Friday, April 29, 2011

Narnia News

It's no secret that I have really enjoyed all three of the Chronicles of Narnia films so far, and I've always hoped that they would continue making them, and proceed with the original ordering that they have so far maintained. However, recently I came across this bit of news:

Confirmed: Walden is Talking With Fox About Making The Magician’s Nephew


I am not okay with this.

I love the idea of making The Magician's Nephew into a movie.  AFTER The Silver Chair and The Horse and His Boy.  If they do this, it's like skipping The Return of the King and going back to make The Hobbit instead.  Where's the respect for the series as a whole?  I'm going to take this quite resolutely as a rumor for now (the key word here isn't "confirmed," it's "talking").  The Magician's Nephew is one of my favorite chronicles, and I'm sure it would be a fantastic movie, but it just makes me a little anxious.  It's great that Fox has picked up the series, after Disney shamefully dropped it, I just hope they all do the right thing with it.  But I have to say I am glad they didn't make it first.

It makes me sad, but if they are going to jump around or skip chronicles, I almost wish they would just leave it how it is.  It's a sort of nice trilogy, and the Pevensies' involvement is for the most part over, at least as the characters most involved in the story.

Come on, The Silver Chair!  Inspire them!  I know you can do it!

Thursday, April 28, 2011


After only recently wondering when a new trailer would at last be released, I saw this little number for the first time last night:


Also recently revealed was this official poster:
Although my slight displeasure that this book was split into two movies (for obviously monetary reasons, to draw the franchise out just that much longer, since they didn't bother to split any of the previous, sometimes even longer books into two parts) is well-documented, I did really like the first one, and like it more each time I see it, and I can't possibly deny that this looks AMAZING. Now I am pretty much counting down the days for the next three months...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hairs: They Sometimes Go Gray*

Last night I was talking to The Wife when she stopped me mid-sentence and, with much concentration, turned my head to the side.  She slowly examined my head around my temple, and then it happened...

She pulled out a gray hair.
Now I know how Richard felt.  I guess his gray hairs were a lot longer time coming though.  LOST reference!  Oh, how I miss it.
They say going gray is a sign of getting "old," and though I'm not paranoid about turning 30 this year or anything, finding a stray gray did kind of take me by surprise (for all I know, there are a lot more, this is just one that happened to go noticed).  In high school a friend occasionally teased me that I had grayish hair, and I think I might have for whatever reason, but since then it has darkened into a nice, healthy brown.  I guess eventually the time comes for it to slowly go gray for real.  (And this might not actually be my first gray hair, but I'm pretty sure it's the first one that made itself evident and brought itself to my attention.)  Of course I can handle it, as long as it's, you know, slowly.  Now I'm just trying to remember when my dad and older brother started to show some gray hairs.

I guess this means I am all grown up.

* Alternate blogpost titles include "When Good Hairs Go Bad" and "The Graying of the Hairs." 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Non-Denominational Springtime Sort-Of Holiday Weekend

For those who are wondering why I gave this post such a ridiculous title, see this link.  I'm not going to elaborate on it, because it's absolutely ridiculous, but in this day and age when Christmas is under annual attack, it shouldn't come as a big surprise.  I will say that, erm, eggs are NOT even spherical.  *shakes head*

Anyway, we had a blessed Easter weekend, and I will now outline some of the events that took place.

On Saturday morning, we attended our stake 5K for our April race.   We had planned on doing one in Pleasant Grove that day, but there was some inconsistent information online, and it turned out to be a lot more expensive than we thought, and they didn't even have t-shirts unless you registered like three weeks early...  So when I received an email update a couple days before the event, we decided to support our stake instead (and it was free anyway!).

There were about 35-40 runners present, and it was a fun course that followed the paths along the Provo River.  It was a cloudy, chilly morning, but a good way to start Easter weekend.  The race was actually a little less than a full 5K, but I placed second at 20:14 (plus about a minute, when I kept running to make it 3.1 miles), coming in just seconds after the hardcore winner (I knew he was hardcore because he had long Under Armour pants and wasn't wearing any shoes), and Julie came in soon after.  They even had prizes!  Sort of.
They gave lanyards to everyone who participated, and for coming in second I was given a certificate (made out to "Drew Grahm") and a blue Gatorade.  Score!  The rest of Saturday was spent at Mom's house for Britney's bridal shower (I had a tea party in the attic with the toddler nieces) and having dinner and a HP7.1 party with Cami and Jake.

