Monday, September 14, 2015

Alphabet of Daily Life - R

R is for Running.

(Yup - I've gone out of Virgo alphabet order - I'm getting a bit wilder as I age!)

For years, I had vaguely heard people talking about the many benefits of running. Their words passed right into and back out of my ears. Running was not something I resonated with. In fact, I had very unpleasant associations with running. 

We had to run as part of our fitness regimen in the Army, and I never liked it. (Read my Army-related posts here: CareersExcitement, Unrequited Love.) One thing I think many people have never taken into consideration (including Army fitness gurus) is that short women / people have short legs and this necessarily gives them a shorter stride. So, it takes shorter people more paces and a longer time to move a specified distance. To require short and tall people to cover the same distance in the same time period is far from fair. We short ones were running double-time ALL THE TIME in order to achieve the same fitness goals. I was always suffering while running with so many tall long-legged fellow soldiers. So, I hated running.

Fast forward 30 years to a time when my daughter was in college. She had gained the infamous Freshman 15, and wanted to do something about it. She'd heard of the Couch Potato to 5K running regimen and wanted to try it. She asked if I'd do it with her and I really didn't want to. But, I did want to support my daughter in any way she needed. So, I completed the program with her. I liked it. I was able to do it. And, at the end of it, I just kept running. And I'm still running today. In fact, I'm a running evangelist.

Here's what running gives me:
  • Stress Reduction - it's amazing how much more mellow I am after I've run, and this feeling lasts for several days. It's a great way to deal with the stress at work. Whenever things go wrong, I just go for a run.
  • Muscle Tone - for someone my age, my legs are looking pretty good! In fact, running works so many areas of the body - butt, abs, arms. It's a great workout that leads to smooth toned muscles.
  • Youthfulness - people actually tell me I'm glowing. Yeah, how great is that?! It must be the enhanced circulation that keeps all of the body's cells refreshed. People usually guess my age as 10 years younger than I actually am. And, of course, the added energy that comes from running adds to the sense of youthfulness.
  • Weight Maintenance - I find that when I don't run for awhile, the pounds slowly start piling up. But, if I run (I typically do 3 miles, 3-4 times per week), I can maintain or even lower my weight. Of course, I also eat lots of vegetables, eat very little junk food, and drink TONS of water.
  • Ongoing Fitness - there's a feeling of confidence that you walk around with when you know your body is in shape. You know that it can do anything you ask it to - climb stairs, go hiking, ice skate - whatever. And, you know that this fitness means clothes look good on you. It's just a general all-around good feeling.
What took me so long? Who knew!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Best Cinematography - The Big Lebowski

I've been on a film odyssey for several years now - I'm wading my way through watching every Oscar-nominated film since the Oscars were first handed out in 1928. So far, I've worked my way up to 1945 (I'm watching all nominees in all categories). Needless to say, I'm gaining many skills in the process:

  • I'm a very discerning viewer now. I only have an appetite for really good movies and can only watch a bad or mediocre movie for a few minutes.
  • I'm learning to spot winners before the awards are handed out - the two movies I can specifically recall KNOWING would win in a category as I was watching them were Scent of a Woman (I knew Al Pacino would win for Best Actor) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (I knew it would win in at least one of several categories, especially Art Direction).
  • I'm gaining an appreciation for the many aspects of making a movie, beyond the acting, such as directing (I can often spot the work of a director without knowing who it is in advance) writing, editing (so crucial and so subjective), set design, etc.
  • I think this process should be a college course in American Anthropology. Watching this many movies in sequential order is allowing me to watch the evolution of our society over the decades, including concepts surrounding beauty, morality, racism, power, war, violence, sex, and so much more. Simply fascinating.

