Monday, November 29, 2004

Tradition

Well, our Thanksgiving weekend was full of all the current traditions (isn't that an oxymoron? current traditions?).

Thursday, we traveled to be with extended family. We ate turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, homemade noodles, cranberry sauce and pecan pie (no pumpkin pie, though Christy plans to right this wrong, shortly). I didn't watch much football, but saw a few minutes of the Colts/Lions game. I alway like to see the pro teams wearing the retro uniforms on Thanksgiving Day games.

Friday, I was up early to bust a couple of doors at stores here and there. Later, Christy, Hannah and I all went out shopping together. Over the weekend, we were able to get all of our Christmas shopping done with the exception of one person for whom we can't yet shop.

Saturday, I put up the Christmas tree and got the lights on it. Hannah and I finished decorating the tree on Sunday night. We also put our Nativity out for the season. Last year, Hannah was very interested in our nativity and we talked to her about who each person was and what noise each animal makes, etc. Because our people and animal figures are from Precious Moments, and are quite FRAH-GEE-LAY (must be Italian), Hannah isn't allowed to touch these, so we got her the Little People Nativity this year. I think she likes it. Now, she won't go to bed at naptime or at night without "my Baby Jesus." It's very sweet, but I have a bad feeling that her Baby Jesus will get misplaced at some point and then we're in trouble.


Films Recently Watched:

Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) dir. by Henry Selick
I love this film. If you like any of the Tim Burton/Danny Elfman films (Batman (1989), Edward Scissorhands, Beetle Juice, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Planet Of The Apes (2001), Sleepy Hollow, Big Fish) and haven't yet seen Nightmare, you owe it to yourself to find a way to see this as soon as possible. Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloweentown discovers Christmastown and tries to replace it's ruler, "Sandy Claws." Jack tries his best, but he and his Halloween-minded helpers can't quite grasp the spirit of this peculiar new holiday. A sweet story by Burton, wonderful music and songs by Elfman and well-crafted stop-motion "claymation" visuals make this a holiday favorite for me. Which holiday though? Halloween or Christmas? I decided to split the difference and watch it right in the middle of the two!

Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life (1946) dir. by Frank Capra
I should quit trying to convince myself that I'm not going to cry during this movie. It gets me every time. I put it on as I was finishing up decorating the Christmas tree on Sunday night. By the time Harry Bailey arrives at the end, I was on the couch bawling. Next time, I'm not crying...seriously!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

DVD cover art subtleties

Man, "subtleties" just looks wrong to me. I've checked it in two different dictionaries and all signs point to the spelling being correct, but it can't be!

subtleties
subtelties
suttelties
suttleties
subtletys
subteltys
subtletease :-)

Oh well...I guess I'll stick with what the dictionary says.

Films Recently Watched:
Miracle (2004) dir. by Gavin O'Connor

I remember when this first came out, I saw somebody comparing the U.S. release with the Canadian release. I thought it was interesting, so I thought you might, too!




Notice the subtle addition of "one of the" on the Canadian version:

U.S. version: "The true story behind the greatest moment in sports history."

Canadian version: "The true story behind one of the greatest moments in sports history."

And, of course the not-so-subtle addition of the American flag and the USA team emblem on the U.S. version.

I can understand the reasons behind these changes from a marketing perspective (milk the patriotism for the U.S. market) and I don't blame Disney for making two different covers. Frankly though, many, American or Canadian, etc., would argue that the U.S. defeat of the Russian national team in 1980 at Lake Placid is not the greatest moment in sports history, though, in my opinion, it definitely deserves a mention in any top 10 list. Again, though, I understand the desire from the marketing side to use those superlatives.

Regardless, I enjoyed the film. Frankly, with all the nonsense going on in sports recently, I was in need of a feel-good sports movie, and this definitely fit the bill.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

OUCH!!!

Headline from USATODAY.com:

Lynne Cheney tops National Christmas Tree




Hey, I don't write this stuff, folks; I just report it.
(and maybe create a moderately funny picture...)

Monday, November 22, 2004

A Special Sunday

My sister's two boys were both baptized on Sunday. Christy, Hannah and I made the trip over to their church to see and celebrate with them and their family.

(Click on these pictures for bigger versions)





Films Recently Watched:
Alice In Wonderland (1951) Produced by Walt Disney; Directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson & Hamilton Luske

Friday, November 19, 2004

Peter Gabriel - Play

As I reported earlier, I was looking forward to this new DVD from Peter Gabriel. Well, I got it on Wednesday and even had an unexpected opportunity to listen to some of it on Thursday. Wow! He has really outdone himself here. There are a few videos on this that I know I've seen before, but most of them are new to me. Each one is unique and very innovative. They're like little films. Some are funny, some are serious. Some are straight-forward, others abstract, but they are all full of beautiful, striking images. Even the cover art is cool! See?

