Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Wallpaper Photo

Taken in the Chinese Garden in Portland.

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Earth Day Video


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Via Rail Takes the Cake

The "cup" cake that is.

I have a thing about not using paper cups. It's a tiny thing, but it's easy to use a travel cup and I hate to see the trash full of disposable cups.

It really bugs me when coffee places refuse to use my travel cup - like Amtrak or some airport places.

So I was happy when I went to get tea on the VIA Rail train back to Saskatoon and they happily used my travel mug.

As I left I noticed the steward throw a disposable cup into the trash. I thought it was a little odd, but assumed it must have been a dirty cup left over from someone else. But no, the next time I paid more more attention and again, after filling my travel cup she threw a clean disposable cup into the trash. My guess is that they're using the cups as a way to track how many drinks are sold. Argh!

I'm not sure if this is official procedure or just this person's method. I considered suggesting that it perhaps wasn't the best procedure, but I was pretty sure that would go over like a ton of bricks.

As I walked back to my seat I passed the rack of brochures about how "green" VIA Rail is. Sigh.

Friday, April 23, 2010

People You Meet

Even an anti-social loner like me can't help meeting a few people along the way, especially traveling solo.

In Manzanita I was sitting outside having my coffee when two women arrived with a one-eyed dog. My backpack must have caught her eye and she asked, Are you traveling alone? Where are you from? Are you hitchhiking? - No. Taking the bus? - No. Renting a car? - No. (At this point she was stumped.) Then how are you getting around? She was surprised when I said by foot. I have to admit it's the exception these days, especially at my age. It might sound like twenty questions, but she was just curious and friendly. She disappeared into the coffee shop. But a few minutes later she stuck her head out the door and asked me if I would like to join them. I had a good excuse not to be social since I'd finished my coffee and was getting ready to leave, but I thanked her. She went back inside and through the window I heard her friend giving her a hard time for trying to pick up strange men. She replied that when she used to travel on her own she appreciated it when people were friendly. Even though I didn't accept her offer I appreciated the gesture. Besides, she was kind of cute :-)

The next character I ran into was on the bus to Garibaldi. She was across the aisle from me. At first glance she seemed normal enough. But she didn't stop talking the whole trip. (Thankfully it was a short trip!) I heard about her trips to Europe, teaching her daughters about the evils of the city, about staying in scuzzy hotels and classy hotels, and a long story about giving some kids water and nuts and a lighter for their campfire except they didn't even have a tent, cause she'd been there too. Each piece kind of made sense but the whole stream was a little much. She even wanted the bus to stop to help someone with a flat tire!

But not everyone on the bus is a "psycho" (as Jennie would say). On the longer trip to Portland I talked with a very interesting guy. He was an electrical engineer, who worked all over, including in Alberta. He was living on a former dairy farm which he was turning back into forest, much to the annoyance of his neighboring dairy farmers, although the only concrete objection they could come up with was that his trees were shading their pasture. Yeah, right. We talked about wind power (popular) and nuclear (unlikely in this area). I asked what he thought about electric cars. He thought they could be good but was concerned about the current battery technology and all the toxic chemicals either in car crashes or when they had to be disposed of. Good point. It was an interesting, wide ranging conversation that made the trip go by quickly.

I didn't even talk to the last person. He was the bartender at the hotel in Portland. (The lounge had a great view, comfy chairs, good lattes, and good food and wine, so I stopped there a number of times.) Every time, he was busy talking about climbing. It didn't seem to matter who the customer was, the conversation always seemed to end up about climbing. He was relatively new to it and obviously totally captivated. He reminded me of myself many years ago. I thought about talking to him but invariably the question would come up of what climbing I'd done and I didn't want my long history overshadowing his first steps. It was nice to hear his passion.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Urban Nature

Had a good day today at the Oregon Zoo and the Japanese Gardens.

The zoo seemed to be in off-season mode. A number of areas and exhibits were closed for construction and renovation. But there was still plenty to see. And off-season has the advantage of less crowds and more chances to observe in peace. I think it's great when kids go to the zoo, but sometimes the screaming hordes can be trying!

I spent some time watching the penguins - Humboldt penguins from Peru. They're so comical waddling around on the ground, and so fluid swimming underwater. They can swim incredibly fast. I guess that makes sense when you need to catch fish and evade predators.