We also did a little grocery shopping for the coming week, and I was dismayed to find that they were completely picked clean of decent Easter candy, including Peeps.  I don't need much these days by way of Easter treats, but I always need a pack or two of Peeps, and I remember last year we had trouble finding them on Easter Eve as well (I mean, I know it's the day before, but come on, stock enough of the basics!), and ended up finding them at Walgreens the next Monday, which we figured we would do again this year.  I said something overdramatic on Facebook about my sorrow at not having been able to find Peeps, which started a brief and amusing discussion between me and my friends about the deliciousness (or not) of these sugary marshmallow treats, when something magical happened...  It was after midnight when we were startled by a knock at the door.  I hesitantly turned on the porch light and looked outside, when what did I see left on the doorstep?
They're even my favorite color!  I will take Peeps of any kind, but I'm attracted to all things blue, so that was a bonus.
It was such a little thing, but at the time it was one of those amazing little moments that makes you feel all tingly and giddy.  It was an Easter candy miracle!  We thought it might have been the sort of mystery we never solve (perhaps we would determine that the culprit is the same still-anonymous giver of the Wii game from last Christmas), but it didn't take long to discover that the party responsible was one of my mission friends who had been involved in the Great Facebook Peep Debate (and who happens to dislike Peeps, much to his wife's dismay, as she had bought some for him).  I'm so glad the unwanted Peeps were given a good home where they were certainly wanted.  I still think it was some kind of a miracle though, in that it was such a delightful and thoughtful thing to do, right?

Sunday was also very nice, and I wore my new pink tie that The Wife picked out--I'm not too cool for a nice pink tie.  Although I'm sometimes annoyed that our ward choir performs every week at church (except Fast Sunday), I still feel like I need to support it and participate and increase its membership numbers.  This week we sang this:

I have performed it with bigger and more... trained choirs in the past, and in much bigger venues, but the beauty and truth of this piece affected me this time just as much as it ever has.  I'm not ashamed to admit that I shed tears during the last verse, and especially the final lines.

We then had a great family dinner at my oldest sister's house, where Julie's maple dijon asparagus was a big hit, and there were incredible desserts, of which I'm not embarrassed to say that I had plenty.  I helped hide eggs, and then proceeded to help make sure the younger kids found some of them (we found some pretty good spots).
(Thanks to Amber for the pictures, which I swiped from her blog.)
Dad also shared a "special part" of a video he saw on the news earlier that morning, and which he recorded and copied onto DVDs for everyone (it can be seen here).  It's an entertaining Easter musical number by a huge group of people who aren't afraid to celebrate and proclaim their faith--and then, why not turn the event into a service project?  Christian pop is hit-and-miss, but I thought this was pretty neat.  I love how some of the dancers are obviously experienced, but others are there purely for the joy of expressing what they believe.

Easter is a delight, and this weekend was pretty much perfect.  I always get a really strong urge to watch The Passion of the Christ this time of year...  Maybe sometime I'll experience that epic movie again.

P.S.  While I'm at it, why not link to this as well?  A lot of people were linking to it on Facebook over the weekend.  I finally watched it today and thought it was inspiring.  I've always liked Carrie Underwood (and will often remind people that I picked her to win just from her audition, back in my American Idol-watching days), and as much as I don't generally care for country music, one thing that must be said of them is that they're not afraid to sing the praises of Jesus. Bravo, Carrie.

Spring Spheres? NONSENSE. Happy Easter, one and all.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

You've Just Gone to Work and Had Lunch, What Are You Going to Do Next??

