Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Blogkeeping -- Fall 2011

Time to do a little house cleaning.  About every 100 movies or so I like to clean out the ol' movie roll along the right side there.  (Not much news on this post, sorry to say.  It's mostly for my own records or whatever.  Skip if it bores you!)  As I said the last time I did this, I have started including movies I've seen before in this roll (indicated with [r]).  This list, in reverse chronological order, actually ends more than three months ago (21 June 2011)--I'm a little behind. :/

Shrek Forever After: The Final Chapter ** 1/2 / The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers [r] ***** / Country Strong *** / How to Train Your Dragon [r] **** 1/2 / Monsters vs. Aliens ** 1/2 / Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa *** 1/2 / Kung Fu Panda [r] **** / Bee Movie ** 1/2 / The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring [r] ***** / 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure [r] *** / 101 Dalmatians [r] **** / I Am Number Four ** 1/2 / Super 8 *** 1/2 / Source Code *** 1/2 / A Mighty Wind [r] ***** / Shrek the Third ** 1/2 / The Office (Season 5) [r] **** 1/2 / Madagascar *** / Over the Hedge [r] *** / Skyline *** / Morning Glory *** / X-Men: First Class **** / Shark Tale * 1/2 / Shrek 2 [r] ** 1/2 / The King's Speech *** 1/2 / Upstairs Downstairs *** / The Roommate ** 1/2 / The Tourist *** 1/2 / Shrek [r] *** / Antz [r] ** 1/2 / Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides ** / The Office (Season 7) *** 1/2 / America's Next Top Model (Cycle 16) *** / Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End [r] *** / Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest [r] *** / Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl [r] *** 1/2 / Gremlins ** 1/2 / Return to Neverland [r] *** / Peter Pan [r] **** / Survivor: Redemption Island **** / Thor **** / Sucker Punch *** 1/2 / Flushed Away [r] **** 1/2 / Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit [r] **** / Chicken Run [r] **** / Jane Eyre (2011) *** / The Exorcism of Emily Rose **** / Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas *** 1/2 / Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I [r] **** 1/2 / Henry V *** / Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron [r] *** 1/2 / The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader [r] **** 1/2 / As You Like It **** / The Road to El Dorado [r] *** 1/2 / Joseph: King of Dreams [r] *** / The Prince of Egypt [r] ***** / Howl's Moving Castle *** / Tangled [r] **** / The Black Cauldron **** / Cold Comfort Farm **** / Hairspray [r] **** / TRON: Legacy [r] (3D) *** / The Next Three Days *** / Tangled [r] (3D) **** 1/2 / Despicable Me ** 1/2 / V (Season 2) ** / The Swan Princess [r] *** 1/2 / The Last Unicorn [r] **** / The Brave Little Toaster [r] **** 1/2 / Knight and Day *** 1/2 / Monster House *** / Wanted *** / Some Kind of Wonderful *** 1/2 / The Adjustment Bureau **** / Better Off Ted (Season 2) ** 1/2 / The Secret of Kells **** / For Your Consideration *** / Twelfth Night [r] **** / Superstar [r] **** / Easy A * 1/2 / Salt *** 1/2 / Galaxy Quest [r] **** 1/2 / Spellbound [r] **** 1/2 / Ping Pong *** 1/2 / Othello **** / Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead *** / The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King [r] ***** / The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers [r] ***** / The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring [r] ***** / Eagle Eye *** / Daria: Is It College Yet? [r] ***** / Daria (Season 5) [r] ***** / Hamlet [r] **** / The Office (Season 3) [r] **** / Unstoppable *** 1/2 / Daria: Is It Fall Yet? [r] **** 1/2 / Daria (Season 4) [r] ***** / Downton Abbey (Season 1) ** 1/2 / Daria (Season 3) [r] ***** / Shaolin Soccer [r] **** /

Ugh, what a terrible movie to end (start) that list with.  Anyway, it won't be long before I'm ready to post another 100, actually.  And now, as I do with blogkeeping, here are the last 50 books I've read (these also date some time ago, about 1 July 2011):

