Friday, January 27, 2012

Celestial Navigation

1. "Celestial Navigation" is the name of my favorite episode of The West Wing. It originally aired February 16, 2000, back when my life was kid-less and simpler, but a lot more boring.

I was reminded of it last night because of this: Go watch this video clip right now!

(I'm sorry; either I cannot figure out how to embed it, or it's blocked somehow. Have you finished watching the video yet? Do you know what's coming next?)

No, thankfully, I am not having an emergency root canal today, but Marshall is. And previous to this, the week had been so quiet and peaceful. So I'm having a minor freak-out this morning.

2. I called my mother-in-law earlier, she of CMA designation, so that she could reassure me that Marshall can indeed transport himself to and from his appointment and doesn't need one of us to go with him and hold his hand on the way home. You see, I have a lunch date with a dear friend and didn't want to miss it but was afraid to be selfish. Being a stay at home mom, I am accustomed to my plans being hijacked by the needs of others. Well, perhaps hijacked isn't a fair term. My job is to keep everyone moving forward, juggling household tasks and to be available for care when anyone is ill. In the last few months, though, it feels like there's been a lot of hijacking. But I'm sure that's all just in my head.

3. So my lunch date today is with a friend from church. We are in a Bible study together on Wednesday mornings and we decided to turn our lunch date into a homework date so we can get our workbook stuff done in time for Bible study next week. We figure if we sit there together at the tables in the Moorestown Mall food court, we'll have a nice chat and get good stuff done. The new study our group is starting is Always True: God's 5 Promises When Life is Hard by James MacDonald. We watched the opening video on Wednesday and it seems like it will be a good study.

4. Physical Therapy continues to go well. I enjoy the office staff and get a good work out twice a week. But I'm working so hard there, it essentially wipes me out of energy for the rest of the day. But I am healing, however slowly.

5. My mother flew off to her California vacation on Monday (she gets to meet her 2 week old grand-baby girl tomorrow!) so on Tuesday, my father and I went to the movies after Miranda left for school. I wanted him to see Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol before it leaves the theatres. Although it was my second time for the movie, I enjoyed it just as much as the first time. Go Brad Bird!

6. If you missed it on Wednesday, my movie update is here.

7. I can't remember what else I did this week. Lots of laundry. Wrote some postcards. Lots of time playing Words with Friends on Facebook while sitting with my leg up. Watched a little television. I'm not sure I'm going to stick with Alcatraz or The Finder. The former has an extreme body count and, true to a JJ Abrams-produced series, we are in the same position as the protagonist in not knowing who we can trust amongst all the other players. The latter has some morality issues (inconsistent consequences for bad actions) that I am uncomfortable with, although not, perhaps, when compared to The Fixer or Strike Back! Somehow, I have different standards for UK TV. Silly me.

And here's Jen.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

That Promised Movie Update

I think you can see by the poster posted above what movie I am most looking forward to in 2012. (Oh, Joss Whedon, you're my hero!) But first, let's finish our review of 2011 films.