If you're at the zoo (or even if you're not) it's worth visiting the Japanese Gardens. In the summer you can get there by taking the zoo train. Off-season you can take the bus or walk. I'd always taken the zoo train before and didn't realize how nice the walk is. The park is the Hoyt Arboretum and there are all kinds of trees. The flowering magnolias were fantastic. The trails can be confusing but there are maps every so often and people are quite helpful. (The trails connect to Forest Park and go for miles if you want a longer walk or run.)

I find the Japanese Gardens very peaceful and meditative. Bit it's hard to capture with photographs.

The rose gardens are also close by, and worth a visit if they're flowering.

To get to the zoo the Max light rail goes right from downtown to the zoo entrance. The zoo is outside the free rail area so you need to buy a ticket. The easiest option is the day pass for $4.95 which you can get from the machines at the Max stops.

Between the zoo and the gardens and the walk in between, this is a very pleasant way to spend a day.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Last Leg

It never fails, whenever I start to feel proud of some accomplishment, I discover I've screwed up.

It was a beautiful sunny morning when I left Cannon Beach. I didn't get away till 8am because I had to wait for the coffee shop to open :-) Which wouldn't have been a big deal except I had to get around several points that were only passable at low tide. I wasn't sure when low tide was exactly, but it seemed to be rising already.

I made good time on the smooth beach in the sunshine. I even saw a group of Tufted Puffins bobbing in the water. They nest on Haystack Rock near Cannon Beach. (FYI: A group of puffins has many collective nouns, including a "burrow", "circus", "colony", "improbability", and "puffinry" of puffins.)

It was a little tricky getting round the final point - had to take off my boots to wade a creek and then scramble round slippery rocks with sharp barnacles over the rising water. So I was quite proud of myself when I made it to the other side.

But soon after I started to wonder if the beach matched where I was supposed to be. Sure enough, I'd gone one point too far. I'd thought I was at Hug Point but I'd really been at Arch Cape. No wonder it had been tricky - I wasn't supposed to be there!

The thing was, the route goes inland before Arch Cape. I didn't much feel like going back, especially with the rising water. With the help of my iPhone maps and GPS I managed to sneak through the yard of a beach house and follow back roads to join back up with the route. In the end it worked out well, maybe even a little nicer than the official route.

After my morning on the beach, I spent the afternoon back in the forest, muddier after yesterday's rain. Some even bigger big trees here in Oswald West State Park. Some rivaled the big stumps.

I also saw three red bellied or Oregon newts. They were all in about a 100m stretch of the trail and quite lethargic, probably because it was still quite cool in the forest.

Later, on Cape Falcon I saw five garter snakes. The first three had very dark, dull coloring, but the next two were brighter. They were out soaking up the heat of the sun on south facing slopes.

There used to be a campsite in Oswald West State Park, but a tree fell down and they decided it was too dangerous and closed it. It seems a bit odd, trees have fallen on the trail all over the place and they don't close them. And you can still picnic in the camping area. Maybe they think the trees only fall at night? I was hoping I might be able to sneak in and use the campsite even though it was closed. By the time I got there I was ready to call it a day. But the campsite is right beside the trail to a busy beach and there were people everywhere. Camping there without anyone noticing seemed improbable. (In hindsight I wonder if they might have been happy to find an excuse to close the campsite. It imagine it would have been a real surfer and party hangout.)

Q. How can you tell you're within a kilometer of a road?
A. You start to see people.

Or from the other perspective, if you want to get away from people, just walk a kilometer from the nearest road. Actually, less than a kilometer if it's uphill. There were probably a hundred people at the beach, but ten minutes walk past there were none. Which was a good thong because I was looking for somewhere to camp where I wouldn't be discovered. I eventually found a spot. I'd been on my feet for eight hours with only short breaks and I was glad to stop. Unfortunately, as is common along here, the highway is close to the coast and I could hear the traffic going by. Especially the logging trucks, which seemed incongruous with my camp in the midst of the few remining giant trees. Cognitive dissonance.

The forecast was for rain to start in the night but I awoke to a dry tent for the first time, always more pleasant to pack!

The route from here crossed the highway, climbed 1500 ft over Neahkahnie Mountain and then descended to return to the highway only a few kilometers after it left. As much as I dislike walking on the highway, I decided to forego going over the mountain since I had another reasonably long day ahead.