Ginger Pye (Eleanor Estes) *** / A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens) **** 1/2 / The Art of Pocahontas (Stephen Rebello) **** 1/2 / The Art of The Lion King (Christopher Finch) **** 1/2 / Disney's Aladdin: The Making of an Animated Film (John Culhane) *** / Kingdom Keepers IV: Power Play (Ridley Pearson) * 1/2 / Kingdom Keepers III: Disney In Shadow (Ridley Pearson) * 1/2 / Kingdom Keepers II: Disney At Dawn (Ridley Pearson) ** / Kingdom Keepers I: Disney After Dark (Ridley Pearson) ** / Entwined (Heather Dixon) **** / Tale As Old As Time: The Art and Making of Beauty and the Beast (Charles Solomon) ***** / The Starlight Barking (Dodie Smith) ** / The Hundred and One Dalmatians (Dodie Smith) **** / Bambi: A Life In the Woods (Felix Salten) *** / Walt Disney's Bambi: The Sketchbook Series (Ollie Johnston) ***** / The War of the Worlds (H.G. Wells) **** / The Disney That Never Was (Charles Solomon) *** / The Clockwork Three (Matthew J. Kirby) *** 1/2 / The Island of Dr. Moreau (H.G. Wells) **** / Disney's Art of Animation: From Mickey Mouse to Hercules (Bob Thomas) **** / Disney's Art of Animation: From Mickey Mouse to Beauty and the Beast (Bob Thomas) **** / The Chronicles of Prydain: The High King (Lloyd Alexander) ***** / The Chronicles of Prydain: Taran Wanderer (Lloyd Alexander) **** / The Chronicles of Prydain: The Castle of Llyr (Lloyd Alexander) ***** / The Chronicles of Prydain: The Black Cauldron (Lloyd Alexander) **** 1/2 / The Chronicles of Prydain: The Book of Three (Lloyd Alexander) **** / Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles: The Wyrm King (Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black) * / Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles: A Giant Problem (Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black) * / Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles: The Nixie's Song (Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black) ** / The Last Unicorn (Peter S. Beagle) **** 1/2 / The Brave Little Toaster (Thomas M. Disch) *** 1/2 / Millions (Frank Cottrell Boyce) **** / The Art of The Princess and the Frog (Jeff Kurtti) **** / Peter Pan in Scarlet (Geraldine McCaughrean) *** / Peter Pan and Wendy (J. M. Barrie) **** / The Westing Game (Ellen Raskin) **** / The Art of Tangled (Jeff Kurtti) ***** / Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth (Jeff Kinney) ** 1/2 / Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (T.S. Eliot) **** / The Lord of the Ring: The Return of the King (J.R.R. Tolkien) ***** / The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (J.R.R. Tolkien) **** / The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (J.R.R. Tolkien) **** / The Hobbit (J.R.R.Tolkien) **** / Mockingjay (Suzanne Collins) **** / Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins) *** / The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) *** / The Silmarillion (J.R.R. Tolkien) *** 1/2 / The Prestige (Christopher Priest) ***** / The Princess Bride (William Goldman) *** 1/2 / A Study in Scarlet (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) ** 1/2

And now back to our regularly scheduled blogging.  We're having a great time on vacation, I'll post a little report when after get home this weekend.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

England, Or Something Like It

Now that that nasty business is out of the way, how about we bump it down with the much more pleasant news I had been writing before being interrupted?  All righty then:

Last weekend we finally had our official two-year anniversary weekend celebration.  It was just splendid and so nice to get away from everything for a couple of days.  I tried to keep as much of it as possible a surprise from Julie, and it was a real delight to see her reactions to all the unexpected elements as the weekend went by.

