Wednesday, March 30, 2011

This is just so dumb. Who's with me on this?

I read this today on my favorite daily newsletter, Levine Breaking News, and wondered: is this as obviously stupid, misguided, blind and ill-advised as I think it is or is it me? Read on:

DEADLY WHALE TO RESUME: Tilikum, the killer whale who killed his trainer at Sea World last year, will resume public performances on Wednesday. Trainers, however, will not work directly in the water with the whale: They will massage him with hoses instead of their hands. Sea World is also installing fast-rising floors on the bottom of its killer-whale tanks, which will be capable of lifting the whales and their trainers to the surface in less than a minute. Tilikum had been involved with two other deaths before last year’s incident.

These are the words and phrases that troubled me just a little bit:

"...killed his trainer at Sea World last year..."

"...resume public performances..."

" the surface in less than a minute..."

and this one - my favorite:

"...involved with two other deaths before last year's incident..."

Who decided this was good idea? This is an animal that was "involved" in three deaths, the most recent taking place one year ago.

Sea World is taking the obvious precautions here: trainers no longer actually touching the whale is one of them. The other is installing some kind of hydraulic lift that will bring both trainer and whale to the surface in "less than a minute."

I think that's super. As long as it takes much longer than one minute for a killer whale to kill the human being thrashing alongside him under the surface.

For God's sake. Who is already anticipating this news story:

"Tilikum, the killer whale who killed his trainer at Sea World two years ago before resuming his performances under more stringent training and performance rules has once again been 'retired' for killing his trainer. Tilikum had been involved with two, make that three, other deaths before this latest incident."

Don't you wonder if Tilikum is thinking:

"For the love of Pete, what do I have to do before you numbskulls figure out I hate performing and I'm going to probably kill someone out of frustration from time to time? You're putting me back in that tank? At your peril, I'm warning you."

I have a suggestion: Retire Tilikum. End any human contact and training he now endures, and let him live the rest of his days on his own, without hearing the (muffled underwater) roar of the crowd.

It's either that or get those trainers whale-proof, waterproof chain mail suits that will last through at least one minute of a killer whale gnawing on it as you both race to the surface on a hydraulic lift.

Well, that and possibly some new management at Sea World.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

This is your basic 'one step up, two steps back' scenario.

In these challenging times, we need to find our bright spots wherever we can. For me, one of those bright spots came when I read the revenue numbers for the new Owen Wilson film, Hall Pass. (Disclosure: I haven’t seen it. This is one of those ‘wait for it and if you come across it on TV while you’re on the treadmill one night it may be watchable’ movies.) The reason for my delight was this: after six weeks in release, as of March 25 it had earned about $42 million at the box office.

Don’t get me wrong. That’s not completely terrible. I adore Owen Wilson and have enjoyed many romantic comedies for men, like Wedding Crashers, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Failure to Launch. They’re hilarious. But the diminishing return on this particular movie tells a story. More than half of the revenues earned on Hall Pass came during the first two weekends of release. That’s not uncommon but a great movie builds its box office and opens in even more theaters before running its course in first run houses.

Take Wedding Crashers. Released in July, 2005, it earned more than $200 million at the box office. It started strong, with $10 + million in sales on July 15. On August 15, it took in another $1.5 million. On September 17, it earned another $1.2 million. Hall Pass took just one month to fall from a high of $4.6 million to $514,000 on March 25. I’m pretty sure it won’t be showing in many places a month from now.

What does this tell us? Perhaps that as movie-going public, we’re more discerning than we think. That a mostly charming but dated “we’re having an affair” movie like Same Time, Next Year holds some appeal as we secretly cheer for the happy albeit adulterous couple; but a ‘free week granted to husbands to be single and score chicks’ movie doesn’t quite give us the same warm fuzzies.

Then again, it may tell us that women choose which film to see every weekend and that few of us are anxious to pay to see the ‘I’ve allowed my husband to act like a skank’ shenanigans found in Hall Pass.

But not everything is rosy these days. To balance out my contentment about our collective good sense, I offer the tagline I heard on an Ashley commercial recently. ( is a dating website designed specifically for people who are married or otherwise in committed relationships…but want to meet someone new. The whole premise makes little sense to me but let’s table that for now.) Here’s the closing line of their radio commercial: If you’re not cheating, you just might be cheating yourself.

Let’s take a look at that again, shall we? “If you’re not cheating, you just might be cheating yourself.” In other words: don’t be pathetic and cheat yourself out of the opportunity to find your one (untrue) love! Or your second or third untrue love as a matter of fact. Why remain committed to a spouse or partner if you’re bored or feeling sad or lonely or unloved? Meet the other half of your (lying) self on! And don’t worry: your new partner is just as slimy, just as deceitful, just as delusional as you are.

Here’s the thing. Marriages break up. People sometimes have affairs and leave a spouse behind as a result. I’m apparently stuck in the twentieth century because I thought an affair begins because two people meet, finds they share many things in common, spend time together and then choose to act on their mutual attraction. One or both of them risk a relationship/marriage because the allure of that new found partner is simply too much to resist.

It happens - and it makes me sad for everyone involved.

What I don’t get is why anyone would seek out an affair on and somehow feel superior about it. People who apparently have no problem identifying themselves as liars sign up “looking for same” online. That doesn’t make them honest liars, does it? Is it simply that everyone has something to lose and therefore the site offers a kind of ‘honor among thieves’ flavor to the whole thing?

I’ll go on record here and admit to the following: I’m not cheating and no, I don’t feel like I’m cheating myself. I go you one better and say I’m a two-time winner. After all, I didn’t pay to see Hall Pass and I don’t pay a membership fee to Ashley

Friday, March 25, 2011

The good news is: I don't believe in dreams.

