Is the weather unseasonably warm where you are, or are you getting torrential rain in place of the years-long drought your area has suffered?

It's been in the 70s here in central Kentucky recently.  New record high temp for yesterday's date.  I played golf in short sleeves on Sunday.  February 19.

Common wisdom around here says we'll pay for this warm stretch with some heavy winter weather.  Much the same thing happened last year, as we had two major snowfalls in early March 2016.  Let's hope that we don't see a repeat of that.

I suspect I'm a bigger baseball fan than many of you who visit this space regularly, but I'm pretty dejected over an announcement made by the leaders of Major League Baseball.  Starting with the coming season, a manager may signal from the dugout that he wants to intentionally walk an opposing batter, instead of the ages-old practice of actually having his pitcher throw four balls way outside to walk that batter.

There's also a move afoot to add drama to extra innings by placing a runner on second base.  And, no, I'm not kidding.

This is all designed, allegedly, to promote a quicker pace of play.  As I noted to a friend on Twitter recently, pace of play issues are understandable in timed sports, such as basketball and football, but in baseball?  The leisurely pace is one of the game's great features, in my mind, and arbitrarily speeding it up with pitch clocks and signaled intentional walks don't enhance the fan experience.  Neither does replay, either.  I offered this to friends recently, so I'll do so here:  if a manager requests a replay, as is his right, and the replay umpires can't make a decision within two minutes, the original call on the field stands.  I think that replay creates more delays than it prevents, so that's my two cents.

But teams are readying for the 2017 season.  The Reds traded popular second baseman Brandon Phillips in order to clear a logjam of middle infielders.  It appears the alternative would have been to reduce Phillips to part-time status, and that would have been more of a distraction than anything.  The Reds have also picked up a few players from the waiver wire and other low-cost/low-risk sources, which is how a small-payroll team has to function.  We'll see how the pieces fit in about a month.

Kentucky's basketball team is looking for another piece of its puzzle, as it continues its schizophrenic 2016-17 season.  They had trouble defeating 7-19 Missouri last night, which is baffling.  This team looked like a group of world-class athletes early on, handling several quality opponents with ease.  Now, every game is a struggle.

Regarding what's happening in Washington, I'll repeat what I said last time around.  I can't really add anything to what's happened, or been said or written.  But I do love the fact that Kentucky's senior Senator Mitch McConnell was met with hostility at a town hall meeting yesterday.  This is a pretty common theme nationally right now, and, no, the protesters are not paid and are not being bussed in.

Last thought--are you going to watch the Oscars?  I don't think we will, but I've been wrong before.  We've seen a couple of the movies nominated, but don't really have any rooting interest.

That's it.  For now, anyway.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Can you hear me now?

Greetings to everyone.  More strange weather here in central Kentucky, featuring massive temperature swings, all manner of precipitation and forceful winds.  I won't say it's unusual for February, as there's hardly any weather pattern that's actually "usual" any longer.

Had a recent oddity with our home telephone.  And, yes, before you gasp further, we DO still have a landline at our house.  I think I've mentioned here that it's easier to keep it as is for now, but as time passes, we have fewer and fewer compelling arguments for it to remain in service.

Anyway, Thursday I noticed that the phone would ring, and on the other end would be what sounded like a call that I had dialed attempting to connect.  A lot of static and interference, but the unmistakable sound of a phone ringing was present.  If you hung up, you'd get a callback almost instantly.

For some reason it stopped at the close of the business day on Thursday, so my wife and I wondered if it was a fax machine erroneously attempting a connection with our number.  Wouldn't have been the first time, of course.  It started again on Friday but halted after 6:00 PM as it had the day before.  But on Saturday, it started and continued right on, so we unplugged our phone.  Naturally, my mother-in-law attempted to call, and when she didn't get an answer called our son with understandable concern.

By Sunday morning, the line had only a hum to it, and connection of a different phone and phone line changed nothing.  The problem was outside of the house, so I contacted our local phone provider, which has been a problem historically.  But to my astonishment, they had a technician on scene and had it repaired by 10:30 yesterday morning.  Said something about lines being crossed and a "bad pair."  All I know is that it's working now.

The title of today's visit holds true for Sunday night's Grammy awards, as we watched some of it.  Between Adele losing her place to the Lady Gaga/Metallica performance being marred by a nonfunctioning microphone to generally bad sound mix, it was disappointing.  Biggest night for the music industry and it overall didn't sound good.

I did learn, though, that Kentucky native and rising country star Sturgill Simpson has some chops.  I'm listening to his Grammy-award winning album "A Sailor's Guide to Earth" on Spotify right now.  Baritone voice, witty and thoughtful lyrics, a sound more bluesy and Americana than traditional country, and the guy doesn't feel the need to wear a cowboy hat.

I also was reminded of how good Adele is, despite the hiccup in her George Michael tribute, and how good Bruno Mars is, in his Prince tribute.  And was surprised to see the Best New Artist, Chance the Rapper, does not even have a deal with a record label, as he relies totally on his own team and streaming services to spread the word.