We're going to Disney World*!!!!
That's right.  We are heading to Orlando.  In just over two weeks.  And I am reeling with excitement!  Last time we went to Disneyland (which was, after all, six whole months ago), I told The Wife, "I think our next Disney trip just might have to be to Orlando."  She wasn't against the idea, but we both weren't sure if it would end up happening for whatever reason.  Most of you probably know that I spent a semester living and working there for the College Program, and those who knew me then will recall that I had a hard time adjusting to some of the living conditions and the amoral habits of my assigned roommates...  But I made friends with the kids at the local church branch, and I really did love working at the parks and having free access to visit them whenever I felt like it.  I even grew to love working in my take-it-or-leave-it assignment in Outdoor Foods, where I maintain to this day that I made the BEST popcorn at what was then called Disney-MGM Studios, and where I made a few friends that I'm still in touch with.  But that was almost ten years ago, and Julie has never even been (after all, her first visit to Disneyland was only a few years ago, though of course she has been there several times since).  A lot has changed at the parks in a decade, but I know so much of it will be just as I remember it.  (For example, I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to sign up for the American Idol Experience they have there now...)  I know there are also a lot of renovations on their way to the Florida Disney parks, but by the time they come around, it will be a lot more crowded there, and besides, I want to experience it again as close to how it was when I was last there as possible.
Time for a little stroll down Memory Lane...  I did sell a little ice cream too, but it wasn't as much fun, and it was a pain to push those carts around at open and close.  Eventually I was "promoted" to a Stocker, so I was able to spend a lot more time walking around the park and interacting with guests.
The popcorn wagons were better to work in because they were indoor and air-conditioned, and it was more interesting to make popcorn and serve fountain drinks.  I don't know why, but Disney popcorn seems to taste better than popcorn from anywhere else, and at the Studios, it's better even than at any of the other parks.  I passed the time by drawing Disney characters on napkins and handing them out to young guests, much to their parents' delight at a free and unique souvenir.  It was my attempt at being discovered.
And yes, I made good friends with Jasmine (of course), as the parade route went right past our backstage office every day.
Graduation!  It was bittersweet.
So a few months ago I became a little more active about checking out deals and prices and the best times to go.  I wanted Julie's first experience there to be with as small of crowds and as pleasant in climate (and as reasonable in price) as possible.  As it turns out, most sources indicate that the best times of year to go are mid-April to mid-May, and then in September, and then, surprisingly, the few down weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I thought we should go sooner than later, so April sounded perfect.  A little more research indicated that the weeks surrounding Easter weekend are among the busiest times of year, and Easter is unusually late this year, so mid-April, which would have been great (and which would have been now) was out.  But all was not lost, as my sources showed that considering crowds, weather and prices, the first week of May was one of the best weeks to go.  I saved a couple of tentative bookings, then decided to look into travel agencies, one in particular that I know of as a sponsor for one of the Disney-related podcasts I listen to weekly.  I was very surprised to discover that most Disney travel agencies don't charge clients anything additional for their services, so I thought there was no harm in requesting a package price quote.  The ones I received were very reasonable, and even a little better than the ones I found directly from Disney (and which included a few perks, like a free giftcard just for booking through them).  There was even a great resort deal for the week we were trying to book, as long as we booked it soon.  Still, our plans were sort of on hold--we were waiting for some work-related scheduling to clear up, to make sure we would even be around that week.  We put whatever booking we could on hold, and held off on the rest until we could be sure.  Just a few days ago, that week cleared right up, and we made our final bookings.  :D

So we're going!  It falls almost exactly in between our birthdays, so we'll take advantage of that celebration, and heck, our anniversary is coming up too, why not throw that in the celebration mix?  I couldn't possibly let an entire decade pass in between visits, and I'm so excited to expand Julie's experience with Disney theme parks.  She was initially a little hesitant that anything could possibly top Disneyland, but I have explained that Walt Disney World doesn't have to replace the original park, it just enhances it, and helps you appreciate the great and unique things about both coasts even more.  It'll take her a minute to get her bearings in the wider pathways of the Magic Kingdom and in front of the much bigger castle (and "WHERE," she will demand, "is the Matterhorn??"), but she'll get the hang of it in no time.  I think she's going to adore Animal Kingdom with all its many creatures, and we'll surely stop by the UK in Epcot for some fish & chips.

Another amazing coincidence is that we will be there when Cami and her family swing by on their way to their exciting Disney cruise, so we can meet up in the Magic Kingdom!   I'm going to have to start putting together a tentative itinerary and look into dining and park schedules and hours.

...Is it 30 April yet?

