Just some stuff

I don't feel like writing about politics tonight. There will be plenty of that in the next week. But I'll make some other observations:

-- That was a nice little profile in the New York Times Sunday Magazine yesterday about one of our town's (and by that I mean Urbana) best-known homeys, Roger Ebert. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/13/magazine/13DOMAINS.html I especially liked the story about his best friend's father (there I'm assuming that Roger is speaking of the late Harold Holmes, who lived on Roger's block on East Washington Street in Urbana; Harold gave Roger a job at The News-Gazette and the kid did everything from covering high school sports to writing what once was a staple of newspapers - the year-ender story - the piece that reviewed all the big events of the past year). Harold also had the misfortune of hiring me at The News-Gazette in 1975, shortly before he retired. And he wrote one of the best stories ever to appear in The News-Gazette: the tale of Sport, the dog who in 1934 rescued three kids who had passed out in the shower room at the old St. Mary's School in Champaign (where Roger Ebert went to school about 25 years later). The pilot light went out on the gas water heater and the kids passed out, only to be rescued by Sport. Anyway, in the NYT story Roger also gets in a nice plug for his Overlooked Film Festival which I maintain is one of the top four events of the year in C-U (the others are the Independence Day parade, the Crystal Lake Park Turkey Trot and the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival). I don't have the lineup for this year's film festival but it doesn't matter, it's always good and often great. It's definitely worth buying a festival pass.

-- I have seen two great movies in the last two weeks that my mind and my heart won't let go of: "Hotel Rwanda" and "Million Dollar Baby." Each in its own way reminds me of how good some people - and some movies - can be. The acting in "Million Dollar Baby" is uniformly excellent; the story in "Hotel Rwanda" is just so inspiring. I wish more people would see both of those films, instead of stuff like the ultra-overrated "Sideways."

-- Looking for a nice - and inexpensive - outing for children? A couple weekends ago we took our 2-year-old granddaughter to the St. Louis Zoo. Brilliant! As they say in those charming Guinness beer commercials. It's free and it's just the right size. You can spend a whole day there without dropping a dime. Although we did spend money because we didn't bring a lunch. We took the Zoo train ($4 a person) and we went into the Children's Zoo ($4 a person but worth it). Plus, you're inside one of the most underappreciated parks in the United States - Forest Park, home of the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.

-- My favorite class of second-graders, Christina Bachman's class at Leal School in Urbana, did the sweetest thing last week. They presented $300 to the Urbana Park District. The money was their profit from the sale of note cards that they manufactured, packaged and sold. It was a neat class project on running a small business, and the result was money that will go to support the programs at the Anita Purves Nature Center.

-- Pitchers and catchers report this week. We are just seven weeks away from one of the best days of the year: that Monday in April when the NCAA championship game is played (this year featuring Illinois and North Carolina) and it's Opening Day (capitalization required) of the baseball season. This year it's April 4.

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