I won't add any specific comments about what's happening in Washington right now, except to say that the Senate continues to astound me that they're blithely confirming the people who were nominated for various cabinet posts despite how inappropriate so many of the choices have been, for the offices they aspired to or any other.  And I see this morning that the Trump administration is looking for a new National Security Advisor, one who hopefully isn't quite so chummy with the Kremlin.

A satirist recently said that this current scene in Washington stands to put him out of work, that what's happening is already so absurd in so many ways that he can't top it.  And that's saying something.

Time to go to work.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Mission almost accomplished

Friends, I really meant to follow through on my comments about NOT watching Sunday's Super Bowl.  I tried.  But ultimately, I failed, although only partially.

Let me explain.

My wife was in complete agreement with me, she also stated that she did not care to see the New England Patriots and more particularly their owner, coach and quarterback all receiving the Vince Lombardi trophy while acting as though their past behavior had not happened, as they had acted on four prior occasions when winning the game.

We avoided the pre-game programs, watching a movie at home.  We decided to go out to see a movie, "Rogue One--A Star Wars Story," thanks to a Fandango gift card from our son and his family.  We even decided to have a modest dinner out before the movie.

Aside--we really enjoyed this movie.  I'm not as invested in Star Wars as others I know, but found the original three movies highly entertaining and the most recent film to be very good as well.  This one was very, very good, well done, with a brisk pace and lots of believable events.  Two thumbs up, as a couple of late critics used to say.

We returned home to watch the news that we recorded while we were out, and my wife glanced at her phone and noted that Atlanta was leading New England late in the game.

So we decided to tune in.

Sure enough, the Falcons held an eight point lead with about five minutes left in the game, and had the ball.  They moved upfield nicely, and then encountered resistance and then a sack of MVP quarterback Matt Ryan moved them out of field goal range.  They were forced to punt with a bit over three minutes left.

You know what happened after that.  And we watched the remainder of the game.  Friends advised what a huge lead Atlanta had held at different points, but it didn't matter.

At least we got away from the broadcast before all of the trophy presentations.

I will say as an aside that I respect Tom Brady for having cited his ailing mother as inspiration for his performance.  We all have (or had) a mother, and I can't think of a nicer thing to do for one's Mom than win a Super Bowl in her honor.

So that's over.  No more football until the fall.

Yesterday I saw online that the Cincinnati Reds were loading the big truck carrying their team equipment to Arizona and spring training.  Pitchers and catchers report soon.

Oh, and Donald Trump is still President of the United States.  I'll refer you to any news source you prefer to see how that's working out.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Stunningly apathetic

Good afternoon to everyone.  Unusual day and time to post, but my schedule got a little fouled up this week.

Are you planning to watch the Super Bowl?  For a number of years, starting when our kids were, well, kids, we really made a big deal of the day of the big game, buying special snacks, planning a menu appropriate to the site of the game or the participating teams' cities, and so forth.

Last year was great, since the Denver Broncos won and our daughter and her family are season ticket holders!

But this year?  Hard to get excited about the New England Patriots (again) and the Atlanta Falcons.  Admittedly, the Falcons have a Kentucky native and UK grad on the roster, tight end Jacob Tamme, but he was injured mid-season and won't play.  But otherwise, the Falcons don't have any players who command a high level of attention from me.

And then there's the Patriots.  Sorry to my friends in the northeast, but I don't care for the team owner, the head coach, the offensive coordinator or the quarterback.  At all.  I disliked the lot of them before the multiple cheating scandals that have arisen and been investigated, but even more now.  Sort of like the St. Louis Cardinals in the baseball world.  The team is successful, yet, but in a soulless way that is offputting to just about anyone who's not already their fan.

So I don't know if we're even going to watch the game, which is slightly un-American, but that's the way it goes.  May watch a good, long movie instead.

Did you tune in to see President Trump unveil his choice for the Supreme Court last night?  I didn't, and missed it on purpose.  I have to also say I was disappointed but not surprised by much of anything that has happened since my last post to this space.  The latest is that Senate Democrats boycotted the committee votes that would have sent certain Trump nominees to the general Senate for a vote, thus tying up the nominations.  And there are already a number of Senators who say they won't vote to approve the afore-mentioned nominee.  Kentucky's own Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, openly defied conventional wisdom this time last year by not allowing hearings or a vote to approve President Obama's last Supreme Court nominee but is now actually expressing shock that Democrats would respond in kind now.  Hmm...

Kentucky's basketball team broke a two game losing streak by outlasting Georgia in overtime last night, but not without some effort.  The team's point guard was out due to illness, so others had to pick up the slack and did so.  But this Kentucky team doesn't look quite so special at this point in the season, but there's still time for improvement.

One last thing I'll mention amid the twenty-degree temperature swings we've seen less than two weeks, Cincinnati Reds pitchers and catchers report for spring training.  If that doesn't put a spring in the step of a baseball fan (like me!), I don't know what will.

Stay out of trouble!