Okay. I don’t know anything about dream interpretation and the truth is I don’t even believe in dream interpretation. But as I woke up this morning, I had a very, very clear impression of the dream I just had. Listening to people recount dreams is usually deadly but please bear with me:

I was behind the wheel of my car, with a co-worker in the passenger seat. She had just taken a new job and we were catching up on news. As we talked, I put my foot on the gas pedal but instead of pulling forward, the car unexpectedly moved in reverse. I stopped and checked the gearshift but it was correct: the car was in ‘drive.’ Tried again, but moved backwards again.

Then I lost even more control: the car just kept moving in reverse. I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to, nor could I see behind me for some reason. The side mirror revealed only about two or three feet and beyond that: absolute darkness. I don’t remember seeing or checking an inside rear view mirror.

So to recap: I’m not in control, heading backwards, into darkness, accompanied by someone who had moved on, into a new job and new place. I’m fearful of the danger; my passenger is terrified; and I can’t stop.

Then – miraculously – I was able to slow the car down somehow, stop and then begin to move forward. But even that was scary because for some reason, I maneuvered the car to the top of an enormous, steep staircase that would accommodate the width of the car. I turned to my passenger to ask if she was ready.

For God‘s sake. Am I that troubled? Even leaving aside the ‘Thelma and Louise-ness’ of it all, this is disturbing. I’m going backwards? In the dark? And even when I finally get to move forward, I place myself in a dangerous situation?

And why the passenger? To act as a ray of light, personifying the idea that it’s possible to move forward; that life can change in a good way?

Like anyone over the age of four, I Googled dream interpretation and driving. Believe me, you don’t want to know but here are a few highlights from the passage that discusses driving:

…driving a vehicle signifies your life's journey and your path in life…telling of how you are moving and navigating through life. If you are driving and cannot see the road ahead of you, then it indicates that you do not know where you are headed in life and what you really want to do with yourself. You are lacking direction and goals.

…driving at night suggests that you are unsure of where you are headed in life….experiencing obstacles toward your goals. Perhaps you do not want to see what is ahead for you or you are afraid to confront certain issues….feeling apprehensive about the future. If your view is blocked or obstructed while you are driving, then it symbolizes your lacking awareness of something in your life….overlooking certain aspects in your life.

To dream that you are driving a car in reverse, suggests that you are experiencing major setbacks in your goals.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln…..

Three words to describe the dream and the dreamer: Directionless, lost, fearful. And even worse, even if I have goals, I’m “experiencing setbacks.”

But since I don’t believe in dreams, I guess I’m okay.

Insomnia, anyone? It can’t feel worse than having this dream again.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Greetings from beautiful Clarks Summit, PA

And the annual virtual run to Toronto continues....For anyone keeping track, at the end of two months, I’ve run just over 80 miles.

That puts me in lovely Clarks Summit, Pa, which I have actually visited in my lifetime. That trip is a little vague now – an increasing circumstance as I grow up – but more than 20 twenty years ago, I think I had a client there and went on a business call to visit them. I don’t remember what their business was (it had something to do with woodworking) or who was more stunned; me – that I had driven to such a teeny little town to see them; or them – that I had driven to such a teeny little town to see them.

My regular disclaimer about the running and my goal this year applies: to anyone who does a quick and easy 20 miles or more a week, this total represents little more than baby steps. I acknowledge that and salute your fitness and commitment. But this past month was a bit more challenging than I imagined: It was about 17 degrees outside and our treadmill at home was out of commission for pretty much the entire month. The guy from Sears came to assess the damage one Saturday and spent 30 minutes confirming what we knew when we called: it was broken. It took another week for parts and another two weeks before he was back to fix it.

I was not long deterred. I have the very good fortune to work at a company with a fully appointed fitness center available to employees and that fact was never more welcome than this past month. Despite many (many) years of absence, I was welcomed back like the prodigal daughter. (One of the T-shirts I wore one evening brought back memories for the fitness center director. We determined it was vintage 1997 or ‘98.) Bottom line: I hopped on a treadmill after work a few nights a week and on Saturday mornings to keep my commitment to the Toronto run throughout the month.

I’ve learned the following: very, very rarely do I feel entirely fabulous throughout the entire run. There is inevitably a moment – or several – where I say: Stop. Just stop. That’s it.

Or this: Really? All that effort and it’s only been 9 minutes! Twenty-one more to go? I’m doomed.

Or this: You really don’t have another 1.7 miles in you today. You really don’t. It’s been a rough day. Quit now and call it a run.

I also learned this: when you run on a treadmill with a past winner of the Boston marathon running on the one beside you, you feel like you’re running underwater and he has wings on his heels. (He’s a delightful person – this was all my perception, I assure you.)

Thing is: I didn’t ever quit a run. I suspect the next lesson had something to do with it.

I learned this: TV is good but music is better. I am perfectly content to wander into our basement a few times a week and settle in for a 5K with Jack and Abby and Adam as my witnesses. And tell myself things like this: during the commercial, you’ll sprint and then back off again during the show. Or during the summation to the jury you can run another ½ mile an hour faster.

Basement bonus: at the end of every run, I throw darts. Only one round, one after the other, without a ton of technique. Correction: with no technique at all. I’ve hit the bulls-eye once, although not dead center. But I’m getting better.

When I ran to music over the past month, I found the song-size components that made up the distance the perfect way to mix up the pace. And even at the end of the run – even when I was well past 3 miles (I know. Unbelieveable, right?) – a really energetic song would create a burst of energy.

Music bonus: I listened to my boys sing. How does it get better than that? Encouraging words from my sons while I ran awkwardly and with little grace a few nights a week. Throw in a little Treme soundtrack, a little Godspell, some U2, Bruce, Stones and La Boheme. And there it is: another day, another 5K done on the record.

Onto March.