2011 Movies

January 14
Green Hornet (I actually tried to watch this on DVD, but it was so horrible, I turned it off. I made the horrific mistake of watching the original series in its entirety first, which is decent if a little campy. Like The Avengers movie made years ago, this film seems to miss the point entirely. Ugh.)
April 1
Source Code (Marshall and I were able to go out and see this while my parents were here in April--free babysitting!--and we really liked it. Not as amazing as Moon, but still very good.)
April 29
Fast Five (So much fun! Ridiculous fun, even Rotten Tomatoes gave it an excellent rating. However, you should still listen to the people at How Did This Get Made make fun of it here.)
May 6
Thor (I enjoyed it, but mostly for the actors themselves, especially Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston, and, of course, Idris Elba. I did not like Natalie Portman as Jane. I have watched all of Wallander and while he is one of the main characters, Hiddleston didn't seem like anything special in it. But in this, he was fascinating. And, after seeing Cappy and the preview for Avengers, I want to see Thor again, eventually)
June 3
X-Men: First Class (I enjoyed this, mostly because of Michael Fassbender.)
June 10
Super 8 (We were supposed to see this to celebrate Marshall's birthday, but we both got sick. Waiting for DVD.)
June 17
Green Lantern (I went to see it the weekend Harry opened. While I did like it, I think this review clearly lays out all of the film's problems.)
June 24
Cars 2 (So we bought the DVD last week when it was first available and so far, only Miranda has been able to sit through the whole thing. I have seen parts of the middle and the very end several times, but never all the way through. Which just means that, somehow, regardless of how enthralling he was in the first movie, Mater just doesn't work as a primary character for an entire movie.)
July 1
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (I saw it opening weekend and while I liked it, the movie was too long!)
July 15
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (We saw it while in San Diego on vacation and it was awesome and I did cry when Harry saw his parents in the woods and cheered for Neville, because he was awesome! I also liked several parts where the film departed from the novel, like when Harry confronted Snape in the Hogwarts main hall.)
July 20
Another Earth (This just looks interesting, but it might be on my "too sad to see" list. Since my home life with special needs children is rather involving, I rarely watch serious or sad movies. I just don't have the emotional energy to spare.)
July 22
Captain America: The First Avenger (It was a fun movie and Chris Evans was awesome, as I knew he would be after seeing him in The Losers and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. But the movie was too short; I wanted more and didn't want to wait until next summer.)
July 29
Cowboys & Aliens (James Bond and Indiana Jones on horseback, fighting aliens-what's not to like? It wasn't the best movie of the summer, but I enjoyed it.)
August 26
Colombiana (Finally caught it on video a few weeks ago. While I continue to like Zoe Saldana, I should really stay away from Luc Besson-produced movies that are all about revenge and never about forgiveness or redemption. I disliked Taken for exactly the same reasons.)
August 31
The Debt (I would like to see this, but it probably falls under the "too sad to see" label, as well.)
September 16
Drive (I would still like to see this.)
September 23
Moneyball (Loved it! Then went and watched the whole Ken Burns Baseball series.)
Abduction (The reviews were pretty terrible; maybe I'll catch it next year on video.)
Killer Elite (I caught this recently and while I liked it because I like watching Jason Statham and Clive Owen, the story line was very uneven as the action went from Europe to Australia to Oman and back to Europe and then Oman and then Europe, and on and on and on. At some point, you just want the story to be over)
October 7
Real Steel (I am still hoping to see this, but would rather see Jackman in person on Broadway.)
The Ides of March (Occasionally, I do watch a serious movie, although I've yet to see Michael Clayton, even though I've heard it's excellent. This also got good reviews.)
October 21
The Three Musketeers (The reviews were extra horrible, but the steam-punk twist still looks interesting.)
October 28
Anonymous (As a fan of Shakespeare--although I turned off Shakespeare in Love after half an hour because I couldn't stand it--I might see this eventually. The reviews made it sound interesting.)
November 11
Immortals (It was visually sumptuous, the costumes breathtaking, even the violence super-stylized, but the plot had a few holes. Still, very pretty.)
November 23
The Muppets (Are there any bad Muppet movies? Actually, I haven't seen them all. The Great Muppet Caper is still my favorite, though. I may have to see this on video; we had a very busy December recuperating from our various injuries.)
Hugo (This has been on so many people's Top 10 movies of the 2011 that I would really like to see it, eventually.)
December 16
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (the first one was fun, so perhaps this one will be, as well, though not as good as Sherlock.)
December 21
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (directed by Brad Bird and I've seen it twice in the theatre. Awesome movie! Go Brad!)
December 23
The Adventures of Tintin (directed by Steven Spielberg and based on famous comics that I've never read, but it got good reviews. I may still try to see it before it disappears from theatres.)

