Friday, October 30, 2009

Ready to Race?

I have a race in two days, the Hot Chocolate 15K. And I'm not quite ready.

I chose this race back in April, after the Wrigley Early Start 5K, when I wanted to challenge myself for the season, to keep my motivation for running high. Since I hadn't run in two years, I thought it would be a good distance for me - doable, but enough of a stretch to be challenging. I wasn't even thinking about trying to increase my pace at that point.

Well, I didn't anticipate how well my training would go this year, how easy it turned out to be to get faster and to increase my mileage. But I also didn't anticipate how inconsistent that same training would become. The interruptions seem to follow a regular cycle of work - illness - travel... there have not been that many weeks where I have actually managed to do all my runs as planned.

So now I have a race at a distance I am totally comfortable with, but I'm not quite sure I can sustain the speed I want - I haven't been able to get in the longer tempo runs I'd hoped to. I'm not quite sure of my strategy for this race - I'm not sure enough of what I am capable of over that distance.

In the past it wouldn't have been an issue, my goal with every race was just to finish, running strong and easy. And sure, I could do that again. But I am certain that I can do more than that, that I have it in me to really push myself. But by how much? Do I set a goal that I know I can make (with effort, to be sure), or do I set a more ambitious one? I don't know. I think I probably won't know until that morning - after all, I have no way of knowing how much sleep a certain little one will let me get the next two nights...

Well, however it turns out, I'm in pretty much the best shape of my adult life, and I know I can easily run it faster than any race I've done before, so whatever the final time, it will be confirmation of the work I've done this year.

(And I'm still going to cross my fingers for a sub-11:00 pace.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Scary Movie Month - Week 4

Another week, another humiliating Bears loss. I could have been watching movies!

Not the best SMM week either, although it got better at the end. We started by watching The Hunger, which I had seen and enjoyed in college, and while it held up perfectly fine on second viewing, it still couldn't keep The Dude awake during what turned out to be his round with the cold Buddy brought home two weeks ago. Then a couple of nights later we tried to watch the original Dracula with Bela Lugosi, and I just couldn't get into it. Background music might have helped, but watching an old slow-moving movie with a plot already known to me, punctuated only with dramatic shots of Bela Lugosi's eyes, just couldn't compete with the possibility of going to bed early.

We did notice that in both this version of Dracula, and Francis Ford Coppola's, by far the most compelling figure to watch was Renfield.

I was uninterested in trying to finish either of these movies on a later night, which led to the first argument we've had this year about SMM. What emerged from this exchange was the realization that we have different expectations for our viewing experiences during this month. (Big surprise, I know.) For The Dude, it is in part about seeing as many horror movies as is physically possible in a month. For me, it is about having a special evening with The Dude, in which we get to make popcorn, watch an interesting/funny/moving movie that happens to fall into the "scary" category (or is a spoof thereof), and then talk about it. Without exactly making this explicit, my view appears to have prevailed, probably because The Dude really does want to share these movies with me, and he knows I am perfectly content to let him watch them by himself while I go curl up with a book in the bedroom.

With that settled, we then had a great viewing of the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers with Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy, and Jeff Goldblum (we'd seen the original 1956 version last year). Very satisfying. Interesting, clever, scary without being too terrifying, moving. One of the best I've seen this year.

And then yesterday we watched Monsters Vs. Aliens which was entertaining though not as good as we thought it could have been. Lots of references to other movies that felt more like rip-offs rather than homages. And, I'm sorry, but I can't have been the only one who thought that the B.O.B. character (a gelatinous blue blob), voiced by Seth Rogan, most of the time most looked like a rather squat penis. It was a bit disconcerting to watch a kids' movie featuring what seemed to be a talking dildo in one of the main roles.

We've coming to the end of our SMM, with only a few possible viewing times left to us. The Dude has proposed we do a double-feature one night, but I have a race in less than a week that I am quite serious about, so I'm afraid the "late-night double-feature picture-show" won't be happening this year. But we have some good movies lined up and apparently on route, so I think we will still end this year's movie watching on a good note.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Scary Movie Month - Week 3

Not so many movies this week, the stars just didn't align properly...

"Halloween" (the first one, by John Carpenter)
I suppose I'm glad to have seen this, both for its place in horror movie history and because Jamie Lee Curtis is good in it (and it's interesting to see her young - she looks like a colt, not quite grown into herself). But I'm also glad that, having seen it, I never have to watch it - or any of the other "Halloween" movies - again.

