Sunday, 2 February 2014

It's Been a While (Super Bowl, hockey, movies and fitbit)

As I type we are less than 9 hours from the start of the holiest of American Holidays.  I guess you could call the whole day a holiday, or perhaps even the week should be set aside.  The National Football League really is in a class all its own when it comes to marketing.  Most of us are aware at least to some extent the kind of money involved in the Super Bowl and all of its accompanying pageantry.  A short 30 second commercial spot during the game today will likely cost 3 or 4 million dollars.  Players who the casual observer have never heard of will be "made famous" for a variety of reasons today, both good and bad.  Any other television show mentioned during the big game will get a huge boost.  This is actually how Survivor was originally marketed.  It didn't hurt in the ratings game when millions of snack covered sweat pant warriors were unable to emerge from their food comas to turn the channel, hence the Survivor viewing numbers.  What I find most impressive about the job that the NFL does, is how they manage to get millions and millions of people to care about a game that they have no rooting interest in. 

I have a weird relationship with the sport of American Football.  As a child and teenager, I never watched.  My dad wasn't interested, my small handful of friends were hardly interested, and I was more than occupied with my own hockey and volleyball interests in the fall and winter months.  When I had free time, I spent it watching hockey, or playing various forms of carpet hockey once my brother was old enough to provide adequate fodder.  I watched some NFL action during University, particularly on Sundays when I was feeling lousy from whatever stupid things I did the night before, and my interest intensified if I had assignments deadlines looming.  I think my interests picked up when I discovered the rush of sports betting.  I had some fun for a few seasons, but this year my only ties to the NFL were in the form of a couple of fantasy teams that I shared with a friend.  The fantasy season wraps up in the regular season, so my interest in the playoffs has been very limited.  I watched the Seattle game last week, taking a number of short naps while the game was on.  Will I be watching later today?  Probably.  I feel like I am suppose to.  I'm battling an illness, so I won't be surprised if I end up napping my way through parts of the longest sporting event of the year.

At our house, we had a trying week as our little Asher went through his first illness of his life.  He has had a cold once or twice, but last Monday heading into Tuesday we could tell something was wrong.  Asher went to the walk in clinic with Sheila on Wednesday night and ended up with a prescription for antibiotics.  He had been diagnosed with bronchitis.  While we dealt with plenty of whining from our little guy, it soon became clear that Asher had no idea how to deal with being sick.  For most of the week, he laid in bed watching "teetee", hardly eating.  We knew he was really sick because his hockey gear lay idle.  Three morning in a row he asked me if he could have a bath.  Asher loves having baths, but he has never asked me to run a bath for him early in the day like that.  They seemed to pick up his spirits quite a bit each time, but it was back to laying down and cuddling after each one.  He was very upset about taking his medicine, unable to make the connection between the liquid and the idea of getting better.  For that matter, he kept insisting that he wasn't sick.  Yesterday, recovery seemingly well underway, Jasmine asked me if she and Asher could go and play outside.  Keep in mind, she asked while I was in the shower.  Clearly not thinking straight, I called out a fatherly warning to dress very warm due to the cold spell we are currently enjoying.  After a few more gallons of steamy hot water hit me I hollered back to Jasmine.  I had changed my mind after remembering that although Asher was feeling better, it wasn't a good idea to send him outside.  This reversal of fortune was traumatizing to the little guy.  He was hearing none of my reasoning and had to be bought off with a snack and an episode of Sponge Bob.  A little later we were talking about all of the activities he was going to get back to next week, now that he is feeling better.  He couldn't decide what he missed the most, but he is looking forward to going to daycare, Strong Start and the swimming pool next week.

Sheila and I have decided to combine Valentine's Day and her birthday into one date.  Hey, as parents of two on a shoestring budget, we are lucky to have a night out at all.  Sheila is still on could nine about our engagement and told me not to bother with gifts for the two special days coming up.  I know better than that, so will be on the lookout for something she will like.  Pretty much anything will be a let down after "the ring", so I'm pretty much sunk.  It is cute that Sheila seems to have taken on some of my spend thrift ways.  The date night planned falls between Valentine's and the birthday, on Tuesday the 18th.  We can avoid the Valentine's crowds (i'm working Valentine's evening anyway), we can visit the theatre on cheap night, and best of all, we can use the gift card Sheila has for the Keg.  Of course, if I am polite enough not to mention sports, poker or any other of my annoying guy hobbies, she won't probably won't care that the date is being paid for with pocket change.  It's the time spent together that really matters, right?

