I wish I’d written this.
From “Bold They Rise” by David Hitt and Heather R. Smith, forthcoming the University of Nebraska Press:
“Before we did STS-1, there had been some, I guess, things going on in the States,” (said Bob Crippen, the pilot of the first space shuttle flight.) “The morale of the United States, I don’t think, was very high. We’d essentially lost the Vietnam War. We had the hostages held in Iran. The President had just been shot. I think people were wondering whether we could do anything right. [STS-1] was truly a morale booster for the United States, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was welcomed by what I would call our allies abroad. So it was obvious that it was a big deal. It was a big deal to the military in the United States, because we planned to use the vehicle to fly military payloads. So it was something that was important. I feel, still feel, that the Space Shuttle is important. I don’t know that I had to impress that on any of my crews. I think they saw it for themselves, that what they were doing was important work that needed to be done.”
Crippen said that STS-1, and human spaceflight, provided a positive rallying point for the American people at the time, and that human space exploration continues to have that effect for many today. “A great many of the people in the United States still believe in the space program. Some think it’s too expensive. Perspective-wise, it’s not that expensive, but I believe that most of the people that have come in contact with the space program come away with a very positive feeling. Sometimes if they have only seen it on TV, maybe they don’t really understand it, and there are some negative vibes out there from some individuals, but most people, certainly the majority, I think, think that we’re doing something right, and it’s something that we should be doing, something that’s for the future, something that’s for the future of the United States and mankind.”
OK, the good news. We did our first weigh-in last week for the contest we’re having at work. And I’m winning. I had lost over 5 percent of my weight since the contest began. The second-place person was a bit under 5 percent, and the next person was under 4 percent.
The bad news. I went off the diet for Valentine’s Day on Sunday and Monday, and gained back like five pounds. I still haven’t taken it all back off. No way I’m in first place today. Sigh. Lesson learned. Back to the grindstone.
Other random thoughts on the diet.
The second place person in the contest is Heather. Which will be nice when it comes to the prize money if we can keep it up. It makes me happy that I’m helping her do this successfully, and that she’s doing so well. It also makes me happy that she’s supporting me, and helping me to actually do this.
The really cool thing about all this is that we’re eating better. Not just healthier, but better food. We’re less likely to eat out because it’s easier to fix healthy stuff at home. And we’re more likely to actually prepare food instead of just microwaving something, since, again, the options would be limited. As a result, we’re being more intentional about what we’re eating and giving it more thought, and the food tastes better as a result. I think I’ve enjoyed my meals more this last month than I have in a long time.
I’m kind of proud of myself. I’m very much at the height of my limited culinary powers, and this is encouraging me to push even further. Take the low-carb secrets I learned the first time around, some basic skills I learned living on my own, a borrowed appreciation for seasoning food, the confidence gained making the cobbler for Heather last year and the added challenge of fixing food for four, and the stuff I’m doing in the kitchen, while still elementary, is a far cry from what I was doing when I started the diet last time. As a rule, I’d rather cook than eat out, and that’s REALLY saying something for me.
The boys are also being great sports about it. They’re somewhat finicky, and a bit reluctant to try new things, preferring to stick to some standards, but they’ve been willing to give some things a try, and, when they prove to be OK, to eat them, even though they’re not the usuals. I’m trying to meet them halfway, customizing a bit to their tastes, but, so far, so good.
Three more weeks until the next weigh-in. Gotta get back in first place.
“Country Strong” is a good movie.
It’s also two-thirds of a great movie.
First, the good. The music is incredible. It’s always a challenge making a movie about a fictional great artist, because it has to be believable. If you’re making a movie about a great writer, but the writing in the movie is crap, the movie falls apart. The audience isn’t going to buy you’re movie about a great painter if they think they could paint just as well. If a movie says something is a hit song, it has to sound like it could be a hit song in real life.
“Country Strong” succeeds quite well in that respect, having drafted the best and brightest songwriters to create songs that, had they not been used in the movie, might even have been more successful in the hands of the right artist. At the beginning of the movie, two characters start riffing an idea for a song, and you hope that the finished version will re-appear later.
The soundtrackis strong enough to be a good country compilation album, with no weak links. In fact, for those wanting to buy the music, I would recommend the download-only “More Music” companion album,with the actual movie tracks, over the official soundtrack album, which has polished and produced re-recordings of the songs by major acts.
(Two personal notes — For being someone with no taste for country music just three years or so, it amused me that I watched the credits for the songwriters, and recognized more of the names than Heather, who was one of the people that inspired my interest. Second, I am more than a little jealous of Garrett Hedlund, who last month got to play in the Tron universe and this month is singing a Lori McKenna-penned song on screen. I would hope for some your-peanut-butter-in-my-chocolate moment where he’s eventually singing a Lori McKenna song in a Tron movie, but my head threatens to explode when I try to imagine that combination actually working.)
The McKenna-penned track, “Chances Are,”is perhaps less distinctively Lori than some of the other songs she’s written for others but no less solid; with her personality a bit sublimated to the personality of the film.
“Country Strong” presents itself as a vignette on the struggle between love and fame; postulating that you can’t have both. (Which makes the casting of Tim McGraw somewhat ironic — he and Faith Hill are very much the counter argument to the film’s hypothesis.) It also, perhaps even more interestingly, explores the similarly conflicted relationship between fame and artistic integrity.