"Gojira" (the original Japanese)
After reading about how the first American "Godzilla" movie was made (and watching half of it), I realized the parts I had enjoyed most - the music, the Japanese characters, the images - were all from the original Japanese movie. So I decided to take an evening on my own and watch it by myself, which, as The Dude can attest, is something I never do. But watching an old b&w non-scary foreign monster movie is really the best possible use of one's time when sick and tired.

"The Exorcist"
I mentioned to The Dude that I might, for the sake of being complete, be willing to watch ONE movie in the demonic possession category. So what does he choose? Only one of the most scary movies of all times. I got my revenge however... he was more spooked by it than I was... and he'd seen it before! Very interesting, how it was put together (as a story), and very sad. And the last ten minutes of the movie were the scariest of them all.

The next two weeks are going to continue to be light on the scary movies... I can't help it if The Dude is going to hockey games and rehearsals and gigs instead of attending to what should be his first priority this month: scaring the crap out of me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Scary Movie Month - Week 2

This week in Scary Movie Month was a mixed bag - we watched more movies, but enjoyed them less, and some we didn't even finish.

"Night of the Living Dead" (the original 1968 one)
Eh, interesting as part of movie history and as social commentary (which The Dude claims all the good horror movies are essentially about). Very intense, in fact I would say unrelenting in its intensity. I was glad it was short.

"The Fly" (the 1986 version directed by David Cronenberg)
Truly disgusting, and truly awesome. Very moving. The best kind of horror movie.

"Bram Stoker's Dracula" (directed by Francis Ford Coppola)
I loved this movie when it was released - The Dude loved this movie when it was released - clearly we were both insane back then. (Well, we were both in college then, so I guess that goes without saying.) Awful, just awful. We got about 20 minutes in - decided to start fast-forwarding - got through another 20 minutes of watching before deciding to call it a night.

"The Most Dangerous Game"
Clearly a must-see for any true King Kong fan (ie., The Dude) - shot on the same set as the original King Kong and at the same time - this was shot during the day while KK was shot at night, using the same actors as well. Talk about making movies on a budget.

"Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog"
Genius, pure genius. But skip the commentaries (both singing and regular) unless you really love everything Joss Whedon - the "Making Of" featurettes provide enough info on the process, and the extra ELE video applications provide enough extra giggles.

"Godzilla, King of the Monsters"
This was the first American Godzilla movie, made by taking the original Japanese version and dubbing in scenes with Raymond Burr as a reporter (who could then provide the necessary exposition). Unfortunately, we started this one while up early in the morning with a sick Buddy. We got about half way through before the Tylenol kicked in and B started feeling better (and therefore uninterested in cuddling on the couch while Mama and Dada watched an old monster movie). Since I'm home sick today myself I may finish watching it.

Tonight it's the original "Halloween" by John Carpenter. I don't like slasher films as a rule, but am persuaded to watch this one for its role in horror movie history and because it's a John Carpenter movie. Full report next week.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Scary Movie Month - Week 1

It's October, which means it is Scary Movie Month in my house. A whole month full of scary (and not-so-scary) movies, with enough popcorn, hot chocolate, and candy corn to fuel Godzilla. The Dude starts planning for this in August, with at least once-a-day visits to the Netflix queue to make sure our selections are lined up in the best possible order, taking into account such things as work schedule, weather, lunar position, and cosmic rays.

This year we are challenged by the fact that I go to bed so much earlier now - no double features for me! This has taken the Netflix-queue visiting to new heights, as we now need to consider the length of the movie and whether or not I can manage to fit it in on a weeknight, or if it needs to wait for a Friday or Saturday night when I can stay up a smidge later.

This year we chose our movies based on four categories: Classic, Kids, Dude's Choice, and Annie's Choice. Do you think you can tell which movie falls into which category?

Our first week's movies (in order of viewing):
  • Psycho (the original, natch)
  • Coraline (from the Neil Gaiman book, directed by Henry Selick, who also directed "The Nightmare Before Christmas")
  • Let the Right One In (Swedish vampires - this one was really amazing)
  • The Fog (the original by John Carpenter)
All winners! I would add that the so-called kids' movie was actually the most disturbing.

I was not a big fan of scary movies when the Dude and I met, so it's really a big deal that I am now choosing some of my own accord. (I mostly endured the first couple of years of SMM.) There are movies I am pretty adamant about not seeing: anything with serial killers, torture, demonic possession, or where children get hurt. Vampires, werewolves, and zombies I can handle.

Let the film roll!