Buy it from Amazon!

But mainly, for me, the audio is that with which I am particularly impressed. He chose to use the full bitrate DTS and it shows. The mix on this really puts you in the center. It never feels contrived, just immersive. The low bass on this DVD is incredible, too. I've only listened to the DTS mix, but there is also a Dolby Digital surround track available as well as 2-channel stereo.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Praise Gathering Follow-Up

Well, we're back. Actually, we've been back since Sunday afternoon, but I hadn't gotten around to the blog until now. The event went pretty much as expected. Not too many surprises. Long days, lots of walking, tired feet, good food, some fun.

Thursday was registration; 7am to 8pm. Christy's parents got stuck in a traffic nightmare on southbound I-69 and were running late, but arrived eventually and went on to the concert. Christy and Hannah and I went back to our hotel and found that we had the swimming pool to ourselves. We had the pool to ourselves last year too. We all had a good time relaxing a little bit there.

Friday was registration again from 7:30pm to 2pm. Praise Gathering Apparel sales from 2pm to after the concert (~11pm). Here and there, I managed to get to a couple of seminars and concerts just long enough to snap a couple of pictures.

Saturday, we finished up registration from 7:30 to 2pm again and then gathered up all the registration materials that we have to take back to work and loaded them in a van. After that, I finally had some free time. Christy and Hannah were waking from their nap when I got back to the hotel, so we headed for Circle Centre Mall. Much of downtown Indianapolis is connected by covered skywalks creating a network of many of the downtown hotels, the Convention Center/RCA Dome and the mall. We got dinner at Johnny Rockets and then did some shopping. Dessert at Maggie Moo's.



Needless to say, we stayed pretty busy. We never made it to The Polar Express, but that's OK. Perhaps some other time.

At Praise Gathering again this year was Mike Lewis (aka Jesus Painter). This guy creates artwork before your very eyes using only paint and his hands. It's really amazing to see him transform a blank canvas into a beautiful painting in less than 10 minutes.I noticed that his background music uses quite a bit of Rich Mullins. Rich has long been one of my favorite songwriters. One time, when Mike was cleaning up, I went over and asked, "Why Rich Mullins?" Apparently, Mike grew up in Cincinnati and became familiar with Rich's music since Rich attended Cincinnati Bible College (now Cincinnati Christian University). I helped him fold up one of his tarps and he was kind enough to give me three prints of the three paintings I saw him do live, 'Christ Eyes' 'Proof to Thomas' and 'Intimate Portrait' (left to right in picture below)

(click on these pictures for bigger versions)




Wednesday, November 10, 2004

A Praise Gathering For Believers

Christy and I are heading down to Indianapolis tonight for Praise Gathering this weekend. I was also there Monday to help get things set up for registration tomorrow. Christy's parents are coming sometime today and they will stay with Hannah tonight while we stay overnight at the Marriott downtown. Then, Christy's parents will bring Hannah down Thursday evening before they go to the concert. They'll attend other concerts and seminars, etc. Friday and Saturday and Christy and I will trade off between working at a booth of some kind and chasing Hannah around the convention center. Working at this event always makes for long days, but we usually manage to have some fun too. Maybe we can talk Christy's parents into watching Hannah for a little while so Christy and I can go catch The Polar Express at Circle Center. Two theatrical movies in one week? We'll see.

Films Recently Watched:
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) dir. by Stephen Norrington
Superman II (1980) dir. by Richard Lester

Saturday, November 06, 2004

The Incredibles



Films Recently Watched:
The Incredibles (2004) Dir. by Brad Bird

Christy and I each took part of Friday off and after eating lunch together, went to see Pixar's new film, The Incredibles. It's been a while since we've been to the movies together. It was great. In Anderson, this film was showing at our new cinema, Mounds Mall 10 with all digital sound, all stadium seating, big screens, comfortable seats and competitive prices. By going for a matinee on opening day we happily missed the crowds that were undoubtedly attending the later shows. There were a few small children in our showing, but they seemed to be well-behaved, as were the adults (believe it or not).

Basic Plot: The world has now rejected the once-popular "Supers" (those with extraordinary powers) and has forced them to live ordinary lives in the suburbs. But when a new threat is discovered, they come out of hiding in order to 'Save the day.' It's X-Men meets James Bond meets Malcolm in the Middle if you can imagine that.