I wad glad it was early in the day and not too much traffic. There's almost no shoulder and the logging trucks don't like to make room for anyone. I had to shake my head at one point when there was a sign for the Oregon Coast Cycling Route. At that point there was about two inches of shoulder. Wishing don't make it so.

I reached the town of Manzanita just after 8am and was happy to discover a coffee shop open already. A latte and a muffin primed me to hit the beach.

From here the trail goes down a long peninsula at the end of which you need to get a boat to ferry you across. I phoned the number on the map and it rang and rang and rang. I looked at the alternate route - about 15 km of walking on the highway - yuck. After ringing a dozen times someone finally answered and thankfully the ferry was arranged.

The ten km down the beach of the peninsula took about an hour and a half. On the phone they'd said they pick up at the point so I called from there. From across the river she tried to spot me with binoculars. It turned out I wasn't quite in the right spot. I was supposed to head upstream a little, but not to disturb the seals. Sure enough, there was a big group of seals flaked out on the sand. I don't think I disturbed them, only one or two even got up the energy to raise their heads to look at me.

It was a quick trip across the river. The guy on the boat said they had a "walker" working for them. He came out and said hello. He'd walked the entire Oregon Coast Trail a few years ago. He was quite disappointed to hear I was only hiking for five days and tried to convince me to at least take two more days to go round Three Capes.

Soon after, the rain arrived. Never too hard, but it continued for the rest of the day off and on. It would stop long enough for me to take off my rain pants and then it would start up again.

There was supposed to be a county park campground just before Garibaldi. I managed to find it, but it wasn't near the beach and didn't seem too appealing. I decided to keep going to Garibaldi. It didn't turn out to be too appealing either - more industrial than touristy. Two rather seedy looking bars ("Bikers Welcome"), a Dairy Queen, and, thankfully, a coffee shop. Thank goodness Oregon likes its espresso! I passed the bus stop and there was a bus to Tillamook in an hour. I headed for the coffee shop. They were in the process of closing so I scarfed down a latte and a raspberry scone. Still with time to kill I stopped at the Dairy Queen to satisfy a craving for salt and grease with an order of french fries.

I thought Tillamook might offer some nicer places to stay, but if so I didn't find them. There was a Holiday Inn but it was out in big box land on the outskirts of town. So I ended up here in a rather low end motel. But it has free wifi and it's close to the bus stop. And as far as Google tells me, the restaurant next door is one of the few decent options.

So I'm showered and fed and I'm out of the rain. And I'm set to catch the bus back to Portland tomorrow. Mission accomplished, despite a few hiccups.

Location:2nd St,Tillamook,United States

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pit Stop in Cannon Beach

After a day and a half of hiking down the flat beach I switched gears and spent a day and a half hiking up and down through temperate rain forest in Ecola State Park. I camped at a walk in site almost 1000 ft above the ocean. Hard work going uphill but fantastic views. And pretty muddy in spots - after all it is rainforest! Lots of nice big trees, although sadly not as big as the huge stumps left over from logging (many years ago). Some of those big trees fall over on the trail making for some challenging clambering!

It's the weekend so 5 or 6 other people showed up at the campsite. And of course they stayed up half the night talking and singing around a fire. On the plus side whoever was playing the guitar was very talented. I, of course, didn't talk to anyone!

I had assumed an official campsite would have a source of water but no such luck. I ended up hiking downhill and bushwhacking into a steep gorge to reach a creek.

I woke to find the campsite engulfed in cloud with light rain falling. It drizzled off and on all morning but nothing too serious. Contrary to the map, I managed to stay on trails instead of roads almost all the way to Cannon Beach. A fair bit of up and down and mud, but lovely forest and great views. It was warm in the forest, but on the exposed coast the wind was blasting hard enough to make it difficult walking.

In Cannon Beach I stopped for coffee at Bella Espresso- coincidentally the same place Shelley and I had stopped last time we were here. And the same place where I had overheard people talking about the Oregon Coast Trail which planted the seeds for this hike.

I'm ahead of schedule so I decided to stop overnight in Cannon Beach. And since I seemed to be stopping for coffee every day I figured it wouldn't hurt to shower before I got too ripe. I used the cafe wifi to find a place to stay. I thought I'd been pretty clever, but I hadn't paid enough attention to the location. It turned out to be almost 2 miles south of town. Which wouldn't have been so bad except that by this point it was pouring rain. Oh well, that's what rain gear is for! I tried not to drip on the registration desk too much.