Now we can finally move on to

2012 Movies

January 20
Haywire (if only to see Michael Fassbender get his butt kicked by a girl; also, the reviews are good.)
Underworld: Awakening (even though the first one was only mildly entertaining and the second one was so problematic I had to refer to Wikipedia's plot summary to figure out what was happening while I was watching the film on cable, Kate Beckinsale is a lot of fun to watch run around in black leather with double pistols)
Coriolanus (still only in limited release; I have already been looking forward to this for months, but then I'm a sucker for Shakespeare anything)
February 10
Safe House (because Ryan Reynolds is just so appealing and I like cotton candy action movies)
March 9
John Carter (of Mars. Here's hoping Andrew Stanton has as much success as Brad Bird in the live action film world.)
March 30
Wrath of the Titans (even though it seems to have stolen most of its plot from the Percy Jackson novels, it still looks like cool eye candy)
April 20
Lock Out (awesome trailer; hope the movie is as good)
April 27
Safe (I will probably wait until video, but I'm developing quite a taste for Jason Statham)
May 4
The Avengers (So excited! I'm not watching the trailer every week, like I did with Star Trek, but I still expect it to be my favorite movie of the summer and worth at least one return trip to the theatre.)
May 18
Battleship (I am curious; if the reviews are bad, I'll just go see The Avengers again.)
May 25
Men in Black III - (MIB is my  mother-in-law's favorite movie so she might want to see this, too.)
June 1
Snow White & the Huntsman (I was doubtful until I saw the trailer, which makes this look much more interesting than its competitor, Mirror, Mirror.)
June 9
Prometheus (this is the movie Marshall is most looking forward to in the summer of 2012; with a cast that includes Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba and Logan Marshall-Green and directed by Ridley Scott, it would be hard for this to fail. Possible, but unlikely.)
June 22
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (I'm curious; I'll wait and see what the reviews say.)
Brave (Pixar's new film that we don't know much about yet.)
June 29
G.I. Joe: Retaliation (looks like so much fun! I was one of the few who enjoyed the first film.)
July 6
The Amazing Spider-Man (this picture has transfixed me for months.)
July 20
The Dark Knight Rises (Can Christopher Nolan really finish his trilogy well? Is the Pope Catholic?)
August 3
The Bourne Legacy (Basically, I'll watch Jeremy Renner in just about anything.)
Total Recall (maybe; I like Colin Farrell and am not fond of Paul Verhoeven so I might find this version an improvement, maybe.)
August 17
The Expendables 2 (the first one was amusing; I will probably will see this on video.)
September 14
Argo (sounds interesting, although I have yet to watch any of Affleck's director projects)
September 21
Dredd (Karl Urban is a good actor and I've read enough about the project on Wikipedia to read the reviews and think about seeing it.)
September 28
Looper (comparisons to Moon can only be good.)
November 9
Skyfall (new James Bond; end of story.)
December 7
Les Miserables (love the musical so am curious about the film)
December 14
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (do I have to make any explanation about why I want to see this movie?)

Unannounced Date
Much Ado About Nothing (directed by Joss Whedon, cast includes innumerable old favorites--what's not to like?)

And that's my list, so far.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Strange Week

I am having difficulties getting my mind around everything that happened this week so I think the easiest way to parse it is to go day by day.

1. Friday (last week, duh) - Marshall and I received many generous gifts for Christmas, much in the way of cash, so we indulged in an evening out that included dinner and a movie. One of our favorite babysitters was available (before she went back to college this week) so she came by and we whisked away to the fine dining establishment of Applebee's (ha!) and then to see Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, which was awesome! It is rare for me to want to see a movie more than once in the theatre, but this is now on my list. Go Brad Bird! And Jeremy Renner was even better than advertised. I really must see him in The Town now. If you were foolish enough to skip watching The Unusuals in the spring of 2009 (which, since it was canceled so unceremoniously, you probably did) you should try to find it on DVD. Renner absolutely steals the show and made me a life-long fan.

2. Saturday - I started the day with a date with my father to see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and then a nice lunch out, just the two of us. Now, if you haven't read the book (I'm in line currently to check it out of the library) or seen the Alec Guinness series from 1979, you have no hope of understanding this film, so don't bother. Since I recently watched the original series, I followed the action just fine and enjoyed the film. All the critics are right: Gary Oldman is amazing. I heard part of his interview on Fresh Air on Friday which only deepened my interest in the film.

Then I came home for an hour or two, welcomed a different but also wonderful babysitter into the house and then Marshall and I went off to my parents' house for a lovely dinner party with friends from church. It was delightful, both the company and the food.

3. Sunday was the usual morning church service and then home in the afternoon, where I planned and rested up for Youth Group in the evening. I showed my small group clips from a modern version of Pride & Prejudice that came out in 2003 and I caught on Showtime during one of those free pay cable months. It gave us a great jumping off point to talk about why women love romance stories and how women are wired for love. It led to a lively discusssion, but a good one.

While I was lying around Sunday afternoon, I finished The Ultimate Book of Gangster Movies. I was originally intrigued by the book after listening to the interview on Radio Times but didn't feel tremendously enlightened after reading it. I guess I wanted to discover why gangster movies are so popular and while I have a better technical understanding of why, it doesn't make me a fan of them. I have seen The Godfather movies and Pulp Fiction (a movie which I particularly despise) but didn't find the process of watching those films to be life-changing. In fact, I prefer Infernal Affairs to The Departed, which, apparently is unusual for a gringa but places me within a wide-ranging disagreement in the film fan world. In fact, the only movie I want to see after reading the book is The Killer, an early film by John Woo, a director of which I am already a fan. Still, it is an interesting book for film fans and written in a very conversational style. And you don't have to read it cover to cover like I did but only read about the movies in which you are curious.