The Incredibles marks a series of "firsts" for Pixar (noted below).

The Incredibles is the brain-child of Brad Bird, writer and director. He also wrote (for the screen) and directed another one of my favorites in animation, The Iron Giant (1999). This is the first time Pixar has "farmed out" the director's chair for one of their films, but they put it in good hands.

For those planning to go and are familiar with Pixar's tradition of making the end credits worth staying through, this is no exception, in my opinion. The end credits design is very unique. Though there are not outtakes or animated characters of any kind during the end credits, the design is cool and there are multiple storyboards to view while the multitude of individuals involved with the creation of this film scroll by.

This is the first time that human characters have been the lead characters in a Pixar film. Though most of their other films have a human element, the lead characters have been Toys, Bugs, Monsters, and Fish. They might have been able to fake movement by these other characters, but humans know how humans move and if it isn't right on screen, one can usually sense it at some level. I must say that they have nailed human motion in this film. I know it sounds clich├ęd, but for the most part, I forgot that these characters were animated and accepted them as human. The voice-acting only supports what Pixar is doing technically. Craig T. Nelson (from the television series Coach) is perfect as both the superhero, Mr. Incredible and as is alter-ego, Bob Parr. Other voice talent includes Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Wallace Shawn, and Pixar's lucky charm, John Ratzenberger. The music by Michael Giacchino also plays a supporting role. The very James Bond-like music provides an excellent backdrop for the on-screen action. Realistic sets, lighting, textures, etc. also give a satisfying environment for the characters without being distracting.

This is the first time one of Pixar's feature-length films has received a rating other than G. The Incredibles is rated PG and rightly so. Parents should take the PG rating seriously.

Finally, as an added bonus, even before the feature film begins, you have the opportunity to see one short film Boundin' by Pixar and two teaser trailers for upcoming films, Revenge of the Sith and Pixar's next one, Cars. The short film, Boundin' was cute. Personally, I enjoyed their short film, For the Birds, which showed with Monsters, Inc. and an older short, Knick Knack, which I believe showed with Finding Nemo (it's on the DVD, at least) more than Boundin', but it was OK. Also from Pixar, a sneak peek at their 2005 film, Cars. It's a little hard to tell where they're going with this, but there are some good gags even in this short preview and it's Pixar, so you can bet that it will be great! Lastly, though I had seen the teaser trailer for the new Star Wars film, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, on a friend's computer at work on Thursday, it was very cool to see it on the big screen. From what they show, it appears that it will nicely tie up the Prequels and lead into Episode IV and the rest of the original trilogy. Can't wait until May 19, 2005 for that!

Thursday, November 04, 2004

We're Going to the Zoo Today!

Well, not today, but we went last Saturday. Christy and Hannah and I met my Mom and Dad and we spent the afternoon at the Indianapolis Zoo. The weather was just about perfect. It was very windy, but pleasant. It was great to be outdoors and see the animals. Several animals that are often elusive (elusive as they can be in a cage, that is) also seemed to be out enjoying the weather. It was a nice day to spend with family.

We were at the giraffe exhibit at feeding time, so Hannah got to feed a giraffe some sweet potato! She was very brave! Hannah also liked seeing the monkeys. She especially liked seeing the baby monkeys that were just born in May.

I also got a chance to put my new camera to the test. I'm still getting used to some of the manual features on it, but I'm definitely enjoying the 10x zoom on it. Got to experiment with this at several exhibits (especially the Kodiak Bear, and Lion). Note that no digital zoom is being used in any of these shots.

(Click any picture to see a bigger version.)
Did I mention that it was windy?Polar Bear, Polar Bear, what do you hear?Relaxin'Did I mention that I like the 10x optical zoom on my new camera?My Mom & DadWe are family, I got all my monkeys with me; We are family, getup, ev'rybody, and sing!!YAAAWWNNLyin' LionHannah feeds a giraffe

"We're going to the Zoo today! And after that we're going to the baseball game and then we're going to Hong Kong and then they're taking us to Japan, and we're going to a lot of places; yup, yup, yup." from "Special Class" by Bill Cosby from his album, Wonderfulness.


Films Recently Watched:
Some Like It Hot (1959) dir. by Billy Wilder
During prohibition, two musicians (played by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) witness a murder by mobsters and go into hiding as cross-dressing musicians in an all-girl Jazz band. Marilyn Monroe plays "Sugar," the band's singer and ukulele player and a sucker for quirky, rich, tenor saxophone players. Of course, not everything goes exactly to plan. When the mobsters show up at the resort at which the band is playing, all hell breaks loose until the satisfying resolution and hilarious final two lines.
Funny stuff. Fantastic, quick-witted dialogue, cool music, beautiful black and white cinematography, I now see why this film is so well respected among film-lovers.

