The Blind Side

The Blind Side

The Blind Side

From when it first came out, long before I saw it, and even while I was still living in Mississippi, I liked even just the idea of the movie October Sky.

I liked the idea that there was a movie in which, in the end, the hero’s victory, his happily-ever-after, is that he gets to move to Huntsville, Ala. Luke Skywalker defeats the Empire and restores peace to the galaxy. Frodo destroys the ring and saves Middle Earth. Homer Hickam moves to Huntsville.

So as of this weekend, you can add The Blind Side to the list of movies I like.

After Saturday’s Egg Bowl, I was hoping that there would be more of his college career in the movie, so that I could watch Ole Miss and have it be a bit less depressing than this year’s State game. As it is, I was nonetheless happy with the movie ending where it did, right as he’s starting college —

Getting to go to Ole Miss isn’t a bad happily-ever-after ending, either.

A Cool Look, A Cold Touch

OK, I’ve been promising more Twilight blogging, so here it is.

Before I get into my most recent batch of thoughts, I’ll share these links.

I’ve written before about how Stephanie Meyer does for romance in Twilight basically what George Lucas did for myth in Star Wars — deconstructing the basic elements and then putting them back together in a story that uses simple cyphers for universal themes. This piece — How Twilight Works — says basically the same thing, but less kindly.

Wired also has an interesting piece on Top 20 Unfortunate Lessons Girls Learn From Twilight that you may or may not enjoy.

Anyway, back to my own rambling. Much has been made of the idea of Meyer’s Mormonism and “the erotics of abstinence” — the idea that the books make self-restraint sexy as a way of encouraging readers.

But I wonder if it doesn’t actually go a step further — if Meyer hasn’t written the books in such a way as to romanticize bad dating technique. Rather than just encouraging abstinence, she’s actually making really bad relationship ideas seem like really good ones.

Guys, want to win your crush over? Make sure your hands are ice cold whenever you touch her; women love that. When you see her, make sure you look at least vaguely disgusted; it’ll make her feel valued. Avoid her when you can, and be evasive when she does talk to you. And after you’ve avoided her enough, switch fully into creepy stalker mode; she’ll be glad to know you care.

The sad thing is, I’m not entirely convinced that part of the reason I’m single isn’t the fact that I assume those really are bad ideas.

Twin Stars

station and shuttle

I was lucky the first time. I walked out of my office on Wednesday, and was struck by two incredibly bright stars in the sky in front of me. When I noticed they were moving, I realized what I had accidentally happened across — the International Space Station and the space shuttle Atlantis moving in tandem across the sky. They were the brightest objects in the sky, and were beautiful.

The space station, just a couple of degrees, perhaps, ahead of Atlantis, was the brighter of the two, but I was amazed at how bright the smaller shuttle was as well. Atlantis faded out before the station as they disappeared, and as she did, ISS turned red, something I had never witnessed before.

Last night, the sighting wasn’t luck — I even set an alarm on my phone so that I wouldn’t forget to go look. As a result, I got to see the entire pass, longer and brighter than the one the night before. Once again, they were dazzling. I assume it had to be the angle, but from the ground it looked like they were racing across the sky, with station pulling farther and farther ahead of shuttle as they passed across the sky. The picture above was taken with my iPhone near the end of the pass, as they were already starting to dim. Station is in the center of the picture, with shuttle dinner around 11 o’clock from station. The picture doesn’t do them justice.

Three thoughts came to mind watching them.

— First, that I’m glad that I got to see them again. Successful multiple sightings have been rare for me, with the most notable being the STS/ISS/ATV triple sighting a while back, and with only five flights remaining after this, every opportunity, and every successful sighting, become precious.

— Along those lines, it’s weird to think that, depending on weather and the ground track, last night may be the last time I see Atlantis. She has only one flight left, and it’s entirely possible that next time she won’t pass over while undocked, or that cloud cover will prevent me from being able to see her. I know the end of the shuttle program is coming, but it’s those little realizations that make it more real.

And I’m glad I got to see her again. This year has been a good one for me and Atlantis, OV-104 — I saw her with my own eyes in May when she launched, and then on television when she landed, again in person in October on the pad when I went for the Ares I-X launch, on television for the STS-129 launch, in person as she passed overhead the last couple of nights, and then again on television when she landed this morning.