We started on Friday night by recreating as best we could our one-year anniversary excursion to the Lake District in England.  The Great Salt Lake is hardly Lake Windermere, but we worked with what we had!  (In fact, there were several lesser substitutions throughout the weekend, but it was fun to see how we could replicate our favorite London activities somehow at least.)  This started with, after a quick stop at IKEA (which is rather European, right?), grabbing some Indian take-away and taking it to The Anniversary Inn.  We've been wanting to visit this lovely location for a while now, and when I saw the rooms they had available, I knew exactly which one we needed:
Roses on the bed and rose petals scattered all over the room!
A delightful dining nook on the other side of the fireplace.
Imagine her surpreeze!  We stayed up late watching About a Boy and eating the nice treats the hotel provided, as well as a couple of really big surprises for The Wife (acquired by me):
Pumpkin Juice!  Straight from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!  She was just amazed to see it appear in the ice bucket!  Thank you, online Universal Store!
The next morning we slept in and had our delightful breakfast in bed, provided by the hotel as well (I don't know why I didn't expect a fairly fancy Bed & Breakfast to actually include breakfast in the deal, but anyway, that was a great surprise).
Ham and cheese croissant and bagel with cream cheese! 'Twere delish.
Um, good morning, bed head.  It was such a wonderful arrangement that we felt it just had to be documented.

After we checked out we took a nice long while touring the other rooms in the place during their open house hours, and it's just amazing. I had to dub it the Disneyland of hotels (not to be confused with The Disneyland Hotel, though The Anniversary Inn actually had some cooler theming in some of its rooms than I've seen in certain Disney resorts).  We even took advantage of their great bounce-back deal, good for any room, any night, and it never expires.  Maybe we'll use it for our 20th anniversary.  Or maybe we'll use it like in January or something.
I think it's so interesting that this great old building used to be a jail.
For the rest of the day we did our best to do as close to London-ish things we could find in Utah.  We went to the British shop and bought some English chocolates and souvenirs, we shared a pasty and strawberry tart for lunch, we spent a few minutes in the Cathedral of the Madeleine (it's not St. Paul's or Westminster, but hey), and we went to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (neither is this the National Gallery, but again, hey).  We had a really nice, relaxing day, and even found our beloved Chow Truck outside the museum for a snack--if you haven't found the Chow Truck yet, FIND IT.
They're moving soon!  It's a shame, this is just the perfect little shop, and such a great location.

Almost as good as the ones you buy in the Tube stations.
... Almost.
There was a QuinceaƱera going on there.  It was a very fancy affair.
Their foods are little, but they are delicious.
We mostly go for the root chips, though their main features really good too.
And they did have nice big bottles of clear, cool water, shown here by Beautiful Wife.
We made short work of those foods.
We sat in the shade reading and writing a little until it was time for our delicious tapas dinner at Meditrina (a place we visited when we went to see The Lion King last year, again thanks to LivingSocial), and ended up the evening by seeing Mary Poppins at Capitol Theatre.  Review in brief:  It was a really fun show, a little closer to the book, somewhat different from the movie (but with a lot of the same songs).  The cast was really good, and the spectacle was fantastic, and all in all I'm glad we caught it as it was touring here.  One more checked off on my list of Disney stage musicals!  Will I ever see Tarzan or The Little Mermaid?...  Erm, probably not.
Practically perfect in every way.  The lady in the back is probably pretty neat too.
We were really sad to have to come home that very night, but ward choir obligations loomed (though the traffic home loomed even higher--grrrr).  Hopefully, SUREly, we'll be able to visit our beloved London again, but in the meantime, it's nice to know we can relive some of the memories wherever we are, especially since the best part of being in London was being in London together.  Toodle pip!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

TERRIBLE TERRIBLE NEWS

I was in the middle of another blogpost just now, but I had to change gears and post about this fiasco RIGHT now.  And I know it's not the worst thing that could ever happen in the world, but as far as theme parks go, and especially Disney theme parks, I don't think I can possibly imagine anything worse:

Disney announces James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ themed land and rides for Animal Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World.
Read all about it here.

