Friday’s Movie – No Reservations

I know I’ve promised to write about our trip to Philadelphia… and I will. Not yet. I sense, truly or falsely, it will be a long entry, which I don’t feel like facing at the moment.

My folks have been visiting since Tuesday. It is our sworn duty to keep them entertained. OK – maybe not, but that’s what we want to do.

Today, Stef had plans to head to Long Island, Helaine needed to catch up around the house and I… well, I’m a lazy, shiftless bum with nothing to do. I asked my folks if they wanted to go to the movies.

My first choice was “The Simpsons Movie.” Helaine and Stef would like to see that. My parents, not so much. I can wait, I suppose.

I took my parents to see “No Reservations,” the new Catherine Zeta-Jones movie. It was an afternoon well spent.

The movie is a remake of a German film, “Mostly Martha.” As it turns out, my parents had already seen that. They liked “No Reservations” better.

Kate (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is a successful, driven, chronically single chef in New York’s Greenwich Village. As artfully revealed by her therapist (Bob Balaban), she was scared to commit. I’ve always thought about that (from personal experience) as a guy thing. Kate’s real love interest was cooking.

I loved the ‘inside baseball’ scenes as Kate commanded her team in the kitchen. It’s a view I don’t often get and seemed realistic.

When Kate’s sister is killed in a car accident, she becomes guardian for Zoe (Abigail Breslin). It’s another commitment she is ill prepared for.

Things are going very poorly between Kate and Zoe until Nick (Aaron Eckhart) enters the picture. He’s a sous chef, though obviously underachieving in his career, hired to work in Kate’s kitchen.

There is instant conflict. Then, there is instant sexual tension.

From this point forward, there is no part of this movie that isn’t predictable. I’m not saying that as a knock, because I had no problem accepting the picture as entertainment and not an intellectual challenge.

The triumph of romance over all obstacles is the mother’s milk of chick flicks – a genre I’m particularly enamored with. This is the poster child for chick flicks.

Catherine Zeta-Jones continues to be remarkably beautiful. Aaron Eckhart is more attractive than beautiful (attractive being a much more valuable trait). The real standout is Abigail Breslin, an accomplished actor at age 11.

I first saw Abigail in “Little Miss Sunshine.” Sometimes kids get lucky with their first film. “No Reservations” proves there’s more than luck at work here. She played an emotional role with great range. She acted! I believed.

What were you doing at age 11?

The last 11 or 12 year I saw, who could act, was Lindsay Lohan (1998 – “The Parent Trap”). Uh oh.

Abigail… keep your head on straight. Don’t grow up too fast. Don’t listen to the sycophants who will surely be drawn to you as flies are drawn to shit. If your parents are loopy, trade them in now!

One final note. As my parents walked into the theater to find a seat, I returned to the cashier and got a set of headphones for my dad. There is little publicity for these, but just about every theater has them available for free. For anyone with a hearing problem, these can make all the difference in the world in enjoying a movie.

UConn versus Army

There are more photos available from this blog entry by clicking here

I wasn’t going to let a sore toe stop me (actually, I would have, but the toe is getting a little better day-by-day). This was my day to shoot pictures at the UConn – Army game.

I left the house around 10:30 and drove to Rentschler Field in East Hartford. I knew where the field was, sort of. I had printed out directions off the computer, but chose to listen to the DOT’s radio station on 1610 kHz to get me where I was going.

Any time I’ve listened to DOT’s network of low power highway stations I’ve been disappointed. Usually, there was no usable timely info at all! Adding insult to injury, the broadcast is sometimes padded with time killers, moving you farther from the content you really want to hear. And the signal strength and audio quality are awful

Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?

This time was different. The station repeated a recording of simple directions to the field from all the major access roads. This is exactly what should be on.

I turned past the Pratt and Whitney property and followed the cars. If had no idea where to go with my parking pass, but the attendants along the way saw it and waved me in the right direction. I parked about 4-5 minutes walk from the stadium on what looked like well manicured grass.

Thank heavens it wasn’t raining! In fact it was partly cloudy and well into the 70s. In other words, perfect.