*  I know the official name is Walt Disney World (the training of proper terminology was drilled in us pretty hard), but that's the traditional saying, so I went with it.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Prydain: I Really Like It

As you may or may not recall, I received as a birthday present the full set of The Chronicles of Prydain.  I read them once, many years ago as a sophomore in high school, and I enjoyed them and meant to re-read them some day, but I never did.  When I saw over Christmas break at the library that there was a nice new edition recently published, complete with beautiful new cover art, I made sure to mention it to The Wife.  Just as she surprised me hiding them one at a time throughout the house on my birthday, I was surprised and delighted as I soon after started reading through each one.  It's been so long, it was for the most part like reading them for the first time.  I won't take the time to review each of them here (you can find my full reviews on Goodreads, if you're interested), but I felt like I should write something about them, since I enjoyed them ever so much.  I feel like I have so much to say!  Where do I even begin?  I mean, I read all five of these books in barely three weeks.
The five books in The Chronicles of Prydain tell the story of Taran Assistant Pig-Keeper and his journey from just that, a kid of indeterminate background who dreams of the glory of battle and gaining the honor of men, to a man and discovers what's really important.  Along the way he meets the feisty, sharp-tongued Princess Eilonwy, the utterly loyal creature Gurgi, the wandering king-bard Fflewddur Fflam with a magical harp that keeps his tall-tale telling in check, and the ever-grumbling but ever-faithful dwarf Doli.  The super evil baddie Arawn Death-Lord (along with his ruthless Huntsmen of Annuvin and the horrific army Cauldron-Born) is an awesome villain, an ever-present threat and yet hardly ever seen face-to-face.  The land of Prydain is definitely a fantasy world, but still feels like it could be rooted in history (the author drew on Welsh legends for inspiration).  It's rich and full and the characters are so very well-written, and there are many themes about honor, humility, redemption and sacrifice.  There were times I felt like there was a lot more to what I was reading than what was on the surface, and repeated readings would surely be in order.  After reading quite a few lame and badly-written modern book series (I'm looking at you, Ms. Meyer and Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles...), it was refreshing to read something basically new to me that was very well-written and full of delightful (or terrifying!) characters.  I was surprised to discover that Lloyd Alexander is American, his writing has such an authentic European feel to it.  He shows, rather than tells, and proves that less often is truly more.  In fact, Taran's physical appearance is practically never described, yet I feel like I know him quite well.  The heroes are noble, the villains are threatening, the action is thrilling and convincing, the romance is innocent, the humor is genuine, the themes are strong, and they're all in great balance.  Each of the chronicles is fairly short (the longest isn't even 250 pages), so they're quick reads, but they're chock-full of great stuff, and don't read like children's books.  This is a story about good vs. evil, and it feels like classic fantasy.  Each tells a fairly stand-alone story, but the overarching plot is masterfully woven throughout each novel, and I loved how certain elements and characters resurfaced and came full-circle, even if they seemed at first minor or irrelevant.  It's like a well-forged sword, or a fine tapestry, or a beautiful piece off the potter's wheel or something.

Relatedly, many will already know that the Disney animated version is a combination of the stories from the first two books (and a couple elements from the other three).  It took a long long time to produce, and at the time was pretty revolutionary for the studio, but it wasn't very well-received.   It's sort of considered by many to be the black sheep of the Disney canon, but, even though it takes some pretty serious liberties with the story and some of the characters, I think it's a pretty nice adaptation in many ways.  It's pretty dark and grim, but that's more or less fitting, and I think it's largely underrated as a movie.
So there you go, just a little plug for what seems like a relatively unknown and underappreciated series.  It's been around for several decades, and won many notable awards, it just seems like a lot of other books have a lot more surrounding hype and excitement.  It was written in the mid-'60s, and although the writing doesn't exactly sound contemporary, far from seeming dated, it still somehow feels timeless.  I think a full-on faithful movie adaptation would be glorious (I thought more than once about who I would cast, though I think a bunch of unknowns would be the best choice in the end), but I just don't anticipate that happening for some reason.  I don't think it's a perfect series, but I think it's excellent.  There were a couple of relationships that I would have liked to see a little more fleshed-out and characters I would have liked to have explored a little more, or that were a little bit one-dimensional, but how can I complain when the journey was such a delight?  Julie asked me last night where I rank it relative to Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, and I guess I would have to put it below all of those, but only very slightly.  I just devoured these books, and I love the characters so much.  As I said in my last Goodreads review, after I finished, I didn't want to start reading something else immediately, I just wanted to let this series sit in my mind for a little while. I can't wait to read the supplemental follow-up novel of short stories that precede the events of The Chronicles. I really shouldn't have waited so long to reread these books. I think I might have to return to them every year or two. I miss Taran and Eilonwy already.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Twenty-Something No More II

So yes, thanks to all for standing by, as I requested in my last post.  I don't know why it takes me so long to follow through with blogposts I want to write, but anyway, here it is.

