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Slower pace reveals more, but some things are better missed

February 06, 2006|by KATE COLEMAN

My life has changed since I left full-time employment at The Herald-Mail a year and a couple of months ago.

I'm still here sometimes, still writing previews for Maryland Symphony Orchestra concerts. I continue to cover the MSO's Saturday evening performances, and now I get to write this column once a month.

I have a few other writing projects, but I admit to working at a less than breakneck pace.

And that's OK.

I'm lucky to have the time to do other things.

I spend more time with friends. I "do lunch" - four times last month, a big difference from my typical scarfing down a sandwich at my desk.

I took a wonderful theater criticism class at Shepherd University last spring. I've seen some movies - in theaters, mind you - and I finally redeemed the incredibly generous farewell gift from my newspaper colleagues and saw "Sweeney Todd" on Broadway a couple of weeks ago.

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I'm making a dent in the piles of books I couldn't resist buying but never had a chance to open. I reread "Pride and Prejudice," and I loved the put-off-for-years-because-it's-so-long "Anna Karenina."

Yes, life is good.

But before you turn up your noses at what might seem an awfully high-minded new existence, read on.

I have rediscovered television - something I had virtually no time for in the past several years.

I am amazed at the huge number of commercials on TV. There are a few clever ones. More often, though, I've been driven to moans of disgust by the inanity and frequent repetition of most of them.

I will NEVER buy a product plugged hundreds of times during the recent American Kennel Club National Championship broadcast.

By the end of the show, I wished the actresses spraying the bacteria-killing-odor-eliminating aerosol had turned the cans on each other.

The dogs, however, despite some absurd grooming and absurd handlers, were wonderful.

An Alaskan malamute named Costello looked like he was smiling.

Why not? As top dog, he took home $50,000.

The next weekend, I watched the Miss America pageant.

For the first time in 85 years, it happened in Las Vegas and not Atlantic City, N.J. The broadcast was pared down to a move-it-right-along two hours, brought to the Country Music Television audience by sponsors which included a well-known bourbon whiskey, a birth-control device, and a fat-burning preparation endorsed by a satisfied client who is a female "wrestling legend."

Go figure.

The contestants, despite some absurd eye makeup and dresses, smiled and worked hard.

Miss Oklahoma came away with the crown and a $30,000 scholarship.

What's the deal?

Did Costello deserve more because he didn't cry?

Except for the one episode of "Survivor" I watched for a story assignment several years ago, I never have seen any of the "reality" shows that are all over TV. Not "Fear Factor," not "The Apprentice," not "The Bachelor" and not - help us - "Wife Swap."

Then, a few weeks ago, I discovered "Dancing With the Stars."

I'm more than a little embarrassed to admit it: I'm hooked.

In case you're not one of my reported 19 million fellow viewers, I'll fill you in. The season started with 10 couples, each consisting of a professional dancer paired with a "celebrity."

The professional has a week to teach his or her partner a ballroom or Latin dance. Then, lavishly dressed, they dance - backed by a really good on-stage orchestra and singers.

Three judges critique and score the performances, and, after viewers call in or register their votes online, scores are tallied and the cut is made.

I've refrained from calling but regret not voting for Tatum O'Neal, who was eliminated a few weeks ago. I thought she danced beautifully, I loved that she tried so hard, and I couldn't help remembering her adorable 10-year-old Oscar-winning face.

Listen to me!

OK, I'll get a life. I promise - right after I watch the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in a couple of weeks.




Kate Coleman's column appears in the Lifestyle section on the first Sunday of each month.

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