When I read that headline I felt seriously ill and went O.O and then wished ever so dearly that it was just a really, really late April Fools' prank or bad joke from The Onion, but alas, it looks like it's true.  Anyone who knows me knows well my dislike for this film, and to this day some parts of it are favorite family jokes (nice crying, Zoe Saldana).  But the worst part of this whole imminent disaster is that some people think this is Disney's response to Harry Potter at Universal.  HARDLY.  To put this in perspective, I finally was persuaded to make my first ever trek to Universal on our last trip to Florida JUST to see Harry.  On the other hand, though Disney is my primary destination in Orlando, I will strive to avoid all traces of Avatar when it appears in Animal Kingdom.  (It should also be noted that, ironically, Harry was originally discussed as part of Walt Disney World in the first place until JK demanded a little too much creative control for the Imagineers' liking.)  It seems kind of like the most offensive thing they could do to Disney fans.  Besides the fact that this film is thoroughly overhyped and overrated and extremely environmentally heavy-handed and completely unoriginal, it's absolutely NOT (NOT NOT NOT) Disney.  Sure, there are a select few welcome non-Disney elements sprinkled here and there throughout the parks (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, American Idol, etc.), but not a whole land's worth of them.  Harry at Disney would make a little sense at least, since it has the ABC/Disney tie-in and of course the similar theme of magic and family entertainment and such...  Yes, this movie is Pocahontas meets Dances With Wolves meets Fern Gully (which is at least animated) meets Smurfs in space, and while ONE of those is Disney-related, it makes no sense.  Pocahontas makes sense.  A gimmicky, non-Disney rip-off does NOT.  And, I submit that the only reason this movie broke any kind of records was because it was one of the first big 3D movies, so of course it will make a lot of money due to increased ticket prices.  What if these planned two (TWO!!!) sequels are total bombs?  What then, Animal Kingdom?!?  What's the big hurry??  And anyway, since when is Animal Kingdom about freakish barely-clad blue humanoids who worship trees and brood among neon-colored glowing landscaping?  What about the whole animal theme?  Yeah, there are a few inbred dinosaurs running around Pandora, but they're so ancillary it's just too much of a stretch to give them credit for it.  I get the ultra-environmentalism angle, though seriously, that's already really heavy-handed and king of overwhelming at that park as it is.  Now it's just going to be unbearable!  I'm sure there is a response to Harry Potter's popularity (which still could never dethrone Disney as the top tourist attraction in Orlando anyway), and I'm sure that there are even a few ways to increase long-term Animal Kingdom attendance, but this certainly is NOT it on either counts.  Fantasyland expansion?  Yes.  Animal Kingdom expansion?  NO.  At least not in this woeful direction.  I really didn't think it was possible for someone to come up with some reason for me to dislike Avatar even more.  Maybe this ill-conceived plan will go the way of Port Disney and WestCOT*?...  Or maybe even River Country...  I can only hope.

Seriously, I am getting more and more livid about this as time goes by...  I need to calm down.  Writing this helped a little (I guess I haven't had a good blogrant in quite a while now, after all).  What kind of cruel theme park world ends up with Harry Potter at Universal and Avatar at Disney?!?  *cries bitter, bitter tears*


* Though at least WestCOT could have been cool.

Friday, September 16, 2011

"I didn't realize this was a sad occasion." *

* If you don't know the significance of this phrase, that's okay, just read on, and then go read the entire collected works of Mr. Lemony Snicket.  And if you know the proper response, feel free to leave it in the comments, or send it to me via crow or telegram or coded couplet.

Recently The Wife and I finally were able to re-read Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events in its entirety together.  It took a little longer than we expected (those last few books take a while to plow through), but it was great fun!  And a Vigorously Fulfilling Duty.  I have read them many times, but never all the way through, I don't think, and it was great to both be reading them at the same time so we could have Very Fun Dialogue about them together throughout.  I left lengthy reviews of all of them that can be found on my Goodreads page, so I won't go into that here.  (I also did a drawing that has some Visually Fun Details, which can be found here, with a fair few more on the way.)  But, in celebration of (finally) finishing them, as we sometimes like to do, we decided to have a Baudelaire-themed Very Fancy Dinner, which took place last night.  Some people might wonder what this could possibly include, but there are a lot of Veritable and Fancy and Delicious foods described in the books, which I will now illustrate with photographic evidence providing Veraciously Factual Documentation.
Pasta Puttanesca, Chilled Cucumber Soup, and of course aqueous martinis.