It’s the story of country star Kelly Canter, played quite convincingly by Gwyneth Paltrow, and her husband-manager James Canter, played convincingly by country star Tim McGraw, with both actors disappearing into their roles. When we first see Kelly, she is in residential rehab for drug abuse; her husband comes to take her out early to mount a three-date comeback tour.
Joining them for the shows are up-and-comers Beau Hutton (Garrett Hedlund) and Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester). Both are types — Beau is a fictional Lance Miller, Chiles starts out as a screen version of Taylor Swift. If you said “who?” to the Lance Miller reference, that’s the point — Beau is the artist who, despite his talent, is too “real country” to make it to fame in today’s world of country pop. (Appropriately enough, Miller has a songwriting credit for the film.) Chiles is the beauty-queen ingenue singing radio-friendly bubble-gum country for teenage girls. Hedlund and Meester also turn in strong performances, their characters at times overshadowing the leads.
But that’s the flaw of “Country Strong” — it can’t decide which of these stories it really wants to tell, and it isn’t willing to commit to being a true ensemble anthology. The movie is good; a version of the movie half-and-hour longer could have been Oscar-quality. As it is, the film goes beyond the idea of “show, don’t tell” and barely even shows. We see what the characters do, but all too often, we don’t fully understand why. Is Kelly in a struggle to fight for her dreams against her demons, or is she so far gone that she randomly has good days and bad? Is James selfishly trying to sell his wife for his own gain, or is he really trying to do what he thinks she needs? How much is Chiles evolving as a character, and how much is she just responding to where she is?
Ironically, a version of “Country Strong” that was longer and more raw could have explored these issues better and been a brilliant film, but perhaps less postured as a hopeful commercially successful — the movie itself is ultimately a victim of the struggle it addresses, between artistic integrity and fame.
None of that changes the fact that, despite what the movie could have been, it does what it chose to do quite well — with great music, brilliant acting and a compelling story arc.
With the character exploration the movie didn’t get into, it’s essentially a lighter fictional version of “Walk The Line,” but with enough in common that there many people who enjoyed that movie will like this one.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tagged: Chances Are, Country Music, Country Strong, CountryStrong, Garrett Hedlund, GarrettHedlund, Gwyneth Paltrow, GwynethPaltrow, lori mckenna, LoriMckenna, lyrics, movies, music, postaday2011, tim mcgraw, TRON | Leave a Comment »
So one of the benefits of the traffic increase of having been Freshly Pressed twice is that Google takes me more seriously now, and I get a lot more search engine traffic on the blog now that I did three months ago.
My old blog used to get more search traffic than this one did until recently, and I used to do an occasional post about searches that had brought people to the blog. A lot of the searches on this one are pretty straightforward queries related to a handful of posts, but I’m starting to get enough traffic that I’m starting to see some amusing searches show up.
That said, interesting search strings on SIMP in the last month:
OK, so the coolest thing about being Freshly Pressed is that it’s made me more aware of being a part of the WordPress community.
Before starting this blog, I had been blogging using a different, downloadable system, and so I was used to thinking of WordPress just as a tool, and not as a community. Having my eyes opened has been a great experience. It’s been really cool seeing a post turn into a conversation, and seeing that conversation flow over the borders of just this one blog. It’s been great having some of you stick around after the initial Freshly Pressed excitement so we can get to know each other a little better.
I wrote the other day that I was starting the Daily Post challenge. One of the things WordPress suggests to help with that is using their Press This tool to use other people’s posts as inspiration.
The Freshly Pressed experience and the Daily Post challenge have inspired me to want to want to become more involved in the WordPress community, and I was wondering if there were any of you out there that would want to work together this year — committing to subscribe to each other’s blogs, read them, comment, maybe do some cross-linking or Press This, and generally just encouraging each other? Or, for that matter, is there a community like that already? ( U3F7J5TE5SDD )
I like barbecue. A lot.
I like barbecue in all its myriad forms. I love ribs. Wet ribs. Dry ribs. Half-and-half ribs. Dreamland ribs that are wet ribs but aren’t like other wet ribs. Those beef ribs they serve in Texas. I like barbecued chickens, cows, turkeys, pigs. Ideally in the same meal. I like half-chickens, beef brisket, pulled pork.
So when I was in Nashville a few months ago and saw an ad at a Subway for a pulled pork sandwich, I knew I had to try it. I searched all over town when I got back, and couldn’t find a Subway here selling it. I searched online, and found only the barest of mention that it exists.
And then, this week, I saw it advertised at a Subway here. And so, I tried it.
The problem I have is this — It’s one of Subway’s premium subs. It’s not bad. It’s about as good as any sub I’ve had at Subway. It’s a perfectly serviceable pulled pork sub.
But at eight bucks for a footlong, it’s the most expensive barbecue sandwich I ever had. But I can’t really say that it’s the best barbecue sandwich I’ve ever had.
On the other hand, the barbecue sauce now joins Subway’s array of condiments (not sure if that’s a permanent addition, or only for the limited time they offer this sandwich), which means you can put it on anything else. I doubt I’ll pay another eight bucks for the pulled pork sub, but I very well may experiment with making some other sort of barbecue sub for cheaper.