The shower and clean clothes felt good and luckily there's a bakery across the street (where I'm hanging out drinking coffee and connecting to wifi) and a restaurant two doors down. So I don't have to walk 2 miles in the rain for supper. Uphill both ways :-) Or I could eat my camping food, but somehow the restaurant seems more appealing!

Actually, it's not so bad being out of town. It's not like I wanted to shop for cheesy tourist souvenirs. I missed the bookstore, but the last thing I need is books to carry!

Hopefully it won't be raining too much in the morning. It's always hard leaving a warm dry building to head out into the rain.

Location:S Hemlock St,Cannon Beach,United States

Friday, April 16, 2010

Beach Time

This is a pretty civilized hike! I'm in Seaside having a latte and catching up on Internet.

Yesterday I took the local bus from Astoria to Warrenton and then to Fort Stevens State Park. The only problem with local buses is that they assume everyone is a local and knows the routine. I had to ask for help and directions a few times. It was foggy and drizzling in the morning but my luck held and by the time I started hiking it had stopped. The trickiest route finding was through the state park. Once you hit the beach it's hard to go wrong! By the end of the afternoon the sky had cleared and I was down to a t-shirt in the sunshine.

The beach has been great, easy walking on nice firm sand. Waves crashing, sea gulls sqawking, shore birds running and flying. Even a pair of bald eagles, one adult and one juvenile (head not white yet) feeding on a seabird carcass.

The only drawback is that vehicles are allowed on the beach. So I was never far from a big truck with a young white driver with a baseball cap and a cigarette. I'm not sure what the attraction is to driving slowly up and down the beach. Thankfully the speed limit is only 25 km/hr.

I was figuring I'd just camp in the dunes behind the beach, but when I headed up there in the late afternoon I found there were houses only 200 yards away. I found the best spot I could between the mansions and the cruising trucks Not exactly a wilderness experience, but I knew that before I started. It was actually quite peaceful once the sun went down. I won't say quiet because the crashing waves are actually quite noisy.

I slept well although it was surprisingly cold. No frost, but it felt like it. I was a bit shocked to discover far more vehicles on the beach than the day before! I soon realized the tide was out and they were digging for clams. They didn't seem to be finding much, which isn't surprising given the number of people out there.

I packed up and threaded my way between the pickup trucks. It was a nice morning. A few hours hiking brought me to Gearhart where I was forced to leave the beach and walk the highway to get across a river. This led me to Seaside where I stopped for coffee. Next I'll head for Ecola State Park.

It's very different hiking down the beach instead of in the forest or the mountains. You don't need to pay too much attention to the walking and the sand and waves go on unchanging for miles. It's gives your mind plenty of time to roam.

Location:S Ocean Ave,Gearhart,United States

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Journeying On

Stepping out of the Granville Island hotel at 5:30am, I was a bit surprised to be met by rain. Not that rain is surprising in Vancouver, but it had been so nice the day before. Thankfully it barely drizzled on me. It was nice not to get soaked before the train ride!

I took the Amtrak train from Vancouver to Portland. There was a little customs and security since it was across the border, but minor compared to flying these days. The train ride was pleasant.

We got to Portland about 3pm. It was beautiful weather - sunny and warm. Lots of people out biking and running. I could easily have taken public transportation to the hotel - Portland is good for that. But it was such a nice day I walked along the paths by the river. Spring is even further along here, with lots of flowers blooming.

It took about 30 minutes to walk to Riverplace Hotel. It's in a great spot overlooking the river. And they'd given me a free upgrade to a suite. A little wasted on me by myself, but still nice.

I had an early supper in the hotel lounge (the restaurant didn't open till later). A nice roasted pepper soup with a salad. And a glass of Pinot Noir that Oregon is known for.

With Google's help I took the streetcar and then the Max light train to the zoo. The only glitch was that the electronic display of stops was incorrect and by the time I figured that out I had missed my stop. But it was no problem to hop out and catch a train going back the other direction.

I went to the zoo to hear a lecture on condor reintroduction in Arizona. It is pretty amazing how condors were down to 22 captive birds (none left on the wild) and are now gradually making a comeback thanks to reintroduction.

The speaker was good. But he was a hunter, which always seems incongrous to me. But as much as I don't care for hunting, their organizations have done a lot for conservation. For example, Ducks Unlimited and their preservation of wetlands. I'd rather they had a different motivation but conservation can use whatever help it can get.