You can tell it's a Very Fancy Dinner because 1) we're eating it at the dining table, and 2) we're using champagne glasses and 3) my pinky is up.
The chef!  (Though I helped peel and grate the cucumbers.)  She's so cute.
 It was so nice and fresh and tasty!  The soup was creamy and cool (though it did require use of the blender--Aunt Josephine must have found a way around using this electrical device), and the pasta sauce was savory and a little spicy and pretty strong.  The "aqueous martinis" tasted just as you might expect they would ("Violet took a sip of her aqueous martini. She was not surprised to find that it tasted like plain water, with a slight hint of olive." -- The Ersatz Elevator), and one glass was just enough, no matter how in they are.  We opted out of trying to find or make parsley sodas.  Afer it all we even had some makeshift peppermints for dessert, though we didn't experience any allergic side-effects.  It was a Victorious Family Denouement to our reading journey.
And this is my best Lemony Snicket impression.
I think Julie's is even better.
Beware of realtors.  Memento Mori.  He who hesitates is lost.  (Or she.)  Have a heart-shaped balloon.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Brigham and Beethoven

For the last couple of weekends we have had some fun family outdoor activities, which I will now describe for all my vast and ultra-interested readership.

On Labor Day we finally were able to get a group together for our hike to the Y.  Neither The Wife nor I have ever done this well-known and well-loved student activity, not during our many years as Cougars, and we've been meaning to do the hike for a couple of summers now.  We tried to find a time when the most family could join us, but the summer weekends just filled up so quickly and we were all so busy!  There was never a Saturday that was good for everyone (and we had to go on a Saturday even though it was summertime, since, you know, we work and stuff), so we decided to just say we were going on Labor Day regardless, and if anyone could make it, they were welcome to join us!  Sure, it might be crowded on a holiday, especially with all the students suddenly back in town, but we just went for it.  As it happens, the turnout was great, and we had a really fun time.  Sure, it was crowded after all, but not too bad, and it was a nice overcast morning, the outdoors still clinging to summer's wretched heat, but with a delightful cloud cover.  They were even filming a commercial from the valley while we were there, and a group of us headed up to join the crowd around the Y Sports banner.  Afterward we had J Dawgs, and then headed to our place for rest and generic-brand otter pops (which I have been having very sparingly to preserve them for use during just such an occasion as this, and of which we had just enough).  Success!  And now, twelve full years after I started my freshman year, and six full years after I graduated, I have finally done this moste honoured rite of passage.
And we will call it... This Land.
 
 
 
 
I didn't know she was taking the picture.
Now I did.
Now I REALLY did.
They're going to be on TVeeee!!!
 
 
 
Y
Also Y.
 

Cami doesn't look too pleased about something back there.  I look pretty content though.

They are so delicious.
And just this last weekend we had our annual Beat Beethoven 5K in Pleasant Grove.  Julie didn't feel quite up to this one, so I met the group there at the starting place, and listened to Beethoven himself give the announcements, and off we went!  I kept my eye on the runner just ahead of me, and thought surely that couldn't be Jonny I was keeping up with...  But lo, it was.  I definitely couldn't pass him up, but I did keep the interval between us throughout.  This is a good course, mostly downhill, but with that pesky final stretch of slight incline just to keep you from getting to too careless there at the end.  I'm quite sure that my efforts in this race resulted in a new PR (20:00 even, 2nd place in my division--I would really like to know WHO from 30-39 ran it in under 20...), a minute and a half faster than last year at this race.  I saw the clock switch over from 19 to 20 as I crossed the finish line, so that was a tad frustrating, but how can I complain??  I kept up with Jonny and I beat Beethoven!  This is a fun race.  You were missed, Wife!  And I was also dressed as a ninja.  I think that's what made me a little faster than last year.
 
Ninja runner!  You can't see me!
And then I rushed (like, rushed) home for the rest of my Saturday morning commitments, and they were not few in number.  What nice Saturday morning exercise opportunities.