4. Monday - My darling husband played "Fun Dad" on Monday and took the children off to the Delaware Museum of Natural History to meet their cousins there and see the dinosaur bones together. One of the great things about the DelMNH is that they have a reciprocal agreement with other museums, like the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, which has a visiting Giant Mysterious Dinosaur exhibit at the moment, which I also heard about on Radio Times, that I think my children will enjoy.

So, on my day off (essentially), I went to PT and then met a friend for lunch at Panera's. I came home about 3 o'clock feeling refreshed and ready to see my children again, after taking most of the weekend off from parenting duties. And even though Marshall was at church for a meeting during the evening, the children were happy and calm and went to bed almost painlessly. It made Tuesday morning rather shocking to our systems, though.

5. Tuesday - We did not start the day well. I woke up with a seriously aching ankle (too much driving and running around Monday afternoon) and so wasn't in the best mood to motivate Alex to get ready for his 8:45 am bus and then push Miranda into the car to drag her off to MOPS with me. After MOPS, I dropped Miranda off at school and came home to spend all afternoon on the couch with my foot up, catching up on all the paperwork-type things (postcards for small group, attendance records for YM, etc.) I usually did on Monday mornings. I worked for about 4 hours straight, with a few breaks for Words with Friends games, of course. I got a lot done but I haven't lost the feeling that losing Monday (taking the day off, essentially) has made me feel like I'm behind in everything for the rest of the week.

6.. Wednesday - My women's Bible study group started up again and it was a joy to reconnect with all of my friends and get excited about the new study. Miranda had a good time with her friends in the "baby class" (which is what she calls the nursery), did some laps around the sanctuary, and was dropped off at school again. My mother came with me and was kind enough to drive us, to spare my still-healing ankle.

7. Thursday - My mother leaves for California on Monday to visit family and go spend a couple of weeks cuddling her new grand-daughter. And, given how darling and beautiful my new neice is, can you blame her?

So yesterday my mother and I had a nice lunch at TGIFriday's and then did a shopping blitz from Wegman's to GNC, Petsmart, Joann's Fabrics and Costco.

On the technological front, Marshall has been working on our new DVR/server to get it ready for another visit by a Comcast technician tomorrow morning in the hopes that we can finally say good-bye to Vonage and Directv. I love upgrades; really. Even when they go like this.

And here's Jen.

Friday, January 13, 2012

And the Good News Is...

1. A brand new niece is a great way to end the week. Here are all the details, courtesy of my mother:
We wanted to share with you our joy in the safe arrival of Brandon and Piper's beautiful and healthy daughter, Madelynn Grace. After a long labor, it was decided that she was too big for Pi to deliver and she was also face up, so they did a C-section about 4:15 Pacific time yesterday and all is well with Pi and Maddy, and her Daddy is so happy! :-) as are we! She weighed 7lbs 13oz and is 20 1/2 " long. 
And here's a picture of our new darling girl:

 My first thought was, my goodness, she looks healthy!

My mother leaves for California on January 23 to visit with my Grandma and Aunt Katie, enjoy my other sister-in-law Stephanie's baby shower (yes, I get to be an aunt again come Easter!), and then spend at least 2 weeks helping Bran and Pi with baby Maddy. I expect to be absolutely drowning in adorable pictures of her right quick!

We hope to be able to visit my family in California again this summer, after summer school is over. But right at this moment, waiting until August to meet Maddy seems a terrible hardship. Dang.

2. I love my library! This week I read Fiasco: A History of Hollywood's Iconic Flops by James Robert Parish and am two-thirds of the way through The Ultimate Book of Gangster Movies: Featuring the 100 Greatest Gangster Films of All Time by George Anastasia and Glen Macnow. I can't remember how I found the first book (somewhere online while reading movie reviews) but I really enjoyed it. The second book was written by local writers who were interviewed by Marty Moss-Coane on Radio Times and I loved the interview. One of the privileges of being home in the mornings is having the opportunity to listen to Marty's show on a regular basis. Even though I don't always agree with her, she is a fair and excellent journalist who introduces me to all kinds of new writers and stories.