I met John Pierson, our sports reporter and Kevin Frederick (who normally shoots video for sports, but was at the game as a ‘civilian,’). I’m glad I ran into John because I don’t think I would have known where to go or what to do once I got into the stadium.

We made our way down to the field level. Both teams were on the field warming up. The stands were 25% full. By game time the teams would have left and returned for their official introductions and the stands would have filled closer to capacity&#185.

I carried my Canon Digital Rebel with the Sigma 70-300 mm lens attached. Over my shoulder was a small camera bag with an 18-125 mm lens, a spare battery and two extra compact flash cards.

By the end of the game… actually before the end of the game, all three cards were filled. That’s over 1 gigabyte of photos! The final count was 317 actual. That’s fewer shots than I anticipated by nearly a hundred. I’m not sure why this particular shoot created such big files.

If there’s one thing I learned at the game, it’s that I need one more card. The prices are down. I’ll order one later today.

John took me to the end zone section adjacent to where the Huskies would enter. He introduced me to four girls, including quarterback Dan Orlovsky’s sister. Then we went and met Dan’s father who has better seats than his daughter!

Dan Sr. and I chatted for a few minutes. Not knowing him, but knowing who his son is, I addressed him as Mr. Orlovsky. Respect under these circumstances is appropriate and fair.

I later found out he’s two years younger than me. Maybe the mister part wasn’t necessary?

There’s an interesting observation to be made here. I have often equated hurricane watching to seeing a car accident in slow motion. Watching Dan Orlovsky is like watching a Lotto winner in slow motion. You know it’s just a matter of time before he’s worth millions of dollars from the NFL. He’s got to know that too. He’s that good – probably a first round pick.

I was afforded an incredible amount of access and freedom on the field. Back a few feet from the out of bounds line and end zone was another line – a dashed line. As long as I stayed behind it, I was fine. It gave me an amazing view of the field.

I started shooting on the first play and soon learned it was very difficult to follow the action on a pass play with a lens. Following with a TV camera is one thing, but my still camera rewards someone who can anticipate where the ball will be in the fraction of a second it takes for the mirror in the camera to flip and the shutter to open.

Often, I’d have my camera at the ready as a play would start, but I’d never get anything to shoot. Other times the player would be turned away from me or blocked by someone else. Sometimes my camera, which is supposed to continually focus while shooting sports action, just wouldn’t focus quickly enough or would focus on something other than what I was tracking.

You can be the judge. I’ve taken forty of the best shots and put them in my gallery. The thumbnails don’t give you a sense of what was shot, so please click for larger versions.

At halftime I went under the stands to a small room for the on-field media. It was surprising to see a number of newspaper photographers downloading their shots onto laptops and sending them on their way. At least one photographer (New Haven Register, I think) was using Photoshop – processing and cropping her shots before an editor even saw them.

As I expected, I saw a lot of much faster lenses – big lenses with wide openings. One of the photographers had a humongously telephoto lens with f1.8 speed. He’s getting 8 times as much light as I am, giving him a great deal of latitude. On the other hand, I can still buy food, something I wouldn’t be able to do as the owner of that lens.

Most of these big lenses demand a monopod. They are too heavy to hand hold for long. The monopod is actually attached to the lens and not the camera body itself.

As the second half was starting I walked by the UConn bench and said hello to Jeff Fox, one of the players. I’m not sure if he got what I was trying to say… that we both had the same name (though one of us spells it incorrectly).

It is cool to have a player with the same name as me. He can’t be related though. None of my relatives, or their families, have any athletic ability at all!

By the time I was finished shooting the stands were back to being 25% full. UConn had cut through the Army like a hot knife through butter. It wasn’t a contest.

This was fun. I’d like to try again. I’m not sure I can quantify what I’ve learned from this, but I’d look back at my shots and try and figure out what worked and why and how I can do it again.

There are more photos available from this game. Just click here

&#185 – The game was a sellout, though that doesn’t mean everyone attended. There were plenty of empty seats.

Much Ado About Frances

Every few years a hurricane like Frances comes along. I’m not talking about the strength or look, because other storms have looked more menacing and posted more impressive stats. I’m talking about the projected path, which at this early stage, brings the storm to South Florida late this week.