The incredibly awesome Jesus character
from The Big Lebowski. John Turturro
made a small part spectacular and
memorable. LOVE the jumpsuit...and
the purple pinky fingernail and purple
bowling ball.
I've come across many Directors during this film fetish of mine, including the Coen Brothers (Joel & Ethan). They have become one of my favorite directing duos, as their work is quirky, irreverent, and often beautiful. The Big Lebowski is one of theirs that I've watched many times over, and I've since learned that it has a cult following. While watching it, I can't help but admire the cinematography. It's beyond beautiful - it's sharp, glistening, unusual, and smart.

Some of the scenes that I relish are:

  • The many atmospheric shots inside the bowling alley, such as the backgrounds showing glowing vintage neon wall art, the smooth long wooden lanes, the bowlers letting balls go one after the other after the other in sequence, and close-up views of the bowling pin reset mechanisms (and I'm not a bowler!).
  • The clever aspect of a view from inside a bowling ball (the Dude has become stuck inside one of the ball's finger holes in his dream), as the ball rolls down the lane.
  • The unusual angles, such as when the thug is shoving Dude's head into the toilet - the camera angle is down below the toilet looking up, so we see the toilet, the Dude and the thug behind him, all in one shot. Great perspective.
  • The under-the-girls view as the Dude passes through the legs of the Busby Berkeley style showgirls with bowling pin headdresses. In fact, the entire dream sequence is well-lit and well-shot.
As I watch the movie (again) and my eyes linger on each of the beautiful shots, I can't help but wonder how Roger Deakins did not win Best Cinematography for this film. Insights welcomed!

I think Sam Elliott deserves a special mention here, but then, he deserves his own blog post! Time for an oat soda...

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Alphabet of Daily Life - M

M is for Milk.

Yes, an odd (mundane) choice of topics, I know, but it's very meaningful in my life.

I was 8 years old, and we were living in Manitou Springs, Colorado. All nine of us kids were staying temporarily in rundown public housing with my mother, during the harshest part of winter. We were just up the hill from Manitou Springs Elementary School, while my father was down the hill living in the Truck, parked in a campground. The 3 big boys were not always home with us, though, as they had been working and staying on a nearby ranch for a few months.

We were very poor then, and had very little money for anything. Real milk was one luxury we never had (although we always had powdered milk - yuk!). I remember once being at the elementary school early one morning, before the other kids had arrived. One of my little sisters was with me. We had a few coins in our pockets and were goofing around in one of the bathrooms. For whatever reason, I put one of the coins, a nickel, into my mouth. I think I liked its metallic tang on my tongue. Before I realized what was happening, the nickel had gone down my throat. I could feel it lodged in my esophagus trying to work it's way down to my stomach. It hurt! My sister and I went to find a teacher - I don't know what we thought the teacher could do for us, but we thought it was the best tactic.

The teacher was naturally alarmed, but there really wasn't much she could do; I wasn't in any type of actual distress other than discomfort. So, her solution was to take us down to the cafeteria and request a (FREE!) carton of cold milk and a warm roll from one of the cooks so she could give it to me to help move the nickel down my throat. Wow, this was the type of food we never had - we didn't have the money to buy food from the cafeteria. The teacher had us sit down at one of the long communal tables in the dim empty dining hall and told me to finish both food items. She definitely didn't have to tell me twice! I ate every bit of that soft warm roll, following bites of it with swigs of cold creamy milk. My sister looked longingly at it, but I didn't wan to share my bounty, and never gave her any. She asked me what it tasted like and I described it to her, but I didn't let her try it, not even just a little bit. I still feel so badly about that greed and denial toward my hungry little sister.

At our house on the hill, when the boys would come to visit us after working on the ranch, they were allowed to bring large multi-gallon jugs of milk home (the ranch was a local milk supplier). The clear plastic containers sat on a shelf in the refrigerator of the rented house, and had a spigot that milk could be poured from into a cup. This meant we could go over to the fridge any time we wanted and have all of the cold creamy rich milk we wanted - any time and as much as we wanted. My God, that was the life.


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