This morning I walked back along the river to the train station to catch the bus to Astoria on the coast. I have to shake my head when I take public transportation to be more sustainable and end up on a 50 seat bus with only four passengers! This is the off season and no doubt they are busier in the summer. What they need is a more flexible system where they could switch to a smaller vehicle like a van when it made sense.

Here in Astoria I'm staying at the Cannery Pier Hotel. Shelley and I stumbled into this hotel a few years ago when we were driving down the coast and really liked it. It's in a restored cannery on a pier over the water. It's not cheap but it's a lovely hotel.

Amazingly, the weather is continuing beautiful and sunny. I just hope I get some of this nice weather while I'm hiking.

Tomorrow I'll take the bus to as close to the start of the hiking as I can. I've enjoyed the fancy hotels and restaurants but I'm looking forward to getting out on my own and hiking and camping on the beach.

Location:Marine Dr,Astoria,United States

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Joy of Travel

I love to travel, as you may have gathered :-)

My life at home is as comfortable and familiar as an old shoe. I go from familiar home to familiar work by familiar paths. I have my routines, and honestly, I like it that way. My stress level is low (usually!) and I can focus on my work and indulge my reading habit.

To travel is to leave all that behind, to embrace uncertainty. No familiar places, no familiar paths. Constant choices since there are no preset routines. There's a certain amount of stress and tension in that, and it can make people scared to step outside their comfort zone. But it's also interesting, exciting, rejuvenating. Life wasn't meant to be tame and predictable all the time.

And you can always mix in some familiarity when need be. A visit to Starbucks is a return to a comfort zone. Going back to the same city or hotel also takes away some of the uncertainty. The trick is to keep it new without being too stressful. Everyone has different limits.

This trip isn't to anywhere exotic, it's not to Asia or South America. But it's still got the essence of travel, new places, new faces, different things to do. Different sights and sounds and smells. I think we need this kind of adventure in our lives sometimes.

The train arrived an hour early in Vancouver. I'd planned to take the Aquabus but it wasn't running yet. That was ok, it's a pleasant 3km shoreline walk along False Creek, past the new Olympic village.

Vancouver always makes me feel a bit like the small town boy I am. I can't help gawk at all the big buildings and soaring bridges. And I can't help being a little jealous of the ocean and that it's not only green here but the flowering bushes and trees are in full force. Especially having left Saskatoon right after a blizzard! But that's another benefit of travel - to remind yourself that the small corner of the world where you live is just that.

It's a beautiful morning, some light clouds but the sun is shining through and feels warm. The turtles in the pond by Granville Island must agree. They've crawled out of the cold water to absorb the sunshine.

The ducks and grebes were busy and a great blue heron stood on a rock surveying the scene.

I was lucky the hotel had a room ready despite my early arrival at 9:30am. Then it was a toss up whether coffee or shower came first. Coffee won :-)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Riding the Rails

So far I'm enjoying traveling by train. It's so different from traveling by airplane. It's very casual, no id, no security, no scans, no xrays, no showing your laptop, no taking your shoes off. No endlessly repeated lectures on seat belts and electronic devices and earphones. 

There haven't been many people, in the stations or on the train. That suits me fine.  

It's very slow paced. No one exhibits the slightest signs of urgency. The train crawls out of the station and then stops 500m down the track. Inexplicable slowdowns and stops are frequent. But when you're in for the duration and you're not worried about connections, it's no big deal.

Relative to a plane, there's lots of legroom and the aisles are spacious. There's even space to turn around in the bathroom.

The passengers are a motley collection of tourists, young people, seniors, and strays like me. No high powered business types. No one in a suit. And so far, no families with kids.  

It's a bit like traveling by car. You can watch the scenery go by and you've got lots of time to think. But you don't have to drive! Or worry about road conditions or crazy drivers. Kind of nice. I like it.

I'm traveling by train because I don't think airplane travel is sustainable. It burns too much fossil fuel and so far no one has any idea how to get around that. We can have electric cars (powered by renewable energy) but electric planes aren't too feasible. Trains are more efficient and even though they currently burn fossil fuels as well, at least they have the potential to be powered by renewable energy (unlike planes).

As with most individual "green" choices, my taking the train will have little or no effect on the big picture. But as Gandhi said,  "You must be the change you want to see in the world." 