The Saturday after my birthday we had a bigger sort of birthday celebration.  I was a little anxious about hosting an event because (not to have a pity party here or anything) most times when we've recently tried to throw a party of some kind, the turnout is pretty embarrassing, if any show up at all.  Still, Julie wanted me to have a party for my 30th, and I knew my family would be able to come at least, so we decided to try it anyway.  It started early in the week when we invited dozens, maybe even a hundred friends and family to join in the fun.  We planned to meet at the dollar theater for a matinee showing of Tangled in 3D (we wouldn't have chosen to see it in 3D, but it was the only option available there for some reason), and then would head to our place for cake and ice cream.  It's true that Julie had made a cake on my actual birthday, which we enjoyed very much, but why not make another one for company?  Your birthday comes but once a year, right?  I bought some tickets early in the day, worried that they would sell out by the time the showing started, and on the way finally ran across some of those elusive Girl Scouts selling their cookies.  Score!  I've been carrying cash for weeks waiting for just such a chance meeting, since we missed out last year, never having cash when we saw them.

We met a great group of family and a few friends at the theater and the movie was wonderful as usual.  (The 3D was an unnecessary addition, but it was still pretty fun to see it that way, and for much cheaper than it would have been in the first-run theater.)  We went to our apartment and Julie's cake was quite delicious!  The mayonnaise chocolate cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting was a huge hit, and the strawberries added the perfect touch.  What a success.  I was glad not to have to blow out 30 candles, and the kids were glad for the miniature cupcakes we bought in case the cake ran out.  I was a little bummed that a small fraction of the invited people attended, and most of the people who actually said they would be there didn't show (which didn't help with my party-hosting anxiety), but we still had a great time, and Julie is an excellent hostess.

Is it perhaps the most beautiful birthday cake ever?  I submit it for your consideration.
To commemorate such a delightful cake, we bought these number candles and even a little kitchen lighter (you can just see it on the right, behind the cake), which seems like such a handy gadget to have in one's kitchen.
Um yeah, the cake didn't stand much of a chance.  We kept it for a while in case other guests showed up, but eventually the two of us had no problem finishing it off.

Julia has been liking me a lot lately.
Kids hiding out in the corner with their toys.  Whatever happened to running around and playing and such?  I guess if it had been nicer outside they might have done.
Jared and Gabe became pretty fast friends.  You can see Julia awaiting her turn.
Kwvtij (I am secretly sad because he and his wife are moving to St. Louis in just a few weeks).

There were delightful birthday surprises here and there throughout the next few days, including a hair cutting set from Julie's mom, which we wasted no time using.  The following Saturday we met with Lacie and Leland at Tucanos to use my birthday coupon there (and we didn't eat TOO much there this time, hurrah), and Julie and I both had smashing new haircuts.  For hers, we went to a salon, for mine, we went to our kitchen, where Julie used the new clippers expertly.  She was nervous to give her first haircut, but I had all confidence in her skills, and she did a great job.  It was my first haircut since my New Year's Day chop, but it was mostly a trim of the back and sides--I want to let it grow long again.  Some have said it looks professional.  How delightful that I have a wife willing and clearly able to cut my hair!
Here I am enjoying a delicious Sundae of the Month at the Creamery on Ninth.  Not their best sundae ever, but the point is that this is a pretty good shot of my clever wife's haircutting job.

So, there we go, the birthday festivities were multi-faceted and delightful.  Survivor gave me a birthday present a week early with the voting out of a certain despised player, and even Sunday morning, a surprise birthday present appeared to me covering the ground outside in the form of sparkling snow, a sort of delicate, fleeting parting gift from winter before it gets so wretchedly hot outside.  A few days ago we bought Tangled on DVD (and, apparently, of necessity, on Blu-ray), so I say that's a birthday present too.  I always loved how Disney movies seemed to be released around my birthday month.
For the record, some people found this very hard to find in stores, but we found it at the first place we looked.  We shopped around and eventually bought it elsewhere, but it was good to know it was at least there.  Also, I hope they don't start releasing every movie in the world in 3D.  Just let it die!  The movies are delightful on their own without a gimmick!  I might have bought the 3D edition had I found it at a decent price, but as I didn't, I didn't.

I only hope I can make The Wife's birthday as lovely as she made mine!  I guess I have a couple months to prepare for it, and so I shall!