The gift card that I mentioned above was one of quite a few that Sheila has been given by her manager at work recently.  It seems that he gives these to her as a token for all of her hard work and dedication to her job.  Sheila works at a transportation company, and a few weeks ago they took on a significant amount of new business due to the closure of another company in town.  This has led to considerably less down time between tasks, and also has had Sheila working the last couple of Saturdays.  The manager at the company is a very nice guy from what I can tell.  Sheila enjoys working for him, and these tokens of appreciation are a solid gesture.  She works her ass off because that's just how she is, and also because she wants to be considered for advancement and raises like most due.  For most people, it's just talk.  They want to advance without working for it.  Sheila has gave her company the best effort she has for over 5 years.  Actions speak louder than words as they always do, and I know Sheila takes pride in what she does.  As the company grows and new opportunities arise, I have no doubt my lady will be there to "carpe diem" as they say.

I think that part of my blase attitude towards watching or caring about football is that I have spent the last number of months totally immersed once again in all things hockey.  With my little man getting more and more into the sport himself, it has only given me more reason to get carried away.  I have spent much time cursing my Oilers on the television, enjoyed 10 or so live Spruce Kings games, caught a few live Cariboo Cougars games (15-17 year olds), attended 2 WHL Cougars games (once with my friend at work, the other with Asher), participated in 5 different hockey pools, played nearly 20 games for my rec league team, also played pick up hockey a few times, gone skating with the kids a few times, played hours of basement hockey, and also i've watched dozens of NHL that didn't involve the Oilers.  It seems finding new teams to enjoy is one way to keep from going off the deep end.  Edmonton has driven me to begin calling the New York Islanders, the Dallas Stars, the Winnipeg Jets and the Tampa Bay Lightning my "other favourite teams".  I also follow many players that find themselves scattered throughout the league due to their presence on one or more of my pool teams. 

I most enjoy watching hockey when Asher watches with me.  He will curl up with me on the couch or bed to take in the "Oilahs".  Humourously, he has taken to saying that they "suck" recently, something he likely picked up from me during one of their many losses.  Before a recent game he asked me "is the Oilahs losing Daddy?"  I told him the game hadn't started, but he just responded with "they suck Daddy."  Sure enough, I was able to confirm that they were indeed losing just a few minutes later.  Asher has even started figuring out some of the other teams.  He knows the Canucks, and his Mom and sister's mild affinity for them.  He surprised me last week by calling out the "Blackhawks" name.  He knows that Montreal is his Uncle Patrick's team, and that Toronto is Daddy's friend Jason's team.  Definitely the most fun we have had recently, was our father and son trip to the Cougars game a couple of weeks ago.  Asher brought along his gick and a puck, which kept him busy for the most part.  We found a seat 3 rows up right behind the net, and we even switched ends each period so we could see the Cougars goals with little chance of missing them.  Asher sat with me for most of the third period, and we had a lot of fun cheering for each goal.  We already have plans to go back for one more game, in a couple of weeks they are playing mid-week again, and he is raring to go.

Lately, I have been able to view a number of really, really good movies.  Sheila had been itching to watch "The Butler" and we finally had a chance to check it out.  I was skeptical about my chances of staying awake for a 3 hour drama film while laying in bed tired.  As it turns out, I had no problem keeping my eyes open.  The film is moving and heartfelt.  Its put together in a way that really showcased Forest Whittaker's acting talent.  Oprah played a supporting role as the butler's wife, and she's no slouch in the acting department either.  I am lucky enough to go to the movies at work fairly regularly, and in recent months I have seen "American Hustle", "Lone Survivor", and "12 Years A Slave" at our local theatre.  Sheila and I also got a chance to watch recent release "Dallas Buyers Club" the other night.  I tell you what.  That is a hell of a collection of movies right there.  Hustle, Buyers Club and 12 Years A Slave are all up for Best Picture at the Oscars.  It's extremely difficult to rank these movies as far which was my favourite, but that is what I do, I make lists.  So here it is.