Sunrise from the Edmonton train station

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Empire of Illusion

Acting, politics, and sports have become, as in Nero's reign, interchangeable. - Empire of Illusions

I recently read Empire of Illusions by Pulitzer prize–winning author Chris Hedges. I found it quite horrifying to read about aspects of our culture from wrestling to porn to universities to corporations to politics. (As you may have gathered by now, I'm afraid I'm not a big fan of our current society!)

With our access to so much information these days, there's a danger of only looking at stuff you agree with. And, like hiring people who will always agree with you, it's not very helpful. I know I'm susceptible to this to a certain degree. But I like to think I'm open to anything that's objective and has some scientific basis. That's a bias too, I guess, but it's not one I'm quite ready to give up on.

More and more I think the United States is on it's way down a major decline. It's easy to say "they're so big and powerful, that can never happen". But every other empire has declined in the end, with similar signs portending their demise. Refusing to admit this possibility is a bit like saying "I know every one else dies eventually, but not me, I'm going to live forever".

Of course, that raises the question of what's going to happen to Canada. We're closely tied to the USA and we have many of the same problems. But in other ways we're quite different. In any case, it's hard to imagine it not having major affects on us.

Anyway, if you don't mind being horrified, I would definitely recommend the book.

Friday, April 02, 2010

The Blind Side

I watched the movie The Blind Side recently. I enjoyed it. It was a feel good, rags to riches, happy ending movie. Sandra Bullock was entertaining and likable as usual. But ...

I used to hate it when people would dissect movies and books and talk about cultural meaning. I just wanted the entertainment, don't give me deep meaning! That probably had something to do with hating school and how "studying" a book was pretty much a sure fire way to destroy any enjoyment you might have gotten from it.

It also probably doesn't help that I'm in the middle of reading Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle which has only deepened my disillusionment over our culture.

So I couldn't help myself from looking at this movie from a cultural viewpoint.

Rich white family takes poor black boy off the street and he becomes a football star. It's based on real people and events.

The father owns a bunch of fast food outlets. Great, he gets rich while destroying the health of a whole generation. At one point, he is asked what happens to the leftover food from the restaurants and whether they could give it to the needy. He halfheartedly supposes they could look into it, but it's never mentioned again.

The mother (Sandra Bullock) is an interior decorator/designer - someone who helps people spend money on stuff they didn't know they needed. There's a productive, valuable role in society.

They live in a huge ostentatious mansion, which, of course, is what we're all supposed to aspire to. They sit around and watch TV and drink soda pop.

When Michael (the poor black boy) moves in with them, what is the first thing the mother teaches him? Family values? No, she asks him if he knows how to shop and tells him she's going to teach him. Shopping - the number one pastime in our culture. Buying stuff you don't need, 99% of which ends up in the trash, which of course is necessary so you can buy more stuff you don't need. The loser is the environment - destroyed by the extraction of resources necessary to make the stuff, and destroyed by the pollution from all the discarded stuff.

Michael ends up in a rich white private christian school. He gets in because the coach manipulatively uses "christian" arguments in a thinly veiled cover over wanting to get a big black guy on his football team. They make this obvious in the movie, like it's a good thing to manipulate this way.

Michael only manages to get good enough marks to get a football scholarship because the rich family hires a private tutor for him.

And what is the moral of the story? That if you're incredibly win the lottery lucky, you can get picked up off the street, taken to live in a huge mansion with rich folks who will teach you to shop and buy you a big "red-neck" truck (their words) and become a rich, famous, football celebrity. (and presumably get your own mansion). A modern day Cinderella story I guess.

But it's what kids have been brainwashed to want these days - to be "discovered", to get on American Idol or Survivor, or to win the lottery. More than twice as many people apply to MTV's Real World show than to Harvard. (from Empire of Illusion)

There's not much redeeming value here. There's no message about working hard to succeed. Michael is portrayed as passive, basically just going along with these miraculous events. (Presumably the real life character had to work hard at school and at football, but that's not shown in the movie.) He's not even following a dream of playing football. At the end he's asked if he enjoys it. He evades the question and just says he guesses he's good at it.

It wouldn't be so bad if the message was "work hard and dream of striking it rich", or "do what you love and make the most of your talents". But in our culture it has become "sit around and watch TV and go shopping, and pin your hopes on being discovered". Is it any surprise that most people aren't very happy?