3. Speaking of movies, Marshall and I are going to see Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol tonight and tomorrow morning my father and I are going to see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. I'm just praying my ankle survives all that sitting in chairs. Or, maybe, the theatres will be empty enough for me to put it up somehow. It is still healing, but, as my doctor warned me, it is a very slow process.

4. The new Sherlock series tackled The Hound of the Baskervilles, transforming it into The Hounds of Baskerville. The changes from the original story are pretty significant, which I approved of, even though it didn't make me love it. It was good, just not as brilliant as the previous week's episode. It does set us up for another encounter with Moriarty in the series two finale, The Reichenbach Fall
Even though Series 3 has yet to be announced, they would be stupid to stop now, so I don't expect Holmes to die at the end, at least not permanently. Steven Moffat can be infuriating in his writing but he is always conscious of the bottom line.

5. My mother is helping me to clean up various piles stuff that have remained undisturbed for months because of our difficult 2011. On Sunday, with the able assistance of an old friend, Marshall disassembled our bed frame and moved it into the garage for a decent quarantine and bug spray interval, which meant we had to shift the piles in our bedroom anyway. On Tuesday, my cleaning ladies came through, which gave everything a boost. We haven't conquered all the chaos yet, but we still have another 9 days before she leaves for California, so there's hope.

6. Our technical upgrade to Comcast Digital is still in progress. Marshall had to take the server apart again to upgrade it to Windows 7, so the status on the ground is a little shaky, although we should still have access to all the video data we've accumulated since it went down right before Christmas. Should. I haven't tested it this morning. Miranda's been happy to play instead of watching Pocoyo.

7. Our sleep schedule this week has been a little rocky. Marshall is working the early shift, which means he leaves the house just after 6 am to arrive at the office before 7. Miranda has been up at or before 6 every day but if you hand her a bowl of dry cereal and turn on the computer for her, she seems happy until Alex and I get up at 7. Thankfully, most nights we've all been able to get to bed early. 

And here's Jen.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

More Technical Difficulties

1. Sorry this is 24 hours late. I didn't have connectivity yesterday. Our Comcast digital upgrade is having some problems. Our salesman keeps chasing down those problems, though. And no internet meant that I had all morning to do laundry and clean up the living room. How is it there is always 3 loads of laundry that need doing, at least? And I wash clothes nearly every day. I guess we're just messy people.

2. Miranda's new favorite show is Pocoyo, which on first examination I thought was of Japanese origin but it's actually a Spanish show with the narrative rerecorded for an English-speaking audience. It's a very sweet show.

3. I watched 3 excellent British shows this week:

  • Sherlock Series 2 has begun with "A Scandal in Belgravia" and as good as Series 1 was, Benedict Cumberbatch was so good in this, he left me breathless. So his new casting announcement this week was even more exciting!
  • One of my father's all time favorite television mini-series is Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy with Alec Guinness made in 1979. Before we go see the new film (with Benedict Cumberbatch!) I wanted to see the original. And it was transfixing, even though I knew what was going to happen (I read too many spoilers on Wikipedia.)
  • I am a big fan of Lewis, though not so much of Inspector Morse. One of the worst losses on our recent hard drive death was my 15 gigs of Lewis, Series 1-5. The same production company who created Lewis has just started a new project called Endeavour, about a young Morse and set in the 1960's. The pilot ran this week and it was enthralling. I hope they pick it up for series. Shaun Evans was brilliant and Roger Allam better than I've ever liked him before. The ending almost had me almost in tears. It makes me wonder if I should go check out some Morse videos from the library.
4. All of my lying around, playing Words with Friends for hours on end, has been doing me some good. My physical therapist told me Thursday that my ankle is healing nicely. And my Scrabble skills are improving, though more slowly.

5. Simcha Fischer had a great post recently about resolutions, kinda. It's still very funny. My resolutions are basically to get well and get caught up on life. The piles of paper in my bedroom that I've been ignoring for months are eventually going to get sorted and put away. Really, I mean it. :)

6. Youth Group starts up again tomorrow night. I'm having some difficulty planning ahead for my small group but I think I'm going to show portions of the Veronica Mars pilot tomorrow. As much as I love Veronica, she is morally challenged, which should make for an interesting discussion.

7. The children did return to school on Tuesday and both of them seemed to do okay with the transition. Now I'm just trying to fit my twice-weekly PT appointments into the portions of time that they are away at school.

Bonus 8. If you missed our Christmas letter post from last week, here's that link again.

And here's Jen.