5) Lone Survivor is probably the best movie Mark Wahlberg has ever done.  The movie is almost entirely made up of a gunfight between al Queda fighters and 4 American soldiers.  The action during the fight feels so real and genuine, it's easy enough to get lost in its authenticity.  3.5/5

4)  American Hustle was great as expected.  The cast is filled with superstars from Christian Bale to Bradley Cooper to Jennifer Lawrence.  It started to drag on a bit towards the end, but that took away from the movie only a slight bit.

3) The Butler Definitely one of the best movies for couples to come out recently.  A love bio pics, as it seems to add an element of importance to the story being told.  Add in the previously mentioned performances from Whittaker and Oprah, and you have a really well done movie.

2) Dallas Buyers Club I have raved to anyone who would listen about how good Matthew McConaughey was in his last movie "Mud".  I went so far as to list it at #2 in my favourite movies of 2013.  He has outdone himself with this one.  Everyone is talking about his losing 50 pounds for the role, something I find amazing considering the physique he already had.  There was no fat to be dropped, losing 50 pounds of mostly muscle is pretty incredible.  His character, Ron Woodruff, is so complex, but McConaughey seems to handle it with ease.  Coupled with the supporting performance by Jared Leto playing a transgendered woman who becomes Ron Woodruff's business partner, I was hooked from beginning to end. 

1) 12 Years A Slave Words simply can not do this movie justice.  Everyone over the age of 16 should see this film.  The unique way in which the director Steve McQueen shot the film, captures even small details and makes you realize that they are all part of the bigger picture.  Incredible acting performances by everyone in the film.  Engaging subject matter that left me unwilling to look away.  Heart wrenching scenes, culminating with Lupita Nyong'o's character getting a violent beating that the slave owner forced her friend to administer.  This is likely one of the best movies I have ever seen, and I am still shaken from his powerful force days later.  Do whatever you can to get out and see it, it's a life changer.

Before I wrap this up, I can't neglect to mention a most awesome gift I was given by my sister Erin for Christmas.  She was lucky enough to pull my name for our family secret santa this year.  She was very generous, and one of the things she gave me was a fitbit flex.  It's a little wristband with a tracking chip inside of it.  You wear it, and it tracks your steps taken, distance traveled and calories burnt throughout the day.  It also can track sleeping patterns though I haven't sued it for that.  It does work as a silent alarm as well, though my habit of smashing the sleep button leads me to worry that the fitbit won't wake me up.  Sheila is such a light sleeper that the silent vibrations at my wrist wake her up.  I digress.  Erin is well aware of my affinity for all things fitness, and while I had heard about the fitbit, I knew little about it.  As it turns out, it has done wonders to motivate me to keep active.  I find it very hard to have a lazy day when I have this readily available visual reminder about how much or how little I have done on any given day.  Even when I am having a lazy day, usually falling on Sundays and Mondays due to sleep deprivation, I find that my fitbit gets me to at least do some physical activity.  The lights on the wristband let you know how close to your daily goal you are.  I have mine set to 10,000 steps taken, so for every light it's 2000 steps.  I haven't had a day under 6000, even when I am "taking the day off" so to speak.  I have knocked it out of the park a few times, culminating last week in a day when I hit 18,000 steps.  If I remember correctly, that day consisted of 3 different walks, a jog, tons of work around the house, taking the dog out in the yard, a hockey game and more.  When choosing something to do, I find that the fitbit has me leaning towards the most active option almost every time.  Thanks Erin, it's definitely one of the coolest gifts I have received.

With that, I bid adieu to my small gaggle of loyal readers.  To my mom, hang in there, I'm looking forward to visiting with you soon.  To my most loyal reader Sheila, thanks for lighting a fire under my blog neglecting posterior.  To Elizabeth, I hope your recovery is going well, please take it easy.  To the rest of you, take care, I shall be back soon.

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