Monroe required 47 takes to get "It's me, Sugar" correct, instead saying either "Sugar, it's me" or "It's Sugar, me". After take 30, director Wilder had the line written on a blackboard. Another scene required Monroe to rummage through some drawers and say "Where's the bourbon?" After 40 takes of Monroe saying "Where's the whiskey?", 'Where's the bottle", or "Where's the bonbon?", Wilder pasted the correct line in one of the drawers. After Monroe became confused about which drawer contained the line, Wilder had it pasted in every drawer. 59 takes were required for this scene and when she finally does say it, she has her back to the camera, leading some to wonder if Wilder finally gave up and had it dubbed.

Director, Billy Wilder also had been quoted saying, "I knew we were in midflight, and there was a nut on the plane." apparently about Marilyn Monroe.

(Quotes from IMDB trivia)

By the way, I got pictures from Hannah's friend's parents and added them to the post titled, Autumn Party #2. Check them out, if you're interested.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

And The Results Are In!!!

Pop Vs. Soda -- Click for details

No, not the election, silly! Pop vs. Soda, of course!

Click on the picture for details.

I did "Trackback" on this, but I'll still give credit to Pat Hannon for posting this on his blog back in June, 2004.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Autumn Party #4

Well, it appears that the fourth time was the charm for us this time. Autumn Party #4 was last night at Rainbow Christian Camp in Converse, Indiana. The weather was perfect for this type of event; not too warm, not too cold.

Dinner was provided and they had lots of activities for the young and old. They had a bounce-house for young children (Dora the Explorer, no less). Hannah tried this briefly. The older kids were being a little too rambunctious for her. We did "Trunk-or-Treat" where people decorate their trunks or the back of their cars and then pass out candy to the kids from there. Christy and Hannah (whose picture can be seen in the previous post) walked around collecting candy while I stayed near our car and passed out the candy that we brought for other Trunk-or-Treaters. We also finally got to go on our hayride, except there was no hay. What's up with that??

I can see it now. . .

"Grandpa Jeremiah," (when I get older, I plan to insist that people call me Jeremiah, even though my given name is Jeremy. Somehow Jeremiah just sounds, older, ya know?) "why do they call hayrides, hayrides?"
"Well Sonny," I reply, "Back in my day they actually used to put hay in a beat up old wagon and everybody climbed in and went for a ride in the hay. That's why they're called hayrides."
"So you actually had to touch the hay??"
"That's right! Sometimes we'd take a handful and throw it at each other or stuff it down somebody's shirt, ha, ha!"
"But, Grandpa, where were the seatbelts?"
"Seatbelts? No, son, you don't understand. There were no seatbelts."
"Really?"

"Nope, we just had to hang on. That's the way it was, and we liked it!"

Anyway, they have this 45' tower there with lots of various activities; Jousting, a 300' Zip-line, a vertical obstical course they call 'The Matrix,' and a climbing wall. Well that was it. I've always wanted to try a climbing wall. So I got my safety harness, helmet, signed my waiver and went up the wall . . . about 10 feet up the wall, that is. Man, it was a lot harder than I expected it to be. I knew I wouldn't be able to pull myself up with my arms, but I thought if I could get my legs under me, then I'd be OK. Well, by the time I did get my legs under me, my fingers and hands were done! I guess I should have tried the beginner wall instead of starting with the intermediate side. After I got down, a little girl came up to me and said, "It's OK; you tried your best." Well, there went any hope that maybe nobody was watching. The next person on the wall was probably about 4 years old. He was really too small to be up there, but he wanted to try. Well, he hung on for a little bit, but finally broke down in tears and his dad went up and got him down. So Christy turns to me and says, "At least you didn't cry!" We all had a good laugh about it.

This is WAY out of focus (motion blur, actually), but it was the best picture I had that showed scale.  And, no that is not me on the wall.  I took this picture before I made my attempt.

Films Recently Watched:

Charade (1963) dir. by Stanley Donen
Cary Grant and Audry Hepburn are both spot-on in this mystery/suspense/comedy/romance (yeah, a little something for everybody). Also starring Walter Matthau and James Coburn, Christy and I both enjoyed this one.

And for Halloween:
Frankenstein (1931) dir. by James Whale

(edit 11/02/2004: added climbing wall picture)