— Finally, seeing the two of them together is a beautiful sight, to be sure. But far more amazing is to sit and think about what you’re looking at. Two spacecraft, flying separately through orbit after having undocked from one another, carrying a total of 13 people. Two of the most complicated and awesome creations built by mankind, outshining every star in the sky. As I’ve said many times, I’m only a very very very very very very small part of this agency, but moments like those two nights make me very proud to be a part of it at all. We do good work.

Since It’s Been A Little While …

… it’s time for a Weekend Update.

–Friday night, I played in my last improv show of the year. (Well, kinda, I’ll be in a corporate gig next month, but this was my last official public F2F show of the year.) In fact, it was my last show until February, which is sort of sad.

That said, the show went really well. We had the biggest crowd I’ve played to in a long time, and all the players really brought some good energy. As the final improv note of the year for me, I was pretty well pleased with it.

–Saturday morning, I got up early and drove to Oxford. The last week or two, by the way, has pointed out to me just how much I’m getting old. I’ve been trying to wake up earlier in the mornings and take in a hike before work, and it’s really started to take a toll on me. I’m not as young as I once was. Already a bit worn from that, this weekend pushed me to the point of exhaustion. I still have a bit of a headache.

It was fun once again to visit Oxford. Before July, I went over two years without being over there, which was very unusual for me. Since July, this is the third time I’ve been. The first time, it was a litlte strange being back. This time, it was just home again. I spent way too much money at Square Books, an old favorite, and the Chocolate Bar, a new one, and had lunch at one of the new restaurants off the Square. (I also did some shopping the next day in Tupelo at the Indianola Pecan House, started in and named for the city in which I spent the bulk of my time as a Mississippian. As a result, I’ve made a small dent in my Christmas shopping. Very small.)

–It was cool while on campus to see fliers for NASA education programs. I very much like things that combine multiple Dave themes.

–The Ole Miss-LSU game was amazing. Very probably the best football game I’ve ever been to. Hard-fought, and constant excitement. The first punt of the game didn’t come until there was 1:39 left in the first half; until then, basically, somebody scored every time the ball was kicked. After that, for a little over a quarter, the defense took over, and nobody scored. As long as one team was scoring, so was the other. When one stopped, so did the other. The fourth quarter was just wacky, and literally came down to the very last second. Over the course of the game, the ball was in or almost in the endzone at least four times that didn’t count as touchdowns. Suffice to say, the stadium was still packed when the game finally ended. I would hope that I would still think it was one of the best games I’d seen even if it had turned out the other way, but I certainly have no complaints with the way it did end up.

–I went up to Memphis afterwards, and had dinner with some friends downtown and then walked down Beale Street. It had been about two and a half years since I had last been, when I watched Spamalot at the Orpheum. It seemed even longer than that. I’ve got a lot of memories of Beale Street, going back a long way, and it was nice to discover that I could still just enjoy it for what it is.

–I found myself Sunday morning entertaining an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old in the wee hours of the morning. My toenails are still Christmas-y from when they colored my entire foot with magic markers. It wasn’t quite the same as being Uncle David, but it was the next best thing.

–I went to church Sunday morning somewhere other than Sojourn for the first time since, I believe, August, and that was a good experience. I shan’t go into my observations on the church I went to, but will note that the focus of the sermon was on perserverance. I find that when circumstances cause me to be at a church I normally wouldn’t, I should probably pay particular attention, since there’s likely a reason I’m at that place at that time for that message.

–I watched New Moon in Tupelo on the way back, fulfilling a promise I’d made back in September, against what, at times, seemed like unlikely odds. The movie was enjoyable, if about what I was expecting. I’ve not really invested in the whole Team Jacob versus Team Edward thing, since I’ve read spoilers online and know how the whole thing turns out. That said, when someone asked me which team I was on after I finished the movie, and said knowing wasn’t an excuse for not picking, I decided that I’m firmly on Team Mike Newton. Edward and Jacob both lie to Bella, both intentionally hurt her, and both decide that they know what’s best without talking to her. Is there an option that’s not a controlling, hurtful, liar? Is it too much to ask for honesty in a relationship? OK, so maybe he’s too much of a “marshmellow” to handle an action movie, but Mike’s the one guy that’s fairly decent.

