Ponies, Sheep and a Towel

May has spread her bounty before us and invited us to join her revels. There is so much going on right now that I could write a thousand, nay a thousand thousand columns. (Don't worry, I won't.) The run for the roses is on Saturday, the biggest sheep and wool festival on the East Coast is both days this weekend, Mother's Day is on Sunday and I have some words of wisdom about the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy film.

The 131st Kentucky Derby, the first jewel in the ever sought and rarely caught Triple Crown, is tomorrow. That means it is time for fancy hats, mint juleps, betting, hanging out in the infield and weren't there some horses involved in here somewhere? The official site for the Derby has a slideshow of some mind boggling hats. Some are beautiful, some are fancy and some are just plain odd. You can also find slideshows of mint juleps, silks, the infield and celebrities who don't want to tell you what horse they like.

There are twenty horses running after six were scratched. That's a big field but traditionally the Derby draws a big field. The Friday morning line had the bay colt Bellamy Road as the favorite with odds of 5-2. His spectacular 17-length win of the Wood Memorial is drawing comparisons to racing legend Secretariat. Secretariat won the 1973 Derby in record time, a record that still stands today. Discussion at the Mortgage Grapevine Thursday resulted in no clear favorites although High Fly, Spanish Chestnut, Bellamy Road, Afleet Alex and Wilko all have fans.

I like Afleet Alex for a variety of reasons including the fact that he is the only colt training twice a day. He's a horse that doesn't like being cooped up in his stall so trainer Tim Ritchey takes him out for a two mile jog around six am and then another two mile jog and a mile gallop later in this morning. There has been many a horse done in by the super speed of the Derby combined with the grueling mile and a quarter length. This horse has the genes for staying power on his dam's side and he's got the training to hang in there for the entire race. I also like his performance in the Arkansas Derby where he won by eight lengths. Jeremy Rose is aboard and all systems look good for this bay colt.

The 32nd Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival takes place this weekend. This is not just a weekend of wool and sheep it's also a weekend of sheepdogs, alpacas, llamas, artisans, food and fun. Did I mention the rabbits? Have you ever seen an angora rabbit? They look like cartoon bunnies. Take the cutest rabbit you can imagine and then square it's cuteness, no, cube its cuteness and you begin to approach the cuteness quotient of these little guys.

If cuteness is not your bag you can go for elegant and go admire the hand crafted jewelry, the pottery, the carved gourds, the knitted, crocheted, spun, woven and felted fabrics, the scads of other exciting items and the soap. The goat and sheep milk soap will make your skin relax and say aahhh. You can learn basic shepherding or you can take spinning, knitting or felting workshop. You can watch the sheep shearing and you can watch the sheep shows. There is live music of different types from the hammer dulcimer to the Sunnyland Band at the family hoedown. There is a storyteller and lots of different ways to eat lamb. Sheep and Wool is definitely a place to bring the kids but be careful of misunderstandings. When my youngest son was three he kept asking to see the wolves and would not be satisfied by the Great Mountain Pyrenees or any of the various sheepdogs. It turned out that he thought I was bringing him to a Sheep and Wolf Festival and he took almost a year to get over his disappointment.

The Quality Time Support Staff and I went to go see The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy over last weekend. I hear some people hated it and I hear it got some bad reviews. We liked it a lot. If you are a diehard fan of the books or the radio shows or whatever particular form suits your fancy then you should be forewarned that this film is more of a romance than I would have suspected. It's also gone from having very little plot to having a plot coupon plot. (The Wizard of Oz is a good example of the plot coupon, Dorothy goes from here to there to get something, then she brings it back and gets something else so she can go on and do something entirely different, each thing brings her closer to her ultimate goal of going home. RPG fans will be quite familiar with this device.)

Zooey Deschanel as Trillian is kind of spaced out and stilted for the beginning of the film but she warms up towards the end. Mos Def is good enough in the role of Ford Prefect to carry the entire film. His comic timing is impeccable. Martin Freeman is quite good as everyman Arthur Dent, thrown into a universe he doesn't quite understand. John Malkovich is particularly chilling in his role as the demented Humma Kavula. Bill Nighy, Alan Rickman and Stephen Fry all gave terrific performances.

The special effects are good, the puppetry is awesome and the graphics are quite a lot of fun. The script shows that special Douglas Adams touch and some of the funniest bits are the little throw away lines that catch you completely by surprise. Be sure to stay for the very end; don't leave when the credits start to roll. Don't forget your towel.

We're almost out of time so I just have time for a suggestion for Mother's Day on Sunday. Since Saturday is free comic book day you should go the comic book store, get your free comic and get your Mom a copy of one of the Hellblazer series of graphic novels. Chances are very good that she has never gotten a Mother's Day gift like that before and really don't all Moms need more swoony British guys in their lives?