Monday, February 28, 2011

Did You Catch These?

They handed out the Oscars last night. I admit to seeing more than my share of movies, but I don't pretend to know what deserves an award and what doesn't. I'm one of those grimy millions who, when he sees a movie he likes, falls back on the phrase praising it as "well done", hoping that will suffice. No, they aren't really making movies for people in their sixties (though gosh knows there are plenty of would-be geezers around), but I can still recognize that it's a real industry, with lots of people working hard to get the final product out in theaters. Is all the awarding out of proportion to the industry's importance to the economy? Sure, but who really cares about businesses that make carpets or soup? And who could put on a better show? No, I didn't watch it, but I reserve the right to. So there!

I was amazed to read last week about an item coming up for auction soon in New York. Before the Soviet Union sent a manned orbiting vehicle into space in the early 1960s, they sent one up containing only a dog - no pilot. This same space capsule somehow got into private hands during the lean post-Soviet days, and could be yours for a bid perhaps in the range of $2-5 million.
This blows my mind. It's a little like finding Lincoln's stove-pipe hat for sale at the local junk store, or having a guy sidle up to you and offer a "great deal on Washington's false teeth" with the proof that they're real! I once read that Yeltsin-era Russian pilots could only get flying time by selling rides to tourists, who paid enough to keep the jets fueled. For what it's worth, the capsule these days shows its age. It looks like something that's been the centerpiece of the city's roughest playground for a couple of decades, so its never going to fly again, but, who knows? With the right setting and decor it could be quite a conversation piece for some techno-nerd collector. Good luck getting it home.

Finally, there's the story of the young woman who has already fulfilled her lifelong dream - she's pitching batting practice at a big league spring training camp. It's an unusual ambition for pitchers of any gender because the job involves helping the batters succeed instead of trying to fool them. I presume the job requires modest power and maximum control in order to give the hitters plenty of quality swings.
But of course the guy doing the interview just had to ask if she could foresee the day that women will play/pitch alongside men on equal terms. She must get this question a dozen times a day, so she had some thought behind the answer - She thinks that the first woman baseball player in the big leagues will be a left-handed knuckleball specialist. Hitting the knuckler is a little like trying to make solid contact with a butterfly fluttering around home plate. The pitcher deliberately offers a knuckle ball with a minimal effort, so power isn't a factor. I guess the whole prospect is only worth considering if your daughter wants to drop the ballet lessons in favor of daily baseball games, but this could be the answer for some frustrated parents somewhere.


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