–Then I came home. The End.

Here’s to the crazy ones

Here’s to the crazy ones.

The misfits.

The rebels.

The troublemakers.

The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently.

They’re not fond of rules.

And they have no respect for the status quo.

You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them,

disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.

Because they change things.

They invent. They imagine. They heal.

They explore. They create. They inspire.

They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?
Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written?
Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.

While some see them as the crazy ones,
we see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough to think
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

From Apple Computer

Time And Tide

Members of the NETS team with astronaut James Dutton

Members of the NETS team with astronaut James Dutton

My team lead Kathy sent that picture to the team recently, as we’re gearing up for astronaut James Dutton’s flight on STS-131 next year. The picture was taken when Dutton visited Marshall while still an astronaut candidate five years ago.

And, wow, to me, I look so much younger in that picture. I went back and looked at a few others from around the same time, and thought the same thing. Now, to be sure, I can understand why the last five years would have aged me dramatically. But the funny thing is, comparing pictures, I’m not sure exactly what it is about me that looks older, I just think I do. (The picture below is the most recent of me I could find.)

Is There In Truth No Beauty?

OK, here’s a confession — I’m a lousy photographer.

I love taking pictures, but I’m completely unskilled.

Last year, I bought a nice digital SLR camera. And I use pretty close to none of its capabilities. The settings rarely leave automatic. To be honest, I bought it largely so that I could use the lenses and flash from my old Minolta 35 mm.

Such ability that I do have is mainly in composing pictures; trying to look for things worth photographing, and then figuring out the best way to frame them. As a photographer, I lack the ability to create beauty, but I strive to recognize and capture it.

I’ve been having fun lately trying to stretch my skills in that area with my iPhone. I’ve heard the iPhone referred to as the modern equivalent of the Polaroid. It has a pretty decent camera, but, even with the apps I’ve added, definitely has its limitations. Ultimately, you’re working with the wide static lens that’s built in, framing things as best you can with what you’ve got. And it’s an interesting exercise. I’ve posted a few of the results here, and will continue to do so.

The Last Picture Show

Friday night, I’ll be playing in my last improv show of 2009 at Kenny Mango’s in Madison at 7 p.m. Come check it out!

The University of _________________

I wrote this entry once. WordPress ate it. I’m writing it again. But am too frustrated to make it nearly as good as it was the first time. Sorry.

Ah, Ole Miss. For those that haven’t heard, the university administration has removed “From Dixie With Love” from the band’s playlist

This is the latest round in a war that’s been going on since I was in school there, which has seen the Confederate flag (and, really, all flags, after an ill-fated attempt to introduce a new flag with an M) banned from the football stadium and the Colonel Reb mascot barred from the football field. There was even another battle of Dixie when I was in school there, but I forget exactly what happened or who won.

And the annoying thing is, the university administration is at least mostly right. The Confederate flag decision was the right one. They’re arguments about the current Dixie situation are probably right. Colonel Reb I’m less sold on, but I respect the logic. I do think, in the two decades this has been going on, they administration does have the moral high ground.

Which doesn’t make them any less wrong. They may be right in their ideals, but they’re wrong in their approach.

Twenty years ago, right or wrong, Ole Miss had a very distinctive and unique personality. And that character is being gradually stripped away. We play the same music during the game as other schools. We don’t have a mascot on the field. Heck, I’m at the point where I’m even jealous of State’s cowbells. At least that’s something that’s theirs.

If these changes need to me made, they should be just that — changes, not an erosion. Change the things that make Ole Miss distinctive; don’t eliminate its distinctiveness.

This is a university and town associated with Faulkner, with Gresham, with Willie Morris and Larry Brown (and Jesse Holland and David Hitt and Claudia Gray). This is a university that presents itself as one of the South’s premier liberal arts colleges. And yet it lacks the creativity to craft a new identity for itself? I mean, Delta State’s student-created Fighting Okra is a perfect example of capturing the spirit of the New South in an unoffensive way. And we really want to admit that the combined resources available to Ole Miss are no match for a DSU student?

The university is respected. But Ole Miss is loved. The nation will respect the changes. But give Ole Miss alumni something they can love.

The Fall and The Tree

Saw this while hiking today.