Watching a hurricane is like watching a car accident in slow motion. There’s really nothing you can do but get out of the way. Even if we knew exactly where it would strike, there’s little that could be done to change the outcome. Hopefully, people will heed warnings. Inanimate objects stand little chance.

Hurricanes can be so powerful that their strength is beyond our ability to comprehend.

I’ve spoken with a few people who decided to ‘ride out’ hurricanes at home. To a person, after the fact, they all said they made the wrong decision. In each case the person speaking felt that they would surely die, their home would certainly be ripped apart.

My parents live in Palm Beach County, Florida, so this storm gets even more attention from me. Yesterday I told my mom to go out and buy batteries and bottled water. It is very early. There is no immediate threat. Still, if things get worse, I wanted them to already have what they need and not worry about the stores running out – as they surely will.

Tonight, on the air, one of our anchors asked if this storm could blow itself out or dissipate? I suppose anything’s possible, but that is quite an unlikely scenario. Most likely Frances has a good week to ten days ahead of her as a named storm. She’ll either slam into the East Coast or curve into the Atlantic, meeting her demise over colder water.

At the moment, slamming into the East Coast is the odds on favorite.

Party for Dr. Mel

About 7 years ago, one of the people I work with in the Weather Department discovered he had cancer. Dr. Mel Goldstein, known by everyone as Dr. Mel, had multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells. Mel had discovered his disease after back pain from a car accident just wouldn’t go away.

Today, Mel and his wife Arlene threw a party. They have a home right on Long Island Sound just east of New Haven. The weather was perfect, making their view of the Sound even better. Long Island was clearly visible on the horizon.

I remember going to Mel’s home right after he found out what he had. I was with Jeff Bailey, our webguy at the station. We went to install a PC at Mel’s house so he could track the weather from home. We hooked up the computer and a modem and then proceeded to show him how to search using Google. This was a while ago and not nearly as many people were web savvy.

We reached the site of the Multiple Myeloma Society. It was a good first example, because Mel and his wife were desperate for information. We all read along silently, not realizing that the page contained a reference to the average time from discovery to mortality – how long someone normally lived after finding out he had multiple myeloma.

I don’t remember the number, except it was was under 1,000 days.

Obviously, Dr. Mel has outlived those projections. This is not to say the disease hasn’t taken a toll, because it has. Not only has he lived with the specter of death, but also the physical pain caused by the cancer’s effect on his bones.

He has lost 6-7″ in height and walks with a cane. At the station, we’ve installed a ramp to allow him to reach the studio floor easily. At home, a small motorized chair saves him from walking the stairs to the second floor. I know he is in pain each and every day.

Today’s party was to celebrate another milestone in living beyond anyone’s expectations. But this is not a story of luck. He is alive because of his own persistence. Dr. Mel became his own best advocate for care. Though not a medical doctor, he became an expert on multiple myeloma and was able to help his physicians guide his own treatment.

Without dedication, Mel would be dead. If he had given up, gone through the motions with his cancer treatment, he would be dead. But he chose not to die. He chose to aggressively fight.

There is no cure for multiple myeloma right now. There is therapy which is working. How long this fire hose treatment will keep the flames down is anyone’s guess.

Meanwhile, today was worth celebrating.

More on Charley

After spending much of the day studying Charley, I continued through the evening. The amount of data is astounding. No one person could ever absorb it all in real time.

I have a few friends who email or IM me through these periods. I reciprocate, though I’m afraid I import more than I export.

There’s recon and imagery and models. Information is always conflicting. Nothing is simple or straightforward. It sometimes seems as if similar storms act differently under the same conditions.

They’re just too complex, and then planted in any equally complex and variable environment.

Watching a hurricane is like watching a car accident, in slow motion. Looking at my charts and maps, I have a pretty good idea what’s going on in relatively real time. Punta Gorda and the Fort Myers area were getting pounded.

Even in shelters, it had to be a once in a lifetime afternoon of terror for anyone there.

By 10:00 PM we were starting to see enough video from Florida’s West Coast to know it had been awful. A roof being blown off a post office. Homes shattered. Trees snapped. We haven’t seen anything from the barrier islands. It must have been awful.

