Showing posts from September, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

Since I actually became a fan of the Harry Potter books (I was late to that game), I haven't watched the movies as critically as I used to. I enjoyed the sixth movie very much. On reflection, it's missing a lot of the most important stuff from the book (many memories concerning Voldemort, for example). But I still liked it. I love the mix of normal teenage stuff and life-or-death danger.

Adventures of various kinds

Last Friday, we woke up to a hot air balloon coming our way: We often see them in the sky north of us, but they almost never come south. This one went almost directly over our house and then, to avoid power lines, went west and landed in a small park down the road. The kids and I drove the half mile or so to watch them take it down, and I learned a little about flying hot air balloons from one of the ground crew. (Now that must be a pretty boring job--following a hot air balloon in a van and trying to figure out where it's going to land.) Did you know there's no steering? Just up and down. Wind currents change direction at different elevations, so they steer by going up or down and seeing where the wind takes them. Interesting. And kind of scary. (Maybe they have a way of knowing which direction the wind is going. I don't know.) That was our morning adventure. Friday's nighttime adventure was attending a star party at Craters of the Moon National Monum

S'mores in the kitchen

We didn't get around to making s'mores while camping, so Erin made them over the gas burner in the kitchen: Better late than never!

A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The trailer for the new Sherlock Holmes movie first reminded me of that movie from the '80s, Young Sherlock Holmes , which my family loved and watched many times. (I should mention that sometimes the movies we loved were loved just because my grandpa happened to tape them off the Disney Channel, so it was a matter of access rather than quality of the movie. From what I can remember, Young Sherlock Holmes was pretty good, but I haven't seen it since I was a teenager.) And then it reminded me that I'd never read a Sherlock Holmes story or book, although I've tried to make my son read them. This seemed like something I ought to remedy. I decided to start with the first novel in which Sherlock Holmes appeared, published in 1897. For the most part, I thought it was delightful, but I was surprised and amused (and a little taken aback) that the background story of the crime was a highly imaginative tale about the crazy Utah Mormons, complete with harems, strict doctrin

G-Force (2009)

Certainly my expectations were not high, so maybe this means nothing, but I liked G-Force . Will Arnett and Tracy Morgan are among those actors who can say just about anything and it will sound funny to me. But besides that, it was a fun movie. (Again, though, my expectations were pretty low, because the last kid movie I saw was excruciating.)

Henry Poole is Here (2008)

In spite of a wishy-washy ending, this is a delightful little movie. I generally like Luke Wilson, who plays a guy depressed for unknown (until later) reasons. He's the new guy in the neighborhood and just wants to be left alone, but curious and well-meaning neighbors invade his life when someone notices an image of Jesus in the new stucco on his house. I liked it a lot and just wish the end had stuck to the movie's guns a little more clearly.

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall is a fantastic book. I think it might be my favorite book this year, even though I'm not a runner. It's right up there with The Omnivore's Dilemma and Mountains Beyond Mountains . It has inspired Jon to start running barefoot, and the kids have run with him a few to several times (depending on which kid). Unfortunately, it has only inspired me to want to go barefoot all the time, which is not practical in these parts (it's about 20 degrees outside right now). I do have plans to become a runner, though. Check back with me in a year. My non-running aside, though, I think everyone should read this book. It's full of riveting information and also funny and easy to read. I loved it!

Born to Run

Thursday night I heard Christopher McDougall speak and read from his book Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen at Dreamchasers in Driggs. Thanks to Jeanne of Dark Horse Books for getting the word out on short notice! Before the reading started, I milled around and learned about Dreamchasers owner Lisa Smith-Batchen's ultramarathon runs such as the 135-mile run through Death Valley. I think the extreme distance runs are intriguing and it's great that she has done that and lives here. Chris McDougall's reading was very entertaining, as he discussed similar ultramarathons and a wondrous cast of characters, the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico, and the physiology of barefoot running. Hearing about ultramarathons is really intriguing but in a way that's awe-inspiring and distant. Since I'm still working my way up to my first 10 km run, hearing about 50- and 100-mile runs up and down remote mountains is tough t

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

I gave this a fighting chance--I read almost half of it. But it reminded me of Water for Elephants , and since finishing that book brought me no satisfaction, I decided to quit. I have pretty much the same complaints: boring writing, boring characters, boring plot. I did learn some interesting facts about the leper colony on Moloka'i, but I could spend ten minutes on Wikipedia and learn that stuff and be way more interested. I'm getting kind of angry that these boringly written books exist. I don't get it. (I was reading this for a book club, and even though I didn't finish the book, I think I'll go, just to lend some spice to the discussion. It won't be the first time. But I think I'll look at it more closely before I go, so I can complain more concretely.) I have to take one thing back. The plot is not boring. If I were to read this as an outline, it would sound great. But somehow, the book was boring. I didn't care what was going to happen. Just

The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket

The Composer Is Dead is hilarious and educational. What can be better than that? It introduces the instruments in an orchestra through an investigator's attempts to solve the murder of a composer. There's a picture book and CD, whereon Lemony Snicket reads the story accompanied by original orchestral music. Seriously, it's hilarious. I love it. It's entirely possible that if you don't appreciate the humor in A Series of Unfortunate Events , you won't like this much. Here's a video with Lemony Snicket and Nathaniel Stookey, the composer, which is making me laugh right now.