Month: February 2012

If I Had a Vote (Or “Quest for the Best, The Final Chapter”)

Tonight is when the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announce their awards, and for once I’m ready! Friends who have known me for a long time will find it impossible to believe that I’ve seen eight of the nine Best Picture nominees BEFORE the Oscars are awarded…much less that I have an opinion on them.  I’m just not a film junkie. But empty nestdom brought a change in habits, and Candice and I made a pledge to see all the nominees.  We made it through eight before life, health and work kept us from closing out our pledge…but since Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is NEVER mentioned in all the pre-Oscar write-ups as having a chance of winning, I think we’re on safe ground here. Number eight in our marathon was The Tree of Life – which we watched today thanks to iTunes.  Easily the most complex of the nominees, Terrence Malick’s film was not among my favorites even though it attempted to explore greater depths on issues of life …

A Day at Joshua Tree

National Parks are all unique.  They have different histories, different stories of how they were saved, different challenges in today’s world. I was fortunate today to be introduced to one of the most unusual:  the Joshua Tree National Park in California.  With a half-day to myself, I stuck my toe into the vast park where the Mojave and Colorado deserts converge and was fascinated with what I saw. What follows are photos from the northwestern edge of the park – from the village of Joshua Tree down to Key’s View, where one gets a remarkable panorama of the San Andreas Fault.  Here’s a bit from the park’s brochure about what one sees in this part of Joshua Tree: Amid the boulder stacks are pinyon pines, junipers, scrub oaks, Mojave yuccas, and Mojave prickly pear cacti….What tells you most you are truly in the Mojave Desert is the wild-armed Joshua tree.  It isn’t really a tree but a species of yucca….Joshua trees can grow over 40 feet tall – at the leisurely rate of an inch …

Baseball in America (Academic Edition)

I have found a place in America where February baseball lives! For the Presidents Day holiday, I’m in Southern California for Family Weekend at Claire’s college.  We’re new to this whole Parents/Family Weekend deal, but if today is any indication I could definitely get use to these trips! This morning, I visited two political science classes that were very interesting.  One compared the works of Luther and Calvin; the other focused on the U.S. Congress.  Claire joined me for lunch at her favorite dining hall  (most of her classes – of the science variety – weren’t open to parents).  But as she prepares for the conference championships this weekend for her swim team, I’ve found myself with choices for how to spend my time that are entirely up to me. Which takes me to Baseball in America. That’s the title of the class I attended after lunch.  It was a synopsis of a fall semester interdisciplinary class that was designed to introduce freshmen to the rigors of college-level writing.  Taught by a life-long Dodgers fan …

In Praise of Gallagher Guitars

Gallagher Guitars have been in my consciousness – if not my life – since first putting the landmark Will the Circle Be Unbroken album on the turntable in 1972 and hearing the most famous words ever uttered about a Gallagher: Merle Travis:  That guitar, by the way, rings like a bell. Doc Watson:  It’s a pretty good little box – a Mr. Gallagher down in Wartrace, Tennessee made it. So I was thrilled to open the most recent issue of The Fretboard Journal and see a story and photo essay on Gallagher Guitars.  Regular readers know that I eagerly await the sight of The Fretboard Journal in my mailbox. The Circle album gave me the flat-picking/bluegrass bug, and I began thinking about a new guitar.  The first Gallagher I played for any length of time belonged to my long-time friend and clawhammer banjo player John Balch, who still plays his 1975 G-50 on a regular basis.  It was a beautiful sounding guitar which whetted my appetite for one of my own.  The first picture below …

Quest for the Best Part II (Or Have We Just Seen the Winner?)

When last we visited, dear readers, Candice and I were on a quest to see all the nominees for Best Picture. Tonight, I think we saw the winner.  Or at the very least, my choice. I know, we still have four movies to go (who in the world came up with NINE nominations?!), but Hugo is such a wonderful story, told in a loving way, with that terrific 3D look…well, I’m ready to place my bets. (Column interruption:  I really don’t bet.  Every monetary bet I’ve ever made in my life, I’ve lost.  My good friend John Lane said it best:  “I have the same chance of winning the lottery whether I buy a ticket or not.”  Now back to the regularly scheduled blog post.) It doesn’t mean the other movies aren’t worth seeing.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all five.  I went to see The Artist with minimal expectations, but found it enchanting.  It didn’t hurt that we caught that movie in the restored AFI Silver Theatre here in Silver Spring – a perfect place to …