The storm maintained enormous strength, even as it moved across Florida. The wind gusted to 92 mph at Orlando International. That’s impressive.

By the time Charley reached Daytona Beach the radar was starting to show an eye that was more implied than seen. Now Charley’s in the Atlantic, warm, though not anywhere near as warm as the Gulf.

The Tough Part of Being an Adult

Over the weekend, while still in Las Vegas, I got an email from Ann at the station. The son of one of our former co-workers had been tragically killed in a car accident. I guess saying ‘tragically’ is redundant – but you can’t be too sad in a situation like this.

Even today, nearly a week after the fact, the details are sketchy. He was a passenger in a car with two others. They missed a curve and plunged into the Housatonic River in Northwest Connecticut. The other two survived, though not without medical consequences.

How can a parent live through this? I can’t even begin to imagine the pain – and yet tonight at the wake the father was steadfast and stronger than I could ever imagine. Maybe it was the fact that he had been seeing and hugging people for four hours before I got there? Maybe the pain comes in stages?

Even though it had been at least ten years since I’d seen the dad, it didn’t make any difference. This is what adults do in a situation like this – you go. I wanted him to know my thoughts were with him. I was not alone.

It is very difficult for me to deal with an open coffin, yet there was the son. I turned away as best I could. It wasn’t a totally effective move.

When I spoke to the father, he tallked about his faith, and the faith of his son. There was a certainty he was in a good place. I am jealous of that kind of unquestioning faith – a faith I don’t have. If it’s possible to make something like this easier to take, that would be the way.

The older I get, the more I have to deal with stuff like this. It’s a part of growing up I never considered.

50 First Dates

Steffie went out with friends tonight, leaving Helaine and me the opportunity to go on a date. OK – maybe date is an overstatement, but we went out.

First it was dinner at our local, family run, Italian restaurant. We love this place. The food is very good. But, even more, we feel like we’re part of their family. And, it really is a family place with parents, children and spouses working in the kitchen or at the tables.

Being on The South Beach Diet (which within this first week seems very much like Atkins), an Italian restaurant is normally a bad choice. Over time, on and off diets, they’ve grown used to me and prepare something close to, but not quite from, the menu. Tonight, the chicken, Parmesan cheese and spinach were just right.

There’s not much playing at the movies right now that appealed to us, so it was off to 50 First Dates. We’d seen Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler in The Wedding Singer – a movie where their charisma outweighed a stupid script. They were enjoyable and we were hoping they’d be just that again.

We got to the theater in plenty of time, but I wanted coffee… and they had none. I am about to give in to the fact that I’m addicted to caffeine. There’s a Barnes and Noble, with Starbucks inside, about a block away. As Helaine got two seats, I walked over. Their coffee is much too strong and bitter for my taste. That’s how I know I’m addicted. I drank it all.

The premise of the movie is a reach, at best. I’ve heard it compared to Groundhog Day, but I don’t think the comparison is in order. Drew Barrymore, having suffered a car accident, only has one day of short term memory. So, as she wakes up each day, it’s the day of the accident.

The problem with the script is, she is forced to be more savvy about her situation than she could be if starting from scratch every day. It really doesn’t make any difference. The success of the movie, and it is a success, is totally based on the two principals. I’m not a fan of either, yet together they’re great. We probably don’t have Doris Day and Rock Hudson here, but what we do have is a couple who are fun to be with.

Now, an admission. Throughout the movie, filmed mostly in Hawaii, are native Hawaiians. Sandler’s movie ‘best buddy’ was a Hawaiin… or so I thought. It was actually Rob Schneider. If Helaine wouldn’t have told me, I would have never known.

Actually, if I would have known, I’d have been a lot less likely to go.

Also in the movie, in a small role, is Dan Akroyd. He’s good, but what’s he doing here? Does he need the work that badly? Shouldn’t he be taking larger roles?

Also seen, and in a truly minuscule role, Maya Rudolph from Saturday Night Live. I’m a big fan of hers, but Hawaii sure seems like a long flight for so little